Category Archives: Tutorial

How to Add Textures to a Photograph


One time I dreamt I had floated up to the ceiling like a helium balloon would do. Sometimes I just dream of talking with my sweetie at the table over lunch.  But as you can see from my artwork, I enjoy the helium filled images the best.  One way to add a bit of helium to a picture is to overlay another image to add a texture or bit of mystery.  This month’s blog will walk through the steps of creating a simple textured image.  Future blogs will look more in depth at the various tools that can be used  to achieve more complex blending.

My example is a shot of an old shed and trees on a foggy morning in Marin County, California.  It has no highlight or shadow and lacks contrast as a result of the fog.  The image didn’t reflect any of the mystery that I remembered when taking the picture that morning.  By itself, it is an image that I will never send to my printer.  But after a few textures, it turned into an image that has sold repeatedly in galleries.

The first step in adding a texture to an image is to allow yourself to play with different combinations until you find one that compliments your initial picture.  I’ve found it helpful to mollify my logical, linear brain with music so that the visually creative side can complete this search without comments from my inner critic.  Photography is a visual process and the chatter from my brain rarely facilitates the process, so I turn the music up and start flipping through image after image until I see something that makes me smile.

There are many ways to stack images in PhotoShop, but I still open them and while using the move tools, click and drag them onto my base image.  Holding the shift key down will center it over your base image.  If you are stacking more than one image at a time, you’ll want to make all but one of them invisible while you examine that one.  This is done by clicking on the eye icon in the layers palette of the layer you want to make invisible.

I’ve had consistent results using the contrast blending modes of overlay, soft light, and hard light.  There will be times that others will work much better and when you want to view all the possibilities, hold down the shift and option (alt on a PC) keys and click on the plus sign.  This will allow you to rotate through each of the blending modes.

I start with opacity set at 50% but if I like the look of a particular blend, I’ll move the slider to find the optimal opacity.

For this particular image I used 2 images to add texture and I added another 2 images and used them to blend in color.  The texture images were blended at 37 and 50% opacity using the blend mode of Hard Light.  The 2 color images were blended at 27 and 77%, using the Color blend mode.

Once the image had a texture and color that I was satisfied with, it still needed additional tonal adjustments.  I made a vignette type of selection and then darkened the bottom and edges of the image.  This gave it the warm, early morning look I was going after.

I still wasn’t satisfied with the image and decided to put the moon in the scene.  I remembered seeing an image of rusted old bolts that I had taken and thought one of them would blend into the image perfectly.  I layered this image in and used a layer mask to remove all but the circular shape I wanted.

Check back, and in my next blog I’ll list and discuss the 6 techniques I use when adding textures to an image.  Also, I’ll discuss the use of layer masks and how they will help you be selective about which part of your image receives a particular texture.


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