How to Make an Old Western Wanted Poster in Photoshop

How to Make an Old Western Wanted Poster in Photoshop

In this graphic design tutorial, you’ll learn how to create a stylish Old Western themed Wanted poster using some excellent Photoshop techniques such as how to weather paper, how to create realistic nail heads, and more.

Final Result

Below, you will see a preview of what we’re about to create together. Click on the image below to see the full-scale version.

Final Result

Setting up the Photoshop document

1 Create a new document in Photoshop, File > New (Ctrl + N). Set the dimensions of the canvas to 620px x 680px. If you intend this to be a large poster, you may want to consider changing the size of the document.

Setting up the Photoshop document

Making the wooden background

2 Download the tileable wood texture by ftourini isis on deviantArt. This texture is free for personal and commercial usage provided that you credit the author in your designs.

3 After downloading the texture, open it in Photoshop, File > Open (Ctrl + O).

4 Let us rotate our texture so that the wooden boards are oriented vertically. To rotate the image, choose Image > Rotate Canvas > 90° CCW.

Making the wooden background

5 Let us convert this texture into a pattern by choosing Edit > Define Pattern; this will open the Pattern name dialog box. Type in a name for your pattern (or leave it as the default), and click OK.

Making the wooden background

6 Go back to the main Photoshop document, and fill our new empty layer with the pattern we just created. With the Background layer active in the Layers Panel, choose to Edit > Fill > Custom Pattern and select the pattern we created. Then press OK to confirm.

Making the wooden background

You should now have something like this:

Making the wooden background

7 Our wood texture seems a little too bright so we will adjust its color to achieve a darker look for our Old Western-style poster. Choose Image > Adjustments > Brightness/Contrast to open up the Brightness/Contrast image adjustment dialog box. Use the settings shown in the following figure to get the effect we need.

Making the wooden background

Creating the Wanted Poster Paper background

8 Let us now create the actual Wanted poster. First, we need a stock image from called paper by Andrew C.. Download this stock image and then open the paper texture in Photoshop, File > Open (Ctrl + O).

9 We want to extract the paper from its white background, to do so, start by choosing the Magic Want Tool (W) from the Tools Panel. Click on the white background to make a selection around it.

10 Next, invert the Magic Wand selection by choosing Select > Inverse (Shift + Ctrl + I). Now, the marquee selection should be around the paper.

Creating the Wanted Poster Paper background

11 With the paper texture selected, copy the paper by choosing Edit > Copy (Ctrl + C). After copying the selection, switch back to our main Photoshop document and paste it by choosing Edit > Paste (Ctrl + V).

12 Let us resize the paper by choosing Edit > Free Transform (Ctrl + T) and dragging the transform controls on the side of the paper texture so that it covers almost the entire size of the Photoshop canvas. View the following figure as a guideline.

Creating the Wanted Poster Paper background

13 Notice that the paper looks a bit too smooth on the edges. Let’s roughen up its edges a little bit. To make this easier, first zoom into our canvas with the Zoom Tool (Z), and then choose the Polygonal Lasso Tool from the Tools Panel.

Creating the Wanted Poster Paper background

14 Make an irregular-looking selection on the edges of the textured paper (just like the figure shown below), and then choose Edit > Clear (or hit the Del key) to remove the parts of it below the selection. Repeat this step around the edges of our paper.

Creating the Wanted Poster Paper background

15 Now, we should soften the torn edges of our poster because they look a bit too sharp. To do this, choose the Blur Tool (R) from the Tools Panel and set its Strength option to around 18%.

Creating the Wanted Poster Paper background

Creating the Wanted Poster Paper background

16 Choose a Soft Round brush tip with a Diameter set to around 90px and brush over the edge of our paper to unsharpen it.

Creating the Wanted Poster Paper background

17 Now, select the textured paper by Ctrl + clicking on the paper layer in the Layers Panel.

18 Select the Burn Tool (O) from and set its Exposure option to 80%.

Creating the Wanted Poster Paper background

Creating the Wanted Poster Paper background

19 Once again, make use of a Soft Round brush tip with a Diameter set to 200px, and brush over the paper’s edges to give it a burnt look around its edges.

Creating the Wanted Poster Paper background

20 Do not deselect the selection yet. Let us adjust the color of the textured paper by choosing Image > Adjustments > Levels (Ctrl + L). Use the following figure for the image adjustment settings.

