Grunge (irregular) edge borders for photos - don't be square!

Hi folks,
I’m experimenting with making photos more interesting by replacing straight edges with irregular-shaped borders. After Googling, I found the technical terms for this include “grunge” or “distressed” edges (or borders).
If you Google “free grunge border pngs” or similar you may find some free black and white images you can use, from sites like or similar. Please note, the images may be subject to copyright - ie you may need to give attribution to the creator. Anyway, I’ve been using a couple in Shotcut to create my images.
I have a question though - Any tips how I could create some myself using GIMP or Inkscape (I don’t have Photoshop).
Thanks for any help!

Example images I made in Shotcut:


Hi Jon.
Look for brushes. You can find ones that are used to create borders.

The first place I check when I need new brushes for Photoshop is DeviantArt, but I’m sure a search for Photoshop Brushes on Google will show many other site where you can get them.

Photoshop brushes will also work on GIMP.

Note: Not all resources are free on DeviantArt. And I think you need to create an account to be allowed to download.

You can find many tutorials on YouTube showing how to install brushes on GIMP

Here’s a quick example of creating a border mask (in Photoshop) using the brush I just downloaded from DeviantArt


That’s brilliant, @musicalbox. I will look into this and visit DeviantArt. Thank you so much. :+1:

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Hi every one,
Another good tool to generate these, available for free, is “photofiltre” french and english (version version 7). the highest version is also available in chargeable version (V-11)for a very attractive price (34.8€ including tax). More info:
I used it in free version.

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I used PhotoFiltre ( the free version, not the Studio X one) for many years when I needed to do quick photo editing.
Now it looks like it’s only available in portable version. Can’t find an installer file. Strange.

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You would need to look up tutorials on brushes for Gimp. I do not believe there is an automated way to make a border, rather you would need to design it yourself with brushes.

Here is what I created in just a few minutes.

And after a few more minutes of various brushes …


Out of curiosity, I checked for the location of the folder where you can add new brushes in GIMP.
(on Windows)

C: > Users > Your user name > AppData > Roaming > GIMP > 2.10 > brushes

The Ripped Edges.abr Photoshop brush I downloaded yesterday on DeviantArt is working fine in GIMP.

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@Hudson555x and @MusicalBox - thank you so much - you are both stars. I have joined Deviant art and downloaded the Ripped edges brushes, and will experiment with making some grunge edges in GIMP (also using the standard brushes in GIMP). Brilliant!
@Alsuhail - thanks also for the heads-up to Photo-Filtre. I will also look into that.
Thank you guys!!

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If I wanted distressed edges I would use the displace filter/effect in whatever software. GIMP also has Displace, though my photo editor of choice is Affinity Photo. You can use any image as the displacement map (higher resolution is best) and get infinite, interesting distressed results. You can even run the filter several times, changing the map image each time, or vary the x and y distance to cover different corners/sides of the image. Perhaps the best way to start with a displacement map is to make an image with a thick black border, like say 100 pixels wide on all four sides. The center is left white. Then use the displacement to feather the black border on all four sides. If you want a softer edge effect, use softer images for the displacement map. Literally any photo will make an interesting displacement. Photos of trees or dirt or any texture like wood, whatever. It’s easier to know what will result from the displacement if you use grayscale displacement maps with fairly high contrast from white to black, but you can use any image. Another thing you can do is rip white paper or corrugated cardboard into rough-edged strips and place them on top of a black surface and take a photo of them (like with your phone, or scan them if you have a scanner) , convert to grayscale, increase contrast, and use that as a mask for your edges.


Hi @PhLo - that is a great answer - thank you so much. I didn’t know about Displace filters and Displace maps. I looked up a few YouTube tutorials and I see what you mean. Definitely worth looking into.
Also the idea of using ripped card or paper and taking a photo is fantastic. I’ll look into that also!

I appreciate your help. Thank you!

