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Add Grain Effects to Photos and Type in InDesign

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You can add grainy, gritty textures to type and graphics in InDesign by adding noise to transparency effects. Here’s how:

Step 1: Select Your Object

First, select a text frame, placed photo, or native InDesign graphic.

InDesign-tip-noise-grain-text-original

Step 2: Apply Inner Effect

Open the FX panel and apply one of the Inner effects (Inner Glow, Inner Shadow). Be sure to target the Text level if you’re working with text and the text frame has a fill color.

Step 3: Adjust Effect

Set both the Opacity and Choke to 100%.  If you’re using an Inner Shadow, set the Distance to zero.

InDesign-tip-noise-grain-text-initial-settings

Step 4: Increase the Size

Next, increase the size until the effect fills the type or graphic. If you’re using the Inner Glow and there is no colored background, the item will look like it has disappeared, but it’s still there.

InDesign-tip-noise-grain-text-disappear

Step 5: Experiment!

Then, play with the amounts of Noise and Opacity, as well as the Blend Color and Blend Mode, to create different effects.

InDesign-tip-noise-grain-text-initial-full-noise

You can also make bigger “chunks” of noise by increasing the Size value.

InDesign-tip-noise-grain-text-big-chunks

Decreasing the Choke value can give you more concentrated noise at the edges of objects.

InDesign-tip-noise-grain-text-choke

With these six variables, you can achieve an almost infinite variety of grainy looks.

InDesign-tip-noise-grain-saturation InDesign-tip-noise-grain-color-burn InDesign-tip-noise-grain-screen InDesign-tip-noise-grain-black InDesign-tip-noise-grain-desaturate InDesign-tip-noise-grain-colorize InDesign-tip-noise-grain-hue InDesign-tip-noise-grain-contrast

Two Things to Keep in Mind

Like all transparency effects, the results you get will depend on the Transparency Blend Space chosen in the Edit menu. Also, InDesign’s onscreen preview of noise is somewhat low-res. Your output file will have finer-grained noise than what you see in InDesign. So export a few test files with different Size values to get the look you want.

Editor in Chief of CreativePro. Instructor at LinkedIn Learning with courses on InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, GIMP, Inkscape, and Affinity Publisher. Co-author of The Photoshop Visual Quickstart Guide with Nigel French.
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