Creating the Wanted Poster Paper background

21 After that, deselect the selection by choosing Select > Deselect (Ctrl + D).

22 Create a new layer by choosing Layer > New > Layer (Shift + Ctrl + N).

23 Choose the Brush Tool (B) from the Tools Panel, and select a Soft Round brush tip with its Diameter set at around 600px. Click once on the canvas with the newly created layer active on the Layers Panel, and you should end up with something like the following figure.

Creating the Wanted Poster Paper background

24 Change this layer’s Blend Mode to Soft Light. This will create a sort of subtle highlight or spotlight effect.

Creating the Wanted Poster Paper background

25 On the Layers Panel, Double-click on the paper texture layer to open the Layer Style dialog box. We’ll add a Drop Shadow with the following settings:

Creating the Wanted Poster Paper background

Adding the text onto the canvas

26 Now, it’s time to add some text to our poster. First we need to download an Old Western themed font; this tutorial uses the CarnivaleE FreakshoW font, but if you have a font that you’d rather use, feel free to do so. After you’ve downloaded the CarnivaleE FreakshoW font, install it so that you can access it through Photoshop.

27 Create a new layer (Shift + Ctrl + N).

28 Using the Horizontal Type Tool (T) with the font of your choice selected, click on the canvas and type the word “WANTED” on the upper area of the paper. The color of the font should be set to #471D0B.

Adding the text onto the canvas

Adding lines and borders

29 We will now be adding a line above the word “WANTED”. To start, create a new layer (Shift + Ctrl + N).

30 Using the Rectangular Marquee Tool (M), make a thin rectangular selection above the Wanted text.

31 Set the Foreground color to #471D0B.

32 Using the Paint Bucket (G) tool, fill the selection with the Foreground color by clicking inside it. Our work should now look like the following figure.

Adding lines and borders

33 Duplicate the line layer and move the second line below the first line.

34 Use the Free Transform Tool, Edit > Free Transform (Ctrl + T), to resize this second line to make it appear thinner compared to the first.

Adding lines and borders

35 Merge the two line layers by choosing Layer > Merge Down (Ctrl + E) with the top line layer selected in the Layers Panel.

36 Duplicate this merged layer and move it down the canvas, below the word “WANTED”, using the Move Tool (V).

37 Now we’ll flip the two lines vertically by choosing Edit > Transform > Flip Vertical.

Adding lines and borders

Adding the Wanted person

38 Choose a photo as your subject. In this tutorial, I have used this stock image called Getting Angry by Emiliano Spada on If you would like to use this photo, make sure you contact the author if you intend to use it for public/commercial work. First, download this stock image and open it in Photoshop, File > Open (Ctrl + O).

39 Next, use the Magic Wand Tool to quickly select just the face area. Copy just the face without the black background, onto our main Photoshop document.

40 Change the Blending Mode of the face layer to Darker Color.

Adding the Wanted person

The photo should now look like the following figure.

Adding the Wanted person

41 Hold the Ctrl key and click on the face layer to make a selection around the face. Choose Image > Adjustments > Levels (Ctrl + L) and apply the following settings.

Adding the Wanted person

42 Next — if you don’t already have one — download and install a grungy Photoshop brush library like this one or this one (or find one that you like on a site that features free Photoshop brush libraries like Brusheezy).

43 Choose the Eraser Tool (E) from the Tools Panel and select any of the brushes from the brush set you chose from the previous step. Slightly erase off some areas of the face to give it a worn-out effect. You could also do the same to the lines layers and “WANTED” layers. To erase off some areas on the “WANTED” text, make sure you rasterize it by right-clicking on the layer in the Layers Panel and choosing Rasterize Type.

Adding the Wanted person

Adding the text at the bottom of the poster

44 Duplicate the second line layer and move it below the photo.

Adding the Wanted person

45 Below this line, use the Horizontal Type Tool (T) and type “$1,000,000 REWARD”. Once again, set this text’s color to #210F07 and erase off some areas of the text just like what we did in Step 43.

Adding the Wanted person

Creating the nails that hold up the poster

46 Now we proceed on creating the nails. To start, create a new layer.

47 Let us zoom in to the upper right corner area of our canvas using the Zoom Tool (Z).

48 Select the Elliptical Marquee Tool from the Tools Panel and make a round selection using the tool. Hold down the Shift key while dragging your mouse to create a perfect circle.