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Ew, displacement is nowhere near as good as it was back in the 90s! I used it decades ago, in CorelDRAW (Photo-paint to be more specific). The modern implementations suck in comparison. It used to be that a displacement map would displace pixels based on the grayscale value of the map. So if a pixel in the map was white, it would fully move the pixel. Black pixels in the map wouldn’t be displaced at all. Grays between white and black would displace partially, so a soft edge around displaced pixels would result. I just did a test in both GIMP and Affinity Photo, and the maps are converted to 1-bit color (black and white only, harsh edges), and the result is inferior to what the effect with the same name “displace” used to do decades ago. Yuck. I searched for a setting to act as grayscale instead of black and white but didn’t see such a setting in Affinity Photo or GIMP. Super lame implementation in my opinion. I’m very surprised by this.

Maybe my memory is horrible, and displacement has always been a 1-bit movement of pixels. I sure thought it used to smoothly gradate the edges based on grayscale values, but eh. Whatever. To soften the edge pixels of the grunge mask you could always use a gaussian blur with a pixel or two if you don’t want the harsh 1-bit rasterized edges.

Now I feel like resurrecting CorelDRAW 8 that I have on CD to see if my memory is just wrong. I used CorelDRAW back until version 3 in 1992. It was awesome even back then. It had amazing procedural texture fills that were way ahead of its time. No one else did much with procedural fills until decades later. Of course 3D software does this now, as well as GPU shader filters and so on. Even the best bitmap editors today still don’t have the procedural texture generation capabilities CorelDRAW had 30 years ago. Most only have simple things like perlin noise (weak!). Unfortunately I don’t think CorelDRAW 8 would even run in compatibility mode anymore. It’s so ancient. I tried installing it maybe 5 or 7 years ago and remember having a hard time with getting it to work.

I have a late version of Corel PaintShop Pro installed (I never use it anymore), and it’s displacement map effect also is 1-bit edges. Weird. Now I’m doubting my memory of past glory. Maybe it always sucked. Maybe “sucks” is a bit harsh, but I see it as a missed opportunity. I think the effect would look cooler if it had gradated edges.

Maybe I knew this years ago and I worked around it by displacing gradients. For example, if you start out with an image with a box gradient (or you apply a big gaussian blur to your black border first), the 1-bit displacement will appear soft… I’ll assume that’s the case, that I was smarter back in the day and figured out gradient sources displace better than 1-bit border boxes.

Black Border With No Gradient, With Displacement Map Applied

Same Image With Blurred Edges, With Identical Displacement Map Applied

Obviously both looks have a place, and one isn’t “better” than the other, but I prefer more organic displacements with at least slight gradient to them.

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Hi @PhLo - thank you for this detailed post - so sorry, I didn’t get a chance to read it and digest it until now. Very interesting indeed! Displacement maps are something I will look into when I get a spare moment. I never had CorelDRAW myself but instead Serif Drawplus, and actually the very powerful and brilliant PagePlus.I never understood why it never really became as popular as Microsoft’s Publisher etc.

I also had Serif products back in the day - basically every title. PagePlus is amazing! Every bit as good as Adobe InDesign or Quark XPress imo (I’m aging myself with that last one), if not better because it’s way more intuitive to use. Then Serif canceled all those awesome apps (including MoviePlus, which was way ahead of its time) and moved to Affinity products. Same company, different name of product line. A lot of the same features. Since Serif rebranded as Affinity, they have won several awards for their apps. I did some product testing for Serif and contributed to get features added and bugs fixed back in the day. I prefer to help with smaller companies rather than stuff like Adobe, since I’m more likely to use free or cheaper alternatives myself.

Don’t worry about reading my post. It’s meaningless rambling about years gone by. I tend to write big and stream-of-consciousness, which puts a lot of people off. I’m not offended by being different than everyone else in the pack or group :slightly_smiling_face:

Affinity products are great and worth investigation. No stupid subscription fees, one time, small purchase fee. Often sales too. Just had a 40% off Black Friday sale, for example. Serif PhotoPlus is now Affinity Photo. DrawPlus is Affinity Designer, and PagePlus is now Affinity Publisher. They are basically the same, though maybe not as many features as before. Since rebranding, they also redid the underlying code and interfaces, and are slowly building up to all the crazy features from the original Serif products. They are basically as good as they used to be, with better layout and usability.