Learn how to create an ink bleed effect in Photoshop using Smart Filters, Smart Objects, and Adjustment Layers.
We will work non-destructively and create a template so you can apply this effect to anything!
This quick process will give your work a realistic look while adding some grit and grunge to your designs. I’m sure you’ll love this custom distressed ink bleed effect in Photoshop. Let’s get right to it!
Step 01 – Create a Group and New Layer
The first step is to create a group.
Press Ctrl G (Windows) or Command G (macOS) and rename the group to “Ink Bleed.“
Next, we’ll create a blank layer below the text layer.
Select the layer, hold the Ctrl key (Windows) or Command key (macOS), and choose the Layer icon.
Then, Fill this layer with white. If your background color is white, press Ctrl and Backspace (Windows) or Command Delete (macOS) to fill with the background color.
Step 02 – Convert Layers into a Smart Object
Select both layers by clicking on them while holding Shift.
Then, right-click and select Convert to Smart Object.
A Smart Object is a container where you can place one or more layers and apply editable adjustments, distortions, filters, or transformations.
The Smart Object is essential because we will apply a filter that only works when the layer has background pixels.
Also, it will allow us to replace the contents at any time. Which will make it a template!
Step 03 – Apply Crystallize Filter to Create Uneven Edges
Select your Smart Object and go into Filter > Pixelate > Crystallize.
Use a Cell Size of about 8 and press OK.
Note: These values are relevant to the font size I’m using; if your text is much larger or smaller,
then the values I use will not look the same in your image. Use these values as a starting point and experiment with your image.
Step 04 – Apply Gaussian Blur to Smoothen Edges
Go into Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Increase the Blur enough so the details are still visible 3 pixels works with my image. Then press OK.
Step 05 – Apply Levels Adjustment for Contrast
Go into Image > Adjustments > Levels. On this window, you can use these sliders to control the sharpness of the edges.
Step 06 – Apply The “Bleed” Effect Using the Crystallize Filter
We will apply the Crystallize filter again with a handy keyboard shortcut. You can see all the Smart Filters we’ve added so far from the Layer Panel.
You can duplicate these Smart Filters simply by holding the Alt key (Windows) or Option key (macOS) and dragging up. Place it right on top of the Levels Adjustment Layer.
You can edit the adjustment simply by double-clicking on the Smart Filter label that reads Crystallize, increasing the Cell Size a little bit from 8 to 17, and press OK.
Step 07 – Fade the Effect and Set the Blending Mode to Multiply
Another powerful feature with Smart Filters is that you can fade the effect.
Double-click on these icons to the right of each Smart Filters.
The Blending Options window will come up and allow you to reduce the Opacity and change the Blend Mode of this effect.
Set the Blending Mode to Multiply, which will hide the white pixels and only reveal the dark ones.
Then set the Opacity to 60% and press OK.
Step 08 – Duplicate Previous Smart Filters
Duplicate the previous Crystallize Filter by holding Alt (Windows) or Option (macOS)
and dragging it up.
Double-click on the label and change the Cell Size from 17 to 25. The Blending Mode and Opacity from the previous filter will work.
We’ll duplicate the Crystallize Filter again, but this time we’ll change the Cell Size to 40 and the Opacity to 40%.
Step 09 – Smother and Sharpen the Edges
Go into Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur. We’ll use the same values of 3.0 pixels and press OK.
Sharpen the edges by holding Alt (Windows) or Option (macOS) to duplicate Levels.
Double-click on the label to adjust the sliders and press OK.
Step 10 – Set group Blending Mode to Multiply
Go into the Blending Mode drop-down, and select Multiply to hide the white pixels.
Step 11 – Apply The Color using Hue/Saturation
Go into the new Adjustment Layer icon and select Hue and Saturation.
From the Properties panel, Click on this icon to clip it to the layer below.
Use a keyboard shortcut Ctrl Alt G (Windows) or Command Option G (macOS).
The down-pointing arrow next to the Hue Saturation Adjustment Layer thumbnail lets us know this Adjustment Layer only controls the layer directly below it.
From the Properties panel, click on the Colorize checkbox.
To reveal the colors, increase the Lightness to +32. Then use the Hue slider to select the color you want for your text and adjust the saturation to control the intensity of the color.
In this case, I set the Saturation to 75 and the Hue to 0.
The Smart Object Becomes a Template!
You can double-click on the Smart Object, which will open in a new tab. Then replace the text layer with any other text or image you like. Such as a logo, hand-drawn art, or photo!
Once you save the Smart Object and you return to your working document, Photoshop will automatically apply the ink bleed effect to the new graphic.
That’s it! Now you know how to create an Ink Bleed Effect in Photoshop. Give it a try!
If you create something using this tutorial, you can share your results on Instagram by tagging @photoshoptrainingchannel and using the hashtag #ptcvids for a chance to be featured!
Make sure to watch my tutorial on creating a Beautiful Long Shadow Text Effect!
Drag The Slider To See Before & After