Do any of you happen to know of some recommended techniques in creating the effect/look that makes a page appear as though it had been folded before?

Something like this: enter image description here

  • 4
    Gradients are the way to do this, but an interesting aside: while in art school, one drawing project we were forced to do was to crumple up a 10 inch square paper, uncrumple it, place it on the wall in front of us, and draw it using a soft chamois, a graphite pencil, and a 3 x 5 index card. You rub graphite onto the card until it is black and saturated, and then you swipe it off the card onto the paper using the chamois. A paper towel will suffice, but soft leather cloth is better. If you try this, you will understand the gradient technique better.
    – horatio
    May 10, 2011 at 14:57
  • 1
    @horatio I wish you'd put that as an answer so I could vote you up. Sounds like a great exercise.
    – Farray
    May 10, 2011 at 17:12
  • I don't think it is a proper answer to the question, but I appreciate the sentiment.
    – horatio
    May 10, 2011 at 19:05

2 Answers 2


It's mostly just playing with gradients until it looks right which can be tricky. Some things to pay attention for...

  • Make the sure the "print" material is bent too

    Though I don't often see it done properly, one of the things that can make bent/crumpled effects look very nice is to apply subtle transformations to the "print" on the page. For example, the image you posted has a nice fold effects with the gradient overlays, but the lines & text on it are still perfectly straight. In particular, if you look at the horizontal rule beneath the heading - the center of it has a very noticeable bend in the background but the black line is unfazed. My eyes find this very distracting.

  • Make sure your shadows look natural

    Making sure all the gradients reproduce a "natural" folding pattern also helps the effect. Pick a light-source direction and think about which direction each fold is going, and make sure the gradients are appropriate to the shadowing that would be produced. It may be easiest to fold up a regular piece of paper on your desk and study the shading in the real world.

  • Don't make the edges too sharp

    No bent piece of paper in the real world will have razor-sharp edges. Having pixel-perfect edges sometimes looks just a bit too crisp.

  • 1
    +1 for studying a real folded sheet of paper. It might even be useful to scan or photograph one to serve as a reference.
    – Sean
    May 8, 2011 at 4:35

To recreate the effect in your example, first drag out horizontal and vertical guides (Ctrl/Cmd-R to display the ruler guides, click and drag from a ruler guide onto the document) where you want the "folds" to appear.

Next press D to make your foreground and background colors black and white respectively.

Use the rectangular marquee tool to make a precise selection of one section. This is where the guides will be very helpful. Press Ctrl/Cmd-H to hide the selection edges so you can see what you're doing in the next steps.

Create a new, empty layer and change its blend mode to Soft Light. Set the Opacity at something like 50% for now.

Choose the Gradient Tool. In the control panel select "Foreground to Transparent" as the gradient type (it's second from the left in the top row of the drop-down list) and be sure you have the simple Linear gradient (the leftmost of the five buttons) selected.

Starting just outside your "fold" selection, drag the Gradient Tool about 1/4 of the way into the selection. Adjust the Opacity of your shadow layer until the effect looks as you want it. If the gradient extends too far, or not far enough, delete what's there (Delete on the Mac, Backspace on Windows) and try again until you have the effect you're looking for.

Repeat for all the shadow edges. Notice that in your example, the second row has TWO shadows, top and bottom. That's why you need to use "Foreground to Transparent," because that setting will not replace a gradient you've already created.

You can experiment with Gaussian Blur and the Noise filter to make the edges not so surgically precise, and there are many other techniques you can use to make the effect more realistic and believable, but this will give you a start.

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