Creating the nails that hold up the poster

49 Let us set our Foreground color to #434343 and our Background color to #000000. Using the Gradient Tool (G) with Radial Gradient selected in the Options bar, fill the selection with this kind of gradient.

Creating the nails that hold up the poster

Creating the nails that hold up the poster

50 Choose the Pencil Tool (B) from the Tools Panel, set its Diameter to 2px, and draw a black diagonal line over the gradient circle we just created.

Creating the nails that hold up the poster

Creating the nails that hold up the poster

51 Let us add an embossed effect to our nail layer. Double-click on the nail layer in the Layers Panel to open the Layer Style dialog box. Check Bevel and Emboss and apply the settings shown in the following figure. Make sure the Highlight Mode color is set to #AD6326 and Shadow Mode color is set to #000000.

Creating the nails that hold up the poster

52 Duplicate the nail layer three times (by right-clicking on it and choosing Duplicate Layer) and move them to each corner of the paper using the Move Tool (V).

Creating the nails that hold up the poster

Performing the final touches

53 Let us add some finishing touches to our paper. It looks a bit too stretched out right now. Create a new layer on top of our paper layer. Download and install the Creases and Folds Brush Set by Dave on deviantART.

54 Choose the Brush Tool (B) and set the Foreground color to #491504 and Background color to #DDB16D. In the Options bar, set the brush’s Opacity to 33% and choose one of the brush tips we just downloaded. Click on the canvas to add some creases to our paper.

final touches

55 Finally, let us select all layers except for our wood background by holding down Ctrl and clicking on them in the Layers Panel. Choose the Move Tool (V) from the Tools Panel, and tilt our poster a few degrees to the right using one of the transform controls on the corner of our artwork.

Final touches

Congratulations, we’re done!

If you followed along the tutorial, you should have something like the following figure (click on the preview image to see the full scale version).

Final Result

Let’s see your work

If you’ve followed along this tutorial, don’t hesitate to share your own version of the tutorial in the comments by leaving a link to it.

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About the Author

Jan Cavan is a Designer, Front End Developer and Illustrator, whose work has been featured in various online publications, books and magazines worldwide. She runs Dawghouse Design Studio, which is also a design blog providing tutorials, freebies and inspiration for the design community. Connect with her on TwitterFacebook, and Dribbble.

This was published on Jul 28, 2009


the wood texture is 2000x2000px, so it won’t tile in the 620px/680px canvas.
what am I doing wrong?


John Campbell Jul 28 2009

Nice tutorial Jan. I have been seeing more of your work around the web lately and I like it!



Jasmin Halkić Jul 28 2009

Nice Tut. Nice work Jan.

Soner Gönül Jul 28 2009

Really good!

For me ;)

Richard Williams Jul 28 2009

Nice look overall. Thanks! BTW, your nails are actually screws. A nail head wouldn’t have the slot. ;)

tutorialslounge Jul 29 2009

i really like you work Jan now must visit your website too.

This is a really good tutorial, but when I seen it I had to double check that I was on Six Revisions, I thought this was a Web Design Site not a Photoshop Tutorial Site ???

I can see how with a few changes you could make this into a nice background for a website, but still strange to see it here…

Or maybe thats just me ?

Hi everyone, sorry my bad. Please use the 600×600 version of ftourini isis’ tileable wood texture that shows up when you click on its thumbnail, not the one that shows up when you click on the Download link.

@paul: Sorry, this should solve your problem now :)

Lars Karlsson Jul 29 2009

This looks fine. But, were western sheriffs really using screws to put up the poster? I would think a simple nail would do the trick.

coast Jul 29 2009

Great tute but there are a couple of unnecessary steps such as using the eraser tool (edgey brush) rather than drawing a rough edge selection around the edge and hit delete.

haha thats funny stuff. Looks great though. Scary picture.

Pliggs Jul 29 2009

That looks fantastic, thanks for the tutorial.

Ian O'Dea Jul 29 2009

Another thing about the nails (screws, really): Because you duplicate them and then rotate them, the light source on two of the four is all wrong. If you simply go through the process of making each one four times (or even two and then duplicating each of those), you won’t have that problem.

