So You Want To Try Textures?

Schoenbrunn, Austria

Schoenbrunn, Austria. 35mm film, scanned negative, textures added digitally.

I used to see images with beautiful texture overlays and think, wow I really want to do that! So, I set out experimenting to figure it out. A while after my early attempts I saw parts of Doug Landreth‘s workshop on-line that was a huge help, he’s a master at it!  Textures can enhance and change the mood of a photograph and it’s a fun way to create a different artistic presentation. For me it was a natural fit – I started out as a painter – playing with textures takes me back to that process. Sometimes it’s fairly simple – one or two textures blended with the original image and voilà!  Not every image works with texture, at least for me. Umm, yeah, I might have on occasion spent a few hours on something only to decide that it just isn’t coming together, or gone back and wondered “what was I thinking?” but that’s part of the fun and learning process.

I’m often asked about how it’s done and how I choose which textures I’m going to use so here is the simplest breakdown I came up with to get you started. All three of the following examples are super easy to do. Doug Landreth over at creates beautiful textures and all three of the following examples use Photomorphis textures. I’ve seen Creative Commons textures over on Flickr or you can make your own.  I take pictures of sidewalks, walls, paper, and purposely out of focus scenes. There’s really no limit. Oh, I should also mention I use a Wacom Bamboo pen tablet, nothing fancy, just the small basic model but it definitely makes for easier work.

Click on the images for a larger view and to see the layers palettes. So, In Photoshop I open the original image, duplicate the background layer and add the texture(s) I have selected as individual layers. If I have to stretch or manipulate the texture I convert it to a smart object first. The next steps are a lot of trial and error, experimenting with blend modes, masking, and opacity of the textures to get an effect I’m happy with. Keep in mind your texture is going to add color and tone to the image so sometimes that’s a good place to start when choosing. You can also add any adjustment layer to change the overall effect.

texture overlay

This was one of my very first attempts at adding texture. I really liked the industrial machinery in the image, but otherwise it was just boring and the perfect opportunity to experiment. I pretty much had no idea what I was doing except for understanding that blend modes and masking are part of the process. Diving in I found a texture I liked and just started experimenting with the layers – changing the layer order, blend modes, opacity, and combining duplicates of the background image. On this image I masked the background copy and using a soft brush, gradually and selectively allowed texture to show through. There was a lot of trial & error and starting over and “oh, I like that, how did I do that?” moments, but I eventually got the hang of it. Yeah, it might have been a good idea to watch a tutorial or two first but, jumping in blind is so much fun!

Pocket watch texture.

This pocket watch is super simple. One image, two textures and a little masking. I might try several different textures before I get the look I want. I could tell you I know exactly what I want the end result to be but more often than not I only know it when I see it.  This image though, I planned start to finish except which texture(s) I was going to use.  Simple layer masks, using a soft brush at about 10% opacity I mask out the texture until I like it. Sometimes I put the texture back on. Sometimes I start over…The reason I always save a .psd with layers!



I started with the chartreuse texture with this one because I knew I wanted to add some green tones. I liked the texture but not the color on my image. When that happens I go into my files and choose another and just turn the layers off and on comparing the effect. Sometimes it’s a happy accident that combining the various textures works better than just one alone. More layers also add depth to the image that I really like. This particular image, I wasn’t sure of the direction I wanted to go and put it away for a while. Later, in Lightroom I made a few simple adjustments was all it needed!

*Note this screen shot of the layers palette here doesn’t show the blend modes of the textures, each are in multiply mode at around 50% opacity.

There are tons of techniques and  different ways to create effects, a quick Google or YouTube search will show you that. There is no right or wrong way so don’t be afraid to experiment. Be careful though, you may find yourself glued to your computer creating for hours! For me, one discovery always evolves into another. Who knows, you might even discover something completely different! Whatever you try,  have fun with it. Questions or comments? Leave them below in the comment box. I’d love to see what you come up with too so leave me a link!



2 thoughts on “So You Want To Try Textures?

    • You’re welcome and thank you for taking time to visit, Darshan. I hope this was helpful. If you try it out, post a link, I’d love to see what you create!

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