Camera smart

Adding Textures to Photos

For the right type of photograph, overlaying a photographic texture can add a wonderful touch. This column explores just some of the many ways you can incorporate a texture into a photo.

Here s the original photo that I want to work with.

Select a photo that you would like to add a texture to and open it as a Camera Raw smart object so you can continue to tweak it, even after you add a texture layer. To open a RAW file as a smart object, hold the Shift key in Camera Raw.

The Open Image button will change to Open Object.

There are a few ways to add a texture photo to your project, with the "hardest" way being opening a texture and then dragging it into your photo. That s potentially the longest way since the sizing might not fit and you ll have to scale it. I prefer to either drag from Mini Bridge into my document, or in Bridge, select the image and use File>Place>ln Photoshop. Both of these methods create a smart object that s automatically scaled to fit the document. If you do need to change the size, though, simply drag the corners of the bounding box that surrounds the image. Press Enter to finalize the placing of the image.

I suggest using RAW to capture all your textures so they come in as Camera Raw smart objects —this happens automatically if you use either the drag from Mini Bridge or Place options. After dragging in or placing, the image will open in Camera Raw where you can make some initial adjustments. I wouldn t worry too much about this yet as we ll adjust it later in the context of our photo. Click OK to add the smart object layer in your document.

In this example, I rotated the texture to match the orientation of my photo. Since the placed smart object comes in with a bounding box, all you need to do is click-and-drag outside the box to rotate the image. After pressing Enter, you ll have a new Camera Raw smart object layer containing your texture.

Once the texture layer (Camera Raw smart object) is placed and sized, you have many options for blending the layers together and tweaking the result.


 Camera smart

Choose a blend mode in the Layers panel, or press Shift-+ to scroll through the blend modes. Here s the texture in Overlay mode.


Here you can use the Blend If sliders to make portions of the texture see-through based on its lightness and darkness values by moving the small triangles. Hold down Option (PC: Alt) to split the triangles into two halves to create a smoother blend. Once you click OK, you can come back and adjust these settings by doubleclicking again.

ADJUST IN CAMERA RAW Here, I changed Contrast and Clarity in the Basic tab and added a Vignette in the Lens Corrections tab. When you close Camera Raw, the layer will update and reapply the blend mode and Blend If sliders.


By adding a layer mask to the texture layer, you can hide parts of the texture by painting with shades of gray on the mask. It s also possible (and very interesting) to paste a different texture photo onto the mask. To do this, open a texture, then go to Select>AII and Edit>Copy.

Layers panel to view the mask itself. Now, Edit>Paste and the texture will be pasted onto the mask. Option-click (PC: Alt-click) the layer mask thumbnail again to reveal the image.

At this point you could press Command-1 (PC: Ctrl-1) to invert the mask, or use the Properties panel (CS5: Masks panel) to Feather (blur) the mask or lower the Density (similar to opacity) of the mask.


This duplicated subhead is not a typo, but a reminder that even after doing all these steps, you can —and should —continue to return to Camera Raw to change the settings of the texture. For example, removing all the color will often dramatically affect the results of many blend modes.

One of the best parts of using these methods is that nothing is ever final. You can edit all of these options: Camera Raw settings, blend modes, Blend If sliders, and the layer mask. And you can even drag the texture smart object layer onto another photo. Textures are everywhere just waiting to be captured and added to your photographs.

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