Friday, February 4, 2011

Photo Techniques - Sand Paper Distressing

There is just so much we can do to our photos these days, from removing or adding colour, background objects, red eyes & even unwanted people to adding digital distressing and frames. Still sometimes nothing compares to that grit under the fingernail feeling (not to mention the therapy it offers) of taking to a photo to distress it with good old fashioned sandpaper or the like.
Most of us have happily sanded away at our cardstock and patterned paper with gay abandon for many years. We don't even blink as we reach for the industrial strength high grade sandpaper from the home hardware depot... but I for one still remember a tense moment of hesitation before turning the aforementioned sandpaper to one of my precious photos.
Even though I knew it was a copy and I could reprint it with the mere click of a button, it somehow seemed sacrilegious to destroy my precious photos like that. Still my need for creative release and fulfillment won out eventually and I held my breath during the few few tentative sweeps of that caustic tool... then it was all on for young and old.
I look back now and fondly remember my apprehension, though now a glimmer still appears each time I furtively look at an other photo deciding what its fate will be.
Still nothing can compare to the thrill of the attack as you launch at your photos to deliberately scar your precious memories all in the name of creativity.


  1. Select your photo to distress. Be sure it is a copy or a digital print you can reprint at any time. NEVER try this on your one-of-a-kind irreplaceable originals. I guarantee you will regret it.
  2. Select your tool of destruction - sand paper, sanding tool, sanding disk, sanding block, pot scrubber, emery board etc
  3. Gently rub around the edges of your photos to distress the photo by removing the colour from the front of your photo image.
  4. Repeat until you achieve your desired look. You may need to rub the sand paper harder, or more flatter against the front surface of your photo to get the level of distressing you like. Remember to build up in layers. You can always distress some more... you CAN'T undo the distressing.
  • Try different grades of sandpaper for different looks
  • Try different materials... sandpaper distressing looks different to distressing with an emery board
  • Try different levels of intensity of your sanding - harder sanding will give you more of a whitish frame around your photo compared to softer sanding which leaves a lot more of the former background colour showing, just more blurred
I have two examples here, both distressed using a sanding disc. The wedding photo (my first marriage) was printed on professional photo paper while the baby (my nephew) was printed at home on my photo printer. And for the records, no I was not trying to get rid of my former husband in this photo... honest!!!

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