How to Make and Use Your Own Texture Library

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In Photoshop speak, the term “texture” refers to an image that adds a textural patina to a photograph. By altering the opacity or blending mode of a textural layer positioned over a photograph, you can easily add greater depth and creativity to an image. The technique is often used to apply a vintage or distressed effect to an image that mimics the texture of old photographs or film techniques. But it can be applied in more subtle ways too.

With a quick Google search, you can find thousands of textures in stock image libraries or even Google Images. However, these are often low in quality, which can detract from a photograph rather than adding to it. The best way to maximize the effectiveness of a textural layer is to use high-quality images. By building a texture library with photographs of your own, you can assure the quality of the images and keep track of the resources you have at hand.

texture library - example image

The water in the textural layer of this image lends a vintage feel to the natural subject and added some interesting water-washed patterns.

texture library

Going on a texture hunt

So, where do you find useful textures? Well, just about everywhere! I tried to think of a subject that couldn’t be used as a texture, and came up with nothing! Textures can be anything from photographs of sand or wood to bricks, orange peel, fur, clouds, fabric or… okay you get the idea. Anytime I encounter an interesting texture, I’ll quickly photograph it and stow it away for later.

A few pointers to keep in mind, you want to have a texture image that matches the quality of a destination photograph, so always shoot in RAW if possible to avoid file degradation. I also find creating a folder designated specifically for textures is an easy way to save time. If I need a texture I can simply browse through the folder of textures I have amassed without trawling through other photographs to find them.

How to Make and Use Your Own Texture Library

Photographs of textured walls are useful for adding to images that look a little flat.

How to Make and Use Your Own Texture Library

How to Make and Use Your Own Texture Library

While not particularly interesting as an image on its own, photographs of water, like this one, can add interesting effects to an image.

How to Make and Use Your Own Texture Library

Rusted, painted, or aged surfaces like walls and paths make great textural layers.

How to use textures

Now that you have a few textures in your arsenal, there is a really simple way to apply them to an image. But before we get started, you’ll need to make sure the size of the texture image matches the destination image. If you’ve taken both the texture and destination photographs in the same RAW format, you probably won’t need to worry.

If you want to make sure, first open both the texture and destination files in Photoshop. Select Image > Image Size and have a look at the dialogue box. A texture image with matching or greater dimensions and resolution to the destination photograph is ideal. Anything smaller and you could compromise the quality of the finished product.

How to Make and Use Your Own Texture Library

How to Make and Use Your Own Texture Library

The image is 5616 x 3744 pixels.

How to Make and Use Your Own Texture Library

The texture image is the same size. Perfect!

Once you have compared the image sizes, drag and drop the texture image onto the destination layer, so that it is the top most layer in the layers panel. You can also import your texture into Photoshop by selecting File > Place and selecting the desired texture. Resize the texture layer over the original image via the transform controls so that it completely covers the image.

At this point, you won’t be able to see your original photograph as it’s beneath the texture layer. The way you combine the two images together is with the Blending Modes tool, which will put them together seamlessly. Make sure that the texture layer is selected and click on the Blending Modes drop-down menu. You’ll see that there is an abundance of options from which to choose. Each Blending Mode will combine the texture layer with the original photograph in a different way. Simply work down the list until you find one you like!

How to Make and Use Your Own Texture Library

Layer Blend Modes are located here.

How to Make and Use Your Own Texture Library

Blend Mode options.

And presto! Your texture and original photographs will be combined to create a new, textured image. Like I mentioned before, each Blending Mode option has a different effect on an image, some will be more obvious where as others will be soft and subtle. Once you start experimenting with textures and Blending Modes it can become a little addictive. Even photographs that would usually be considered as duds can create some really neat effects.

How to Make and Use Your Own Texture Library

For this image of sand overlaying a sunflower, I used the Linear Burn Blending Mode.

How to Make and Use Your Own Texture Library

The same image again, but with the ‘Hard Light’ Blending Mode selected creates a slightly more subtle effect.

How to Make and Use Your Own Texture Library

This is a photograph of an in-flight movie I took by accident. I decided to keep it for later as a texture.

This is one of the photographs I applied my “in-flight movie” texture to. By using the Divide Blending Mode, I added a Liquid Light effect to the photograph.

How to Make and Use Your Own Texture Library

I applied the same “in-flight movie” image to this photograph of an ocean to simulate a light leak. I selected the Divide Blending mode for this textural effect.

How to Make and Use Your Own Texture Library

The texture in this image is a photograph of a Scribbly Gum tree. I used the rough texture of the tree to add a surrealistic feel to the photograph of a mountainous landscape.

How to Make and Use Your Own Texture Library

Your turn

Have you played around with making your own texture images? It’s super easy and fun to do. Please share your texture images and comments below.

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Megan Kennedy

is a photographer and writer based in Canberra, Australia. A lifelong fascination with flight has inspired her photographic practice in documenting the intricate form of aircraft. Megan is also interested in travel photography and documenting human interaction with the modern landscape, through both intentional and incidental intervention. She is well versed in both digital and film practice. Both her writing and photography has been featured in numerous publications.

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  • Joel

    Meh?

  • Mark Weber

    Great article. I love textures and use them constantly. it’s like adding a little salt or pepper to your food. It can sometimes make the difference between a nice shot or a great shot because its not what we see much. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/52e79aca8052ad32933d9944feb99ee446ab890324f0d8d881814f05e6f887b6.jpg all the time.

  • Megan Kennedy

    I totally agree, love the salt and pepper analogy 🙂

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  • gravity tales

    now a days you will find the more online tools which you don’t need to work on photoshop which make your photo better as it can from
    Gravity Tales

  • Megan Kennedy

    Thanks Gravity Tales, that’s true! I guess the advantage of this method is you have a little more control over the image 🙂

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