Jacob Gube Jul 30 2009

@Richard Williams and @Lars Karlsson: You’re right, it is a screw (nails wouldn’t have those grooves). Hey, we’re designers and developers, not carpenters! :)

@Orca: I think the techniques here can be applied/adapted to design in general, whether you’re creating web graphics (for example, creating a content box with the paper texture) or a print design piece (like a poster). While Six Revisions will always be for web designers and web developers – my plan is to occasionally venture out to other related fields and share information that’s related–or might be of interest–to web designers and web developers. For example, many developers and designers are interested in digital art or photography, so we occasionally cover those subject areas. But don’t be turned off, this site is by web designers and web developers, for web designers and web developers.

@Ian O’Dea: That’s a great point to bring up, and you’re right, you’d want to the lighting to be as accurate as possible and your solution is perfect.

Eddiemac Aug 06 2009


just convert the wood tile to 620px by 680px, thats what I did

Thank you for this tutorial and I followed your instructions and enjoyed making it, here’s the link to my version:

Jacob Gube Aug 06 2009

Awesome job @Mars and thanks for sharing your work with us!

Thanks! This really was a huge help. I appreciate that you took the time to do this!!!

Kariza Aug 12 2009

Great tutorial.. i’ll try this one…thanks for the help…=)

Motti Aug 13 2009

Great Tutorial!

i had lots of fun making a WANTED post for my self :)
keep up the good work :)

lilian Aug 19 2009

Hey thanks for the tutorial, it was very beginners friendly which I loved
Here’s mine:)

Jacob Gube Aug 19 2009

@lilian: Classic, awesome job!

firefliet Aug 22 2009

How about instead of doing more work in making perfectly rotated and lit screws, just skip the black line together and make four perfectly lit nails out of one? Screws were expensive back in the day because they cost more money to manufacture, so nails would have been more common.

If you wanted to make them look different, you could place them unevenly near the corners of the canvas, and/or use differing levels of drop shadow – if it’s not flush with the paper, it will cast a small shadow (just 1-3 px worth, I’m guesstimating).

Or, if you wanted to be fancy, you could make just one nail in the top center, and make the bottom of the paper curl up a bit.

firefliet Aug 22 2009

Also, (sorry about the double post), the old-fashioned posters would use an actual photograph for reference, so it would look more like a photo-snapshot with cut-off lines and not a floating head. ;D

Great tut! I loved it!
One tip on making the jagged paper edge go a little faster (Much less tedious)
1. Select pixels on paper layer
2. Click “Add Vector Mask”
3. Go to Filter – Pixelate – Crystallize (Cell size 30 to 50)

This will give you a great start to the jagged edge look. Select the lasso tool and chop up the edges a little more!

Shyla Aug 26 2009

thats mine! :)

thanks for the tutorial

Nancy Yackel Aug 29 2009

I’m using Photoshop 7.0. and can’t open the brushes I’ve downloaded (which are needed to complete this project). HELP??

Jacob Gube Aug 29 2009

@Shyla: I like your tweaks on the design! Particularly, I noticed you’ve given the “nails” some good weathering! Feel free to upload to the Six Revisions User Group on Flickr!

@Nancy Yackel: Yes, unfortunately, you won’t be able to use brushes that are saved using Photoshop versions higher than 7.0.

Sikander Sep 02 2009

great work. this give me a lot of information.


Sikander H Kaler

Sikander Sep 02 2009

dear nancy

this turitol work in hotoshop cs3

ulana Oct 06 2009

I was looking this information for several days. Thanks a lot.

Sekhem Jan 06 2010

Nice. I used it just to get the worn out Wanted poster, and remade a pic I saw on another site.

Çiğdem Jan 15 2010

Easy but change and challenge draw…Congratulations…

Davide Scalzo Feb 06 2010

Fantastic tutorial!!! i have learn a lot of new photoshop techniques! thank you!

Michael Feb 11 2010

Hi Guys in the Brightness/Contrast i can only go -100 no9t -150 in the plus i can go +100 i’m using photoshop cs9.0 would also like to adopt a 33200d for the paint to mix in with the background

Chris Petty Feb 22 2010

Thank you very much for this tutorial, Jan! Here’s my results- add me and let me know what you think!

