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How to Enhance Your Photos With Textures – Part 1: Adding Textures

In photography a texture image or “texturing” is used to enhance or accent some part of the image in your digital darkroom. Although they can help you create eye-catching works of art, textures also can be very easy to overdo. In this article I’ll explain my process for adding textures to my photography using Adobe Stock and Photoshop to create more impact, transform the mood of the image, or improve the composition.

Origins

Using textures originated in the days of film by using different techniques in the darkroom. Methods included pin scratches by hand on prints, using commercial texture screens sandwiched with negatives, or using developing screens or scrap pieces of textured glass or plastic in contact with the photo paper during the printmaking process. In the digital darkroom, they are usually images imported as a layer over your original photo in Photoshop, and then blended with the photo. Textures may be used in many ways, such as adding completely new elements to an image, dramatically transforming the appearance of existing elements in the photo, or to change the overall mood of the photo.

Textures to Accent and Enhance

While this is a fairly complex use of textures, it shows the many possibilities for using them, both in camera and in your digital darkroom!

 

 

Although just about anything can be used as a texture image, often we use an abstract image or a photo of a material, such as paper or metal. However, be sure you are not adding a texture just for the sake of adding one. Before you start, ask yourself few a questions.*

  • What is the effect you are going for?
  • What is the mood and story, and how will the texture help enhance this?
  • What is the focus in the image, does the texture enhance or diminish this?

 

*Note: It’s usually best that this is an internal dialog, asking yourself these out loud may worry your family, friends, and coworkers.

The Texturing Two Step

Texturing involves two very important steps.

  1. Add an image you are using as a texture above your original photo as a layer.
  2. Blend the two (or more) image layers by changing the opacity and blending mode, and/or masking the texture image. (We will cover this in Part 2 of this article)

How to Add an Image as a Texture

Have an Image?

If you already have an image you wish to use saved to your computer, you can add it in Photoshop by going to “File → Place Linked…” or “File → Place Embedded…”. Either menu item will open up a window to browse to your file’s location. Be aware that the Place Linked command will only work if the photograph being linked is available on the computer that opens the image. The image is not in the Photoshop layer stack. It is only referenced. To make sure that it is in the layer stack choose Place Embedded.

Here are a view things to be aware of:

  • Embedded creates a copy of the texture image and embeds it in the file. This makes it easier to send others your file with all its resources. Linked does not, and it will be a smaller file in general.
  • The texture will be inserted as a smart object on a new layer directly above whatever layer you have selected
  • The texture will be in “free transform” mode, meaning you can size it however you wish. Drag the image around, or click and drag any of the points along its perimeter to resize it.
  • Once you are happy with its size and placement, click the check mark at the top of the screen. Alternatively, you can hit the enter key. Until you do this, you won’t be able to do anything else in Photoshop.
  • Hitting the Esc key while it is in this initial free transform mode will remove the texture from your image, think of it as an undo button.
This is an example of the three different ways you can “Place” an image. The only difference between them is the icon that appears next to the thumbnail on each one’s respective layer. Starting from the top, an Embedded image, a Linked one, and a Library one. All three are Smart Objects in Photoshop and can be transformed or edited the same way.

Need an Image?

There are three ways you can select and add images from Adobe Stock to your Photoshop Library. In the example above, when creating “The Phoenix” I did searches for “fire” and “smoke”, which provided just the images I needed.

    1. From Photoshop “File” Menu, select “Search Adobe Stock…”, which will take you to step 2, below.
    2. Open the Adobe Stock Website in your Browser, where you can search for and license images to your Adobe account. These images will appear in your Library Panel in Photoshop, or you can download a copy to your computer.
    3. You can also search for images directly from Photoshop’s Library Panel. It appears on Photoshop toolbars as this icon:
  1. Usually, you will want to preview the texture to make sure it is the right fit for your image idea.
    • Before you choose to license the image, you can click its thumbnail in the “Libraries” panel, and drag and drop into your image as a layer.
    • It will still have the Adobe watermark on it, but you can resize and shape it as you would any other image.
  2. If it’s not working out, simply delete the layer. If it is, you can license the image directly from the library panel, by right-clicking the thumbnail of the image and selecting “License Image…”. You can also return to the Adobe Stock website to complete the licensing.

Quick Tip: Get to know the Library panel, this is not only where you will search, but also where all your stock resources are available for adding to your image.

Don’t hesitate to use the search to brainstorm too. While typing in a more generic term like “texture” or “blue” will give many images, try browsing through them to see if something may catch your eye that you hadn’t thought of before.

Up Next

Now that you have added your texture, check out “How to Enhance Your Photos With Textures – Part 2: Blending” to finish your image.

Gear

Credits

“The Phoenix” – Model: Scarlet Dawn, Photographer/Digital Artist: Jason Hahn

Like this article? Follow this link to read more of my photo tips and techniques. Jason’s Articles at Photofocus

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