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Tip of the Week: Add Grain Effects to Photos and Type

This InDesign tip on how to add grain effects to photos and type was sent to Tip of the Week email subscribers on September 1, 2016.

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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.

1. Select a text frame, placed photo, or native InDesign graphic.


2. 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 text and the text frame has a fill color.

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


4. 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 seem like it has disappeared, but it’s still there.


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


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


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


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 prview 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.

Mike Rankin

Mike Rankin

Editor in Chief of, InDesign Magazine, and Author of courses on InDesign and Illustrator. Husband. Dad. Dog walker.
Mike Rankin

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