Adding Textures to Photographs - Part Three

Adding textures to photographs can produce very pleasing results. In part one I gave a general overview of textures, in part two we began looking at how we might add a texture as a layer in Adobe Photoshop to affect the image globally.

As you progress in your use of textures you’ll probably want to be able to use your textures in a more exact way.

For example, textures on skin can look awful, you may want to learn how to remove texture from just your subject’s skin.

There are two ways I’m going to look at for removing textures.

  1. Through use of layer masks.

  2. Through use of a texture brush.

Layer Masks

Screenshot 2019-01-16 at 17.07.33.png

When using Layer Masks in Adobe Photoshop it is important that you make sure your foreground colour is set to white and your background colour is set to black. If you click on the two joined arrows - your foreground colour will swop to black and your background colour will now become white.


Which Layer is active?

Check your mask is active before you start painting with your brush.

White Reveals, Black Conceals

When using a white mask you need to set your foreground colour to black (and vice versa if you invert the mask). The easiest way to do this on a Mac is by pressing X. Alternatively you can click on the joined arrows above the foreground/background icon.

Now you’re ready to select the brush tool to paint on the mask. If all this is new to you, then you’re best starting with a big, soft brush (hardness 0%) with a low opacity of around 40%. You can now start gently painting off the texture where you don’t want it.

The whole process is shown in the video below.


Layer - As in Adobe Photoshop® Layer, referring to a non-destructive editing layer which sits on top of the original background image.

Globally - affects the entire image.

Locally - affects selected areas of the image.

Layer Mask - is applied to a layer to either reveal or conceal all of the layer.

Texture Brush - a brush in the brush tool menu that is made from a texture and replicates that texture wherever it is used.

Invert - the direct opposite. To invert a white mask (CMD+I) would turn it black.

Adding Textures to Photographs - Part Four will look at making a texture brush.

Adding Textures to Photographs - Part Two

Adding Textures Globally.

We’re now going to take a closer look at how to add a simple texture globally (affects the entire image).

In the video examples I’ve photographed an old A4 envelope and used it as my texture (a scanner would also do the job).

Experimenting and playing around with your own textures will give your work an individual style others will find hard to imitate.

To Colour or not to Colour your image?

Textures can add colour to your image unless you desaturate them.

If you have worked hard on getting your colours right in an image you will probably prefer to desaturate your texture before adding it to your image.

Another point to note is that good contrast between the blacks and whites will show up better; if your texture looks quite washed out and flat when you desaturate it, play around with a levels or contrast adjustment layer then either save as a jpeg and give your texture a name or create a visible stamp layer and drag that over to your image.

Blend Mode & Opacity

When you add a texture layer it will have a Normal blend mode set at 100% Opacity. The texture will completely hide your image with this setting.

So you will need to cycle through the blend modes to see how the texture interacts with your image.

You will also need to reduce the opacity of your texture layer so you can see your image underneath.


Try adding a saturated texture to your image and see how it also affects the colours.

Now we’ve played around with adding a texture over an entire image (globally), part three will cover using layer masks to apply/remove texture in specific areas (locally).

Adding Textures to Photographs - Part One

I’ve decided to break textures up into a couple of blog posts. It’s too much to cover all in one go.

If you’ve any questions leave them in the comments below or use the contact form which you’ll find by clicking ‘Contact’ in the top right-hand corner of the page (or menu section if using a mobile device).

I’ve been asked to do a workshop on textures so I’d love feedback on how you use textures, what problems you’ve encountered and if you’ve ever had a eureka moment when it all suddenly becomes clear!


Onions have layers, ogres have layers and good image editing software uses layers. I like layers. You can add them onto an image, adjust them to compliment your image or remove them entirely without damaging the original image.


My editing software of choice is currently Adobe Photoshop. I pay for it through a Creative Cloud subscription like everyone else who wants regular updates and access to the latest features. I have to admit I’m not totally bowled over by the latest 2019 update to Photoshop, it’s very buggy, but I live in hope the next update will improve performance.

Simple Textures

Anyway back to layers, specifically texture layers. One of the ways I achieve a painterly look to my finished pieces is through use of my own textures. My definition of a texture is as follows;

A texture is a photograph where the patina is the main area of interest; either natural or intentionally made.

I could share some of my own textures with you, but where’s the fun in that!

No, you need to go out a photograph grubby paintwork, tree bark, animal fur, slate floors, bitty concrete or even a marble worktop with all its’ little flecks of texture. You can photograph old yellow envelopes, coffee stained napkins basically anything you can find in your home or while out and about.

In Adobe Photoshop I then place the texture as a layer over the original image, this affects the image globally (entirely), I would then make adjustments to blend the two together.

This is the simplest overview of working with textures, an approach if taken, will allow you to enter the resulting images into competitions or for distinctions where all the elements of the photograph must be your own work.

I’ll be going into more detail in part two, but if you can’t wait, check out this video I made last year about adding a snow overlay - which is based on the same principle of working with layers.