Trending Artwork: Distress or Grunge?

Differentiating between two of today's popular designs.

Thomas Trimingham discusses distressed graphics in his article, "How to Create Successful Distressed Effects." Here, Trimingham differentiates between distressed and grunge designs.

One popular effect today that is often mistaken for a distressed graphic is what some call a “grunge” design. They are similar, but it’s useful to differentiate between the two because they are created in different ways.

In a distressed graphic, pieces of the design are removed by the filter overlay to make them appear worn away, cracked, or broken down. A grunge design may also have such elements, but the essential difference is that the image will also be distorted, squished, splattered, and fundamentally extended beyond its borders in what appears to be an accidental way. A grunge design will often have paint splatters, smears, and other intentional defects that can make it look like a bad screen print that was smashed onto the shirt.

In order to make a clean design appear to be “grunged out,” additional pieces of artwork need to be placed in strategic places. Afterward, a grunge design may be distressed as well. These extra steps are why a grunge design may be distressed, but a distressed design may not necessarily be grunge.

Read more about distressed effects from Thomas Trimingham: "How to Create Successful Distressed Effects" and "4 Reasons Distressed Designs Go Wrong."

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