Icelandic Horse in infrared with multiple texture layers.

Beginner’s Guide to Creative Texture Blending

As an Art Photographer, I am always looking for ways to display my work in a unique and creative way. The competition is fierce out there for beautiful landscape and nature photographs with awesome sunrises or sunsets.  Often, I am in a beautiful place, but the sky just doesn’t cooperate. Regardless, I still photograph the beautiful subjects with the less than compelling skies knowing I can creatively work with the image later by using layers.

Texture blending is creative way to add an artistic component to your photographs.  You can take an ordinary image and make it more dynamic or you can use texture blending to add more creativity to an already interesting image.

Choosing An Image

Some images seem to lend themselves much more to texture blending than others. I tend to look for images that look great compositionally and are exposed correctly but may lack an interesting sky.  Often times, I will use the images that may have been taken during midday when the light is not great because sometimes we are lucky enough to be in the right spot but not during the right time. These are the times that I talk about in my article “Creative Photography to Overcome the Midday Blues”.
When choosing a photo, I look for images that have a large area with uniform color or I look for photos where I have photographed in a way that results in a large area of plain open space. Usually when the light or sky isn’t ideal, I shoot specifically keeping texture blending in mind.

This image in Joshua Tree National Park was photographed before sunset for the purpose of being used for texture blending.

This image in Joshua Tree National Park was photographed before sunset for the purpose of being used for texture blending.

Choosing Textures

Selecting a texture can be a difficult step. Knowing what you want as an end results can help ease the process. Are you hoping to have a final image that is creatively artistic?  Do you hope to create a grunge or gritty image? Or you looking to enhance the sky but in a somewhat realistic way?

These questions are not necessary but will help you to simplify the process. Often, I find myself with one idea only to completely change directions when I start working on a image.

Finding Textures

For years, I have been photographing abstract subjects that can be used for texture blending. I find these such textures everywhere from the adobe walls in Santa Fe to the rust of old cars. I also spend a good amount of time creating abstract paintings that work well.  Textures are everywhere!  But an even easier way to find textures is online. There are many free ones available.  But my favorites happen to be available for purchase through Flypaper Textures.

Blending Your Images using Photoshop – the Quick and Easy method

  • Open your base image
  • Open your texture image
  • With your texture image open, select all by pressing Ctrl + A and copy by pressing Ctrl + C. Go back to your base image and paste by pressing Ctrl + V.
I have pasted my texture onto my base Joshua Tree image. It will now need to be transformed to fill the size of the base image.

I have pasted my texture onto my base Joshua Tree image. It will now need to be transformed to fill the size of the base image.

  • Resize the texture by using the transform tool so that it covers all the base image

texture-layer-2

  • In the Layer Stack for the texture, change the blending mode.  I usually look at each one to see its effect but my favorites tend to be Multiply, Overlay, Soft Light, Screen and Hard Mix

colorfinal2

  • Adjust the opacity until you get the desired look you are happy with.

Joshua Tree

  • To preserve the original color of the base image, de-saturate the texture layer.

For a different look, try a monotoned image.

final-monotoned

You can also use Lightroom, iPhone Apps, On1 Photo, Topaz, and Capture One etc to create your texture blend photography. Most programs utilize layer stacking in a similar way with blending mode options that are the same across platforms. Find a software program that works best for you and learn to make the most of it.

For more advanced techniques try some or all of the following techniques:

  • Transform the texture: Often times, just transforming the texture to match the size of the base image works fine but try transforming it in different ways, from flipping the texture to stretching or warping the texture. 
  • Look at each blending mode: Although I have favorite blending modes, these don’t always work in all situations. So I tend to click on each option to see what the result will be. 
  • Modify or Stylize the texture layer: Any layer can be modified, including your texture layer. I tend to look at a texture layer for the type of texture it has, rather than its color. You can always adjust the color, saturation or tone of the layer to better fit your vision. 
  • Masking: Textures do not need to be universally applied to your photo. Utilize masking tools to add it to the areas you want without affecting the areas you do not
  • Use multiple textures: Apply multiple layers each with different blending modes or opacities to produce creative results.  

Bottom line… have fun and be creative!

Here are some examples of images that have multiple texture layers with varying opacities.

  • Icelandic Horse in infrared with multiple texture layers.

    Icelandic Horse in infrared with multiple texture layers.

  • _dsc6156-final

    Infrared photograph with multiple texture layers – Arizona Storm and Saguaro

  • The Watchman in Zion National Park started out as an infrared black and white image. With multiple texture layers, I painted in the colors and textures I wanted.

    The Watchman in Zion National Park started out as an infrared black and white image. With multiple texture layers, I painted in the colors and textures I wanted.

About Author Christine Hauber

As a full-time professional photographer for over 25 years, my love of photography has pushed me forward through the tough times as well as the absolutely amazing times. I have captured the quietness Mother Nature gives us to the amazing faces of man and beast.

Without a creative outlet, I am not sure I could exist with such gratitude and grace. Being creative affords me hours of quiet contemplation, allows me to absorb the beauty around me even when there seems to be very little of it and feeds my soul. Sharing my resulting images and knowledge is my way of hoping to bring those same feelings to those who view them.

Landscape

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