Create a realistic folded paper effect in Photoshop CS4

Published: 18th January 2012
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A trend in graphics these days is to create grunge effects or images that look like the surface of something real and tangible. One of the things I have seen a lot is graphics that look like paper, notes, or post-its so I decided to play with Photoshop to see how I could recreate this effect. In this tutorial, we're going to look at how to create a folded paper note using Adobe Photoshop CS4.

First, open Photoshop and open the file you want to use. I've decided to use a paper texture from Grunge Textures. Once you've opened the file, you'll need to change the canvas size to leave some extra room around the paper. To do this, click on Image then Canvas Size.

When the canvas size dialogue box pops up, change the width to 1000 px and the height to 800 px. Make sure the Relative checkbox is unselected. The Relative checkbox would add those pixels in addition to the current size instead of just resizing the canvas.

If a colored background appears behind the picture, you can get rid of it by using the magic eraser (you can find this beneath the regular eraser in the Tools panel by clicking on the small, black arrow at the corner of the button). You should also turn the background into a regular layer by double clicking on it in the Layers panel. Next, select the rectangular marquee tool from the Tools panel (if you don't see it, it may be hidden beneath another tool, in which case you should click the small, black arrow at the corner of the button to display more options). Count about three or four spaces, then make a selection around the bottom of the paper.

Cut the selection by pressing Ctrl + X, then paste it into a new layer by pressing Ctrl + V. Once you've done that, click Edit then Transform then Flip Vertical to turn it over. Next, navigate to the Layers panel and click on the fx at the bottom. Choose Blending Options from the list.

Now add shadowing to the folded part by clicking on Drop Shadow. Using the default settings doesn't make it look quite realistic, so we need to make some changes. I've turn the opacity on the shadow down to 50% and set the angle to -90 degrees. I've also entered a spread of 5% and a size of 10 px, to help soften the effect.

I want to add some additional creasing and emphasis near the top, to make it look more like it'd been folded there before. So create a new layer by going to the top bar and clicking Layer then New then Layer.

Grab the pen tool from the Tools panel and make a couple of anchor points by clicking along one of the creases. The reason we're using the pen tool instead of the line tool is because we want it to look just slightly uneven and the pen tool offers us better control over that. Be careful, though, because too much will result in the line looking jagged and unnatural. Just try to follow a straight line; it will be uneven enough.

Right click on the pen path and then click Stroke path. When the dialogue box comes up, leave the default setting of pencil. Also be sure to click the check mark at the top of the screen when you're done editing the path.

Navigate to the bottom of the Layers panel and click on the fx to apply a drop shadow. When the dialogue box comes up, change the settings as follows: Opacity is 50%, Distance is 3 px, Spread is 4%, and Size is 3 px. The angle settings should be the same as you set before since Global Light is enabled by default.

Let's go ahead and add some text. Choose the text tool from the Tools panel and select a script font, such as Palace Script MT. I've chosen to make my font 60 pt in black; you can choose size, weight, alignment, and color based on your personal preferences.

Type your text in, then click on fx and Blending Options to add a layer style to make it look more like it's been written on the paper. Click on Bevel and Emboss and change the style to Pillow Emboss. Set the size to 2 px, the contour to Cove - Deep, the Highlight Mode opacity to 0%, and the Shadow Mode opacity to 40%. Then, you can use the move tool from the Tools panel to align the text with the bottom line.

Make sure the layer with the paper fold is selected, then choose the polygonal lasso tool from the Tools panel (if you do not see the polygonal lasso tool, you can click the small, black arrow at the corner of the lasso tool button to find it). Make three points to create a triangle around one of the corners, making sure there is a clean, straight line going through the paper; you can use the move tool to adjust the selection.

Cut the selection by pressing Ctrl + X, then paste it to create a new layer. Once you've done that, click on Edit, then Transform, then Rotate 180 degrees to create a folded over effect. Use the move tool to line it up with the cut line.

Click on fx and then Blending options to add a drop shadow to the triangular fold. This time, deselect the Use Global Light checkbox so you can alter where the shadow falls. Change the shadow angle to 70 degrees. Then change the spread to 4% and the size to 10 px.

Now we're going to add some scrolls. Go to Google and search for free scroll brushes to download (I'm using a set of decorative scroll brushes by ro-stock on deviantArt). Once you've downloaded and installed them, open the Brushes panel in Photoshop by going to the top bar and clicking Window then Brushes.

Choose a brush you like, then change the size to something smaller so we can work with it and fit it on the fold. Choose a color for the brush (like dark red) from the color swatch at the bottom of the Tools panel, then create a new layer.

Click once to create a scroll, then create a new layer and click again. This is so we can transform one of the brush strokes to point in the other direction. To do that, click on Edit, Transform, then Flip Horizontal.

Use the move tool to bring the two scrolls closer, then change their angling to form a heart by pressing Ctrl + T and rotating them. Do this as many times as you need to until you're satisfied. Chances are that they will still be off angle once you have them as close as you want them, so we need to merge the layers. Click Layer then Merge Down, making sure the top scroll layer is selected.

Press Ctrl + T again to rotate the image and center it more. Then add a bevel and emboss layer style. Just like with the text, this needs to be a Pillow Emboss. Change the size to 2 px and the Highlight Mode opacity to 40% to make it look more like it's a seal or a sticker that's popping out of the paper. And there you have it!

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