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As the title says what is the best way to take an existing sans serif font, such as Helvetica, and add a grunge effect to the text for die cut vinyl? I know it can be done manually but that tends to take time.

Example

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

Take a picture of some 'grunge' or scan in some 'grunge'. Crank the contrast up in Photoshop to make a black/white image. Bring that into your vector illustration tool and auto-trace it.

Then take your letters, join them into one object. Take your grunge, join that into one object. Then use pathfinder tools to 'punch' the grunge out of your letters.

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@horatio I removed your edit. I think you may actually want to keep it grayscale--just very high contrast. If you make it pure b/w you will end up aliasing the edges. That might not be a big deal, but depending on the resolution of your source image and the quality of the auto-trace, you may end up with unnecessarily complex curves. –  DA01 Feb 20 '13 at 19:59
    
Fair enough. My thought was that "black and white" usually refers to greyscale (e.g. b&w photo) to a layman. Die cuts would preclude subtle shades of grey (without some sort of pinhole or screening) –  horatio Feb 20 '13 at 20:44
    
I agree. I think the key is at the auto-trace point where it's important to have it trace as one color. –  DA01 Feb 20 '13 at 20:57

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