CGS’ tip above about using the Pixelate filter on a vector mask of the paper was a life saver! I knew there had to be an easier way!

my wanted

Matejah May 14 2010

Damien is messed up…

Nice tutorial, actually step-by-step and you don’t get stuck on stuff. Thanks

samuel Aug 13 2010

thx for the tut without it i would be dead meat its 4 a school project

samuel Aug 13 2010

im using pixlir and when im doing the irregular section it deletes the inside not outside of the paper what am i doing wrong

samuel Aug 15 2010

um how do i get the face out of the black section

samuel Aug 15 2010

the finished project

Chris Aug 30 2010

Here is my version of the tutorial me what you all think

Shubham Aug 31 2010

Super tutorial.
Thanx a ton.

edivjak Sep 03 2010

samuel Sep 11 2010

im making another poster and it wont burn the paper

G.Anand Sep 22 2010

excellent information very nice…….

HBNole Oct 03 2010

Thanks for this… very clear and easy to follow. One of the best Photoshop tutorials I’ve ever read.

Art Sprague Oct 18 2010

Thank You for taking the time to offer this.

dorota Oct 26 2010

Thank you for the great tutorial! Here is my result.

Freedom Nov 01 2010

It;s pretty complicated and I didnt get it.

Artem Podymov Nov 01 2010

where is the Link for the 600X600 i went to what Jan Said to and there is Nothing There.

jenifer Dec 14 2010

this is a good wanted poster it helpe me with my home work i like is

Andrea Jan 04 2011

The tutorial was very good. My finished product is a birthday invitation for 6 year olds so I didn’t use the words dead or alive and the bad faced guy was a but scary. I think it turned out pretty age appropriate.
Here is the link to my picture:

Dapper Dan Jan 13 2011

Here’s a bit of a revised version of this poster:

My torn edges are a little too neat, and I couldn’t get the burn-in brushes to download, but I did create some decent nailheads.

Raaziv Jan 29 2011

good job, it helped me alot.

pdudemaine Feb 12 2011

Thank you so much for this tutorial!!
I’m a beginner with Photoshop (I usually crop, resize and only use Photoshop for small things like that). I couldn’t do step 53, but my result is great anyways. Thank you for posting this with all the steps, it’s really usefull!

Cinderela Feb 21 2011

Tanks for the tuts ;) =**

Fab! Thanks a lot :)

Fab! Thanks! I was making an ATC for a swap so I printed out the poster separately, distressed the edges and fastened them to the background with brads. Excellent tutorial and got me exactly the result I was looking for.

MoniGarr Jul 20 2011

Dear Jan Cavan,
Thanks for making this photoshop tutorial available for everyone to learn from. You can find the western poster I created from your inspiration at my flickr profile:

Best Wishes,

this is confusing

FANTASTIC Sep 04 2011

I LOVE this tutorial! Thanks soo much! Helped me to do my poster a lot :) Detailed step by step tutorial really helped! Thanks again!

Caroline Sep 21 2011

Absolutely fantastic. I used this tutorial to make signs for my best friend’s western birthday party for her two children. They look so great! Thank you, thank you!

Caroline Sep 21 2011

I forgot to include the link to the signs I made. Here it is:

C.M.C. Nov 10 2011

Super technique!

It took a long time but results were amazing!

Bianca Mar 12 2013

Great tutorial! I learned a lot.

Kimberly Carman Sep 16 2013

Love it and I’ve skipped the photo/head section until we take some this week, but I am not sure how to install the creases + folds brush set. I am using CS5 if anyone can help. I am making posters and invitations for my daughter’s birthday party and they have to go out in the mail this week :) Thanks!

Kimberly Carman Sep 16 2013

please disregard the last comment I found those brushes but the link to the hi res marks and scratches is no longer working – giving a page not found error.

Kimberly Carman Sep 16 2013

Can anyone tell me if there is another place to get the Hi-Res Marks and Scratches Brush Set? The link above says page not found

Jacob Gube Sep 21 2013

@Kimberly Carman: Unfortunately the brush library we referenced in this tutorial has been removed. I’ll have to update that step.

However, the effect can be achieved with a similar brush library, so you could still finish this tutorial with another brush library.

I went to – a site that features plenty of free brushes – and managed to find these two alternatives (but you could also browse their site for other options that you might like better):

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