Do your photos look a little flat after importing them into Adobe Photoshop? Adding Photoshop textures will make them pop.
You can apply textures in Photoshop for portraits, landscapes or fashion – any field of photography for that matter.
Our Photoshop tutorial has all the information you need to add free Photoshop textures to your image.
What Base Image Should You Use
First things first, we need an image to work on. If you have an image you want to practise with, perfect!
For those who do not want to use their own images, Unsplash offers a great range of images to choose from.
From landscapes to portraits, you’ll find everything here. If you have another free stock photography website, by all means, use that.
This is the image we will be working on. We are aiming to get this image to the finished version, shown above.
Where to Find Textures
Textures are a little bit more tricky to source. People aren’t generally photographing these as they walk around. As photographers, we lean towards beautiful or interesting scenes or situations.
Textures are something you may have photographed without realising it. A stone path or a scratchy texture on a wall serves as an overlay to your image. Or perhaps a wood texture, or any kind of metal textures or colorful grunge textures.
All we need to do is make sure we have a base image and a texture image to create our final photo.
If you want to use only free textures, stay away from texture packs online and use your own.
Most textures in an image have a purpose. They help those blocks of colour find a little more definition. The texture gives them a little more interest.
These could be geometric textures to make it more interesting, paper patterns, or even colour to make it stand out.
A paper background texture has the potential to make an image look like a film poster.
If I take a paper texture into Photoshop, and drop it underneath the original image, it will look as if it is a photograph of a print on paper. The texture makes it real.
Try this. Take a piece of paper. Scrunch it into a ball, as tight as you can. Now, unfold it and flatten it out. Scan or photograph the piece of paper. Now you have your first home-made texture.
Have a look around your home, apartment, kitchen. There will be tons of items that have a different textures and patterns.
Go for a marble texture in your kitchen, or vintage textures with your silk curtains, or a concrete texture look from the front entrance to your house. Or go for a wall texture.
You can create many different looks with everyday objects, including abstract textures or watercolor textures.
You may need to get close enough to single it out from the rest of the item. This is why you need to read our article on macro photography.
How to Insert an Image in Photoshop
Our first point is how to insert an image in Photoshop. There is some confusion as there are a few different ways to do this.
Let’s run through a few ways:
- Open in Photoshop – Open Photoshop, and you are presented with a welcome interface. If this is your first time, it will be blank. To bring in an image, click on ‘Open’ on the left, and locate your image. If the area isn’t blank, it will show your recent images. If you want to work with one of these files, click on it.
- File – If you have opened Photoshop, click on File in the navigation bar found at the top of the page. In the drop-down menu, click on ‘Open’.
- Drag-and-Drop – One of my favourite ways is to open the file without even opening Photoshop first. First, locate your file on your computer. Click and drag it to the Photoshop icon. For Mac users, this may be in your Applications folder, or in the bottom task-bar. For Windows users, this might be found on your desktop or found using the search bar in the bottom left of your screen.
Now we have that covered, we are free to move on.
How to Add a Layer in Photoshop
Adding a layer in Photoshop is a little different. Again there are a few options:
- From tab to tab – To get this to work, you need to have both the base image and the texture open in Photoshop side-by-side. Just under the Menu and Options bars found at the top, you will see a tab that shows the information of your image. It will tell you the file name, its colour profile and the size at which you are looking at the image. If you see two tabs, you are on the right path. Now, you need to go to the secondary image – the one you want to add to your primary image. Once there, locate the layer in the Layers area on the right. Click and drag it to the tab. The image will switch that the other image. Now just drop the image anywhere.
- Drag and drop – Open your primary image in Photoshop. Now minimalise the window so you can access your desktop. Locate the secondary image in your computer. Click and drag the image to the image open in Photoshop. If it worked, you will see a rectangle with diagonal lines over the image. Press enter to apply the secondary image.
How to Add Photoshop Textures
We now know how to add images and add layers in Photoshop. Now we need to add that texture to your image.
Open your image and texture into Photoshop. Next, you will need to do a little resizing or rotating via the Transform tool.
You find this under Edit>Transform, and not the Image Rotation Tool under Image. This area depends on if you want to apply the texture to the whole image or not.
If applying to a small area, you will need to look at the erase and masking tools.
Adding the Layers
Open both images. It doesn’t matter if you have the base in the first tab and the texture in the second.
Just as long as you move one image to the other, you’ll get off to a great start.
For this example, I chose a contrasted image of a musician playing the guitar and a scratchy texture.
I feel these two elements go together well, but you can go with whatever you wish.
Click and drag the layer to the tab as we mentioned before. Drop it onto the base image. You’ll notice the image might be too small or too large.
This is to do with the files being of different sizes – don’t worry about it.
To make the image bigger, make sure the layer is selected in the Layer Panel on the right. Then press Cmd + T (Mac) or Ctrl + T (PC).
This will let you stretch the image to fit.
To keep the ratio the same, hold down Shift as you drag the corner boxes.
Make the texture slightly bigger than the base image.
This will help ensure it is completely covered.
We need to move the texture below the base image. To do so, we first need to unlock the background (base) layer.
To unlock it, double-click on it and then press OK in the following dialog box.
Now, drag the textured layer under the base layer. Click and drag it below.
Blending the Images
You won’t see the texture yet, as the base image is hiding it. To show it, we need to let it through the base image. We do this using a Blend Mode.
You’ll find a drop-down menu next to the Opacity tool in the Layer Panel.
Select the base layer in the Layer Panel, click on the Blend Mode menu and select Screen.
You might find that your texture comes through too strong – don’t worry, this is what we will be fixing.
Select the texture layer, and change the opacity from 100% to 30%.
This will reduce its strength.
Next, we are going to apply a Layer Mask, which will let us bring it down further.
With the texture layer selected, click on Add A New Layer Mask at the bottom. It is the icon with a circle inside a rectangle.
The layer mask is represented by a white rectangle. Here, we can reduce the strength by painting in the layer mask.
We are painting black as we want to reduce the strength. White would do the opposite. Make sure black is selected on the left.
Painting Back the Texture
Next, select the Brush tool found in the left-hand toolbar. Then select the size and weight, hidden in a drop-down box found in the top left of the options bar at the top.
Next, change the opacity so that the strength isn’t as noticeable, and ensure flow is around 20%.
Start by painting in the corner. You will see that it starts getting darker as it reduces the texture. The brush is sensitive and it works on a depressed mouse click.
This means that if you click and paint, clicking again and painting again will make it darker each time.
I did it twice and then started in the top left-hand corner. You can see the difference between one brush stroke.
Make sure the flow of your brush strokes is not obvious.
Next, another area you can look at are Levels. Levels helps change the brightness of an image.
To find the Levels, click on Image>Adjustments>Levels.
A dialog box will open, presenting you with a histogram. I pulled the far-right slider towards the centre, making the texture image lighter.
This helped to bring out a little more definition. You should play around with what you feel is right for your image.
And there you go. All done. Here you can see the before and after image.
Paper Background Texture
Marked / Scratchy Layer
If you want to read more about Photoshop, check out this article on Photoshop actions, including free downloads.
And if you want to know even more about textures and textures packs, check out this article on capturing black and white textures.
A note from Josh, ExpertPhotography's Photographer-In-Chief:
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