Guest post & images by Kevin KubotaFollow Kevin on Twitter

We’ve all seen a photograph with a unique, dramatic essence that urges us to stare just a little longer in awe, even when we don’t have the time to do it. We may not even know, at first or second glance, what exactly it is about the image that makes it so captivating, but it’s rich with mood and cinematic prowess. Photographers may respond with genuine admiration (or even envy) while viewers are wildly impressed.

Chances are, the high-impact photographic artistry may have been achieved with assistance from a digital texture. In case you’re unfamiliar, a texture used in digital photography often begins as a digital photo itself that gets imposed over another primary digital photo, typically accomplished through Adobe Photoshop. This takes a photo to the next expressive level and helps elevate the feeling that you evoke within a viewer. Textures can impart a colorizing effect, an almost tangible character, or both, to your image. For example, as you’ll see in the following tutorial, while I’ll be providing a mystical warming feel to an image with a basic texture overlay, the effect could also be reversed entirely using a cold blue icy texture to impart a totally different effect on the viewer.

Some of the factors that I consider when choosing a texture to overlay with an image include the texture’s color(s), its brightness, and its level of detail or busyness.

Photoshop is a powerful tool for photographers and image editors, and is the go-to option for creative use of textures. That said, the program comes with a fairly heavy learning curve. This tutorial will walk you through how to manually apply a texture to a photograph (I’ll be demonstrating with Photoshop CS5), and for those Photoshop owners who are still learning the ropes and simply want to cut to the creative chase, I will then show you how textures are easily and quickly applied using my Texture Tools from the Kubota Bor-Tex DASHBOARD.

1)    Open your primary photo in Photoshop. You will also need to have in view your Layers Palette [Window > Layers].

2)    Assuming your primary photo has already been edited as desired, pre-texture, browse to place your desired texture onto the primary photo [File > Place]. To ensure the best quality, select a texture file that is at least, or is close to, the same size and resolution as your primary photo.

3)    As seen below, the texture arrives as a Smart Object which will allow you to resize, stretch, and rotate the texture to exactly how you want it to appear over your primary photo. You’ll also see that the texture is initially attempting to fit only to the width of my primary photo. Adjust the placement of your texture. Working in Full Screen Mode will be helpful in allowing you to transform the texture exactly to your liking.

Once you’ve decided on the texture’s placement, simply hit your Return Key (the criss-cross lines will go away). Looks great, doesn’t it? Very dramatic! (I’m kidding. There’s more.) You will next make a couple of adjustments from within your Layers Palette.

4)    With your texture layer still selected, slide your Opacity Adjuster down to your desired level. I have chosen 60%.

5)    You’ll see there is a drop-down menu immediately to the left of the Opacity indicator. This is for selecting a Blend Mode, which will determine how the texture merges with the primary photo. Try out several of the options until you find the one you like the most. Below, I chose the Hard Light blend mode, which intensifies both the shadows and highlights of the texture layer.

Should you desire to remove any of the texture from a portion of your primary photo (typically from something like skin), there are a couple of advanced techniques to do this. Step 6a will guide you through removing the texture and its color simultaneously. If you would prefer to remove only the texture but maintain its color, which usually results in a cleaner blend between the textured and non-textured parts of the image, skip to step 6b.

6a)    With the texture layer still selected, click on the “Add layer mask” icon at the bottom of your Layers Palette. This will add a Layer mask thumbnail to your texture layer.

Next, click on the Brush Tool from your side Tool bar, set your Brush Opacity to 100%, and then be sure you have selected Black as your foreground color.

Begin painting away the texture as you see fit. Above, I painted away the texture AND its color completely from the bride and groom which returned them to their original appearance. This might work with some images, but often the result is a subject that now appears awkwardly separate from its newly transformed environment. I prefer a more even blend between the texture and my primary photo, which brings us to the alternate approach below.

To maintain the color and only paint away the texture, follow step 6b instead.

6b)    With the texture layer still selected and without adding a Layer Mask, create a Gaussian Blur [Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur…]. When the options window pops up, select a Radius of all 250 pixels, and click OK.

