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Creating Cracks

When creating textures we often abuse them to improve realism. Dirt, grime, cracks, rust and burns are among the many effects texture artists will gleefully apply to pristine images (it makes you wonder about the wisdom of poking fun at quiet artist types). This tutorial will list various methods to crack up your art.  I will probably append new tips from time to time, rather than create 5 or 6 "How to Create Cracks" tutorials, so you will want to check back when you see the page has been updated.

Update: Photoshop's Maximum Filter applies a choke to black areas and is functionally similar to the Dilate Filter. You can use it to generate the effects mentioned in this tutorial.

If you see this icon Show Me! in the tutorial, you can click on it for step-by-step help on the topic.

Method 1

This first method is based on an old Paint Shop Pro tutorial I wrote several years ago. It works pretty good so I am recreating it here. You will need a Dilate filter to use this method. There are a few free ones around the net; I am using the one by Mehdi Plugins.

  • If you need a Dilate filter go to Mehdi Plugins. Download and install EdgesFX in your plugins folder.
  • Open Photoshop and load the image you are going to apply cracks to -you can download this plaster texture if you need one.
  • Create a new layer over this, name it Cracks and fill it with white (I had some uneven results using the Dilate filter on a transparent layer).

Now we'll create some cracks ...

  • On the Crack layer pick a Brush -a scatter brush like those in the Natural Brushes library works best. Click to see how!
Scatter Brush
A Scatter or Spatter Brush
  • Adjust the brush settings and spacing so we get a nice, varied stroke. Click to see how!

Note: Setting wide spacing in the Brush Settings will give you more isolated holes, instead of connected cracks, once the Dilate Edges filter is applied.

  • Draw some thicker main branches, then reduce the brush diameter and paint some smaller branchings and keep on doing this until you have covered the area you want to apply cracks to. You should end up with something like this ...


  • Go to Filter>Blur>Blur More and apply it 3 times (you can do it once then use CTRL+F which repeats the last action)
  • Then go to Filters>Mehdi>EdgesFX which will bring up this window.

  • Set it to Dilate, zoom in on your cracks and adjust the Intensity slider until you like the effect.
  • Adjust the Contrast if the cracks aren't dark enough.
  • Go to Filters>Sharpen>Sharpen More and hit that a time or two if the lines aren't defined enough.

Here's what I have ...

  •  Take a quick look at the effect by setting the Blend Mode to Multiply...

Now for the final steps ...

  • Set the crack layers blend mode back to Normal
  • From the menu go to Select>Color Range and use the dropper to select the white area. Set the Fuzziness to about 80-100 and click Ok. All the white should now be selected. Hit Delete.
You should now have your cracks, with the white gone, on a layer above the texture you want to crack.
  • Click the Layer Effects button and select Bevel and Emboss. Experiment with the settings as a lot of variety can be achieved by adjusting the depth, opacity, gloss contour, blend modes and other options.

Here's what I got ...

Tip: If you want to preserve some of the intersections or create wider crack areas, go over those areas with the brush and make them darker and wider when you are painting. These areas are more likely to 'survive' the blurring and edge dilating process and you can get more complex edges.

You can see an example below ...

These are the basics for method 1; much more is possible. For example, You can use the crack layer to create a mask or selection and delete certain areas of your cracked texture to expose an underlying surface -bricks, circuits, pipes or whatever. You can also vary the brushes when drawing and stamping the initial crack pattern to get a more complex series of cracks.

Here is an image where I cut out some of the deep parts to expose a layer of bricks and I also used one of my wood damage brushes to stamp the surface of the Crack layer before applying all the effects.


We'll explore other ways of damaging and cracking surfaces in my next tutorial.

Have fun!

Copyright Humberto Abreu 2004-2016 - All Rights Reserved

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