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Photoshop Textures Tutorial


Photoshop Textures Tutorial Title PostThe powerful layer blend modes in Photoshop allow you to experiment with a great range of effects and techniques. Working with textures is also a great way to get started in the world of photo manipulation as the results are fast and accessible, even to new practitioners. The following walkthrough will explore use of textures in Photoshop and a few of the effective blending techniques.


Experimentation is Key

Photoshop Textures Tutorial 2To fully gauge how the layer modes behave and interact, a healthy amount of experimentation is required. Photoshop divides the blend modes into sections, with each portion offering modes that react in a certain fashion.

• ‘Darken’ blend modes will give prominence to the dark tones of a texture layer.
• ‘Lighten’ blend modes will give prominence to the light tones of a texture layer.
• ‘Overlay’ blend modes usually use 50% gray as the measuring point, allowing for more refined blending effects.
• ‘Difference’ blend modes work on the basis of inverting the visual data to it’s tonal opposites.
• ‘Hue’ blend modes work on the basis of effecting the hue or saturation.

There is much that can be written about the physics of this system, and where these terms originate – however nothing can beat rolling your sleeves up and just giving it a go!


Refined VS Overkill

As with anything in the visual arts, there is often a delicate balance between refined and overkill – and this is especially true in the use of textures. Beginners will often place a texture over a source image, select a blend mode and then call it a day; but there is so much more you can do to achieve pleasing results.

The following example shows the application of a texture. The first has just been set to Overlay (100%), the second has had an additional 5 minutes of work spent on it:

Photoshop Textures Tutorial 1

Example 2 represents the possibilities of where this concept could lead, with the texture being gently tapered into the image using Layer Masks and different blend modes. Stock model by Mahafsoun (DeviantArt), Cracked Mud texture from CG Textures.


Textures as Backgrounds

Textures in their own right can be employed as art-pieces or engaging backgrounds for existing work. When combining multiple textures you can manipulate the intensity of your work and achieve more bespoke results. For the ‘Toxic’ logo, I wanted to produce a dirty / industrial background; below you can see the progression of how the piece developed, using a combination of Layer Modes, Adjustment Layers and Masks:

Photoshop Textures Tutorial 3

By stacking textures and adjustments, you can produce unique backgrounds to suit your needs. Illustrated below is the layer breakdown, showing the various layer modes / adjusments used and their opacity in %:

Photoshop Textures Tutorial 4

Textures in this example are from Mayang’s Free Texture Library.

Photoshop Textures Tutorial 8

Using Layer Masks

On occassions where you would like to selectively apply textures, Layer Masks are essential. To demonstrate the concept, I will be combining the following two images to produce a stylised cracked face effect:

Photoshop Textures Tutorial 5

Suit Man by new-corpse (DeviantArt), Mud Texture from Mayang’s.

For the purpose of the demonstration I performed a background removal on the character (see Background Removal walkthrough for more info). Here you can see that the texture layer has been brought into the document and scaled / rotated using the Transform function (Ctrl / Cmd + T):

Photoshop Textures Tutorial 6

For the next step, the cracked mud texture was set to layer mode Overlay (100%). Using a Layer Mask (add Layer Mask icon, bottom of layers palette), the parts not required were removed with a Soft Edged Brush (0% hardness, set to black). For instances like the edge of the hat a smaller brush was used to ‘paint away’ the texture:

Photoshop Textures Tutorial 7

The larger the brush used on Layer Masks, the more smoother the transition is from 100% visibility to 0%, you can control the width of your brush quickly using the square brackets on the keyboard [ ]. Controlling transitions with varying brush widths is a fundamental technique in creative photo manipulation, and is used often!

You can take these techniques further by editing the texture layer itself. For instance, if you would like the darks to be more prominent, you could tweak them by applying a Levels Adjustment (Image > Adjustments > Levels) directly to the texture layer. The same control could be used for colour adjustments or even physical tweaks like Distort or Smudge effects. In true Photoshop fashion, the possibilities are limitless.

Photoshop Textures Tutorial 9

The results are all well and good, but let’s push this into a fine-art piece! Here’s what the composite looks like with layered textures acting as a background, much like the Toxic Logo we saw before:

Photoshop Textures Tutorial 10

Not bad, a little flat for my tastes though.. Im a staunch believer in the power of lighting effects for adding a sense of drama. Check out our Lighting Tutorials for more info (Lighting Theory, Shadow Techniques, Light Behaviour, Highlights). Here our man is infused with a greater sense of urgency, using lighting effects:

Photoshop Textures Tutorial 11

To round things off, a number of Adjustment Layers and a good ol’ Unsharp Mask are used to apply that final ‘pop’ to the image – controlling the tones for a sepia tone. Check out our Ambient Colour in Photoshop to get the lowdown!

Photoshop Textures Tutorial 12


Even though the results are fast, it’s very much worth going the extra mile to refine your textures and incorporate other techniques to complement your work. Texture control is very much linked to mastery of Layer Masks and knowledge of blend modes, so practice in these fields will bring you the desired results. Have your own approach to texture work? Please feel free to share in the comments section below!

Conzz 8-)

Follow on Twitter >> @Conzpiracy

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6 Responses to “Photoshop Textures Tutorial”

  1. Kiren says:

    Even though this is something I already know of, I love seeing other designer’s processes. Great article man!!

  2. Dracorubio says:

    this is a great starting point for the use of textures. Good explanation. Awesome lies in the subtle details!

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