This will create a Smart Filter right under your texture layer. Click to select the white Filter effects mask thumbnail and invert the Smart Filter [Image Adjustments > Invert or command+I (Mac), control+I (PC)], which will turn the Filter effects mask thumbnail from white to black.

Next, click on the Brush Tool from your side Tool bar, set your Brush Opacity to 100%, and then be sure you have selected White as your foreground color.

Begin painting away the texture as you see fit. I’ve painted texture away from the skin on both the bride and groom, leaving some texture on their clothing, while maintaining the texture’s color throughout.

BEFORE                                      AFTER

Now you know how to apply and manipulate a texture with a photograph. Another method for applying textures is illustrated below in the way of the using Texture Tools from the Kubota Bor-Tex DASHBOARD. This method will especially accelerate your photo editing competence if you’re just getting started in Photoshop or will ease your workflow if you’re a Photoshop pro.

1)    Make eye contact with your mouse and, in a low voice, say the words: “BOR-TEX. DO IT.”

Your image will open in Photoshop, a texture will be applied and removed from all skin, it will be saved and a free 16×20 canvas wrap will be delivered to your default shipping address within one hour.

What, you didn’t know that’s what Bor-Tex can do? Okay, maybe not ALL of that, but if I got you to utter those words to your mouse, that rocks.

1)    Open your primary photo in Photoshop and open your floating palette plug-in, the Kubota Bor-Tex DASHBOARD [File > Automate > Kubota Bor-Tex Dashboard Palette…].

2)    Assuming your primary photo has already been edited as desired, pre-texture, browse through the texture options from within the Bor-Tex DASHBOARD, previewing the texture in the window pane above the texture list. Select the texture you want by double-clicking on the texture name or selecting Apply in the bottom-right corner. (I’ve selected Calm from the Earth Texture Tools collection).

3)    As seen below, the texture arrives in Free Transform Mode which will allow you to resize, stretch, and rotate the texture to exactly how you want it to appear over your primary photo. Right-clicking on the texture will provide a menu of other options such as flipping and rotating in a variety of ways. You’ll also see that Bor-Tex has initially placed the texture to fit perfectly over your primary photo. (I’ve minimized the Bor-Tex DASHBOARD by clicking on the blue area at the top.)

Adjust the placement of your texture, if necessary. I’ve rotated my texture 180º. Once you’ve decided on the texture’s placement, simply hit your Return Key (using Bor-Tex, a small window pops up walking you through these steps, by the way).

This is where Bor-Tex really goes to work. Here’s a rundown on what Bor-Tex has just automatically accomplished for me, in a matter of seconds:

✓    the Opacity of the texture has been set to 80%,
✓    the Blend mode has been set to Overlay (by default)
✓    the Gaussian Blur has been created
✓    the Smart Filter has been created and inverted
✓    the Paint Brush has been selected
✓    the Brush Opacity has been set to 100%
✓    the color White has been selected

4)    As suggested by the Bor-Tex pop-up window, feel free to paint any texture away from a portion of your primary photo (typically from something like skin) using the brush that has already been selected for you (you will be removing only the texture while maintaining its color). I’ll paint the texture off my subject’s face.

5)    If you choose to alter the Blend mode, you can call upon that command by typing a keyword such as blend or mode in the search field of your Bor-Tex DASHBOARD and clicking Apply (I’m choosing the Hard Light blend mode again).

BEFORE                                                        AFTER

There are other texture-related tools also available from the Bor-Tex DASHBOARD including, but not limited to:

•    removing or reducing the texture’s color without eliminating the texture
•    manually painting the texture onto your primary photo precisely where you want it
•    opacity adjustments and other commonly used Photoshop tools

If you look in the right place, it will also reveal your daily horoscope… but, I’ve said too much.

Try these methods out for yourself. While not every texture works for every image, you will quickly develop an eye for what can be most effective when needing to choose a texture. The possibilities are vast and the results can be phenomenal.

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