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how to create a texture overlay of a photo in Photoshop

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This tutorial shows you the fastest way to create digital art. You have seen stylized photos everywhere and maybe not realized how easy it is to do this for yourself

You can get 10 free images right now to try this out

If you want to become a stock contributor; You can also contribute your own photos, videos and illustrations and make a little extra income. See info here

Texture Overlay in Photoshop and how to do it

This week, I’m going to show you how to jazz up photographs by using textures. Now, this is the fastest and the easiest way to make photos look like works of art. You’ve seen this everywhere and maybe you just didn’t realize how it was done or you didn’t realize how easy it is.

I’m going to show you three different looks by simply adding textures inside of Photoshop and also introduce different things with each example.

Combining textures with photos using Photoshop Blend modes (all version of Photoshop)

The first one we’re going to do here is with a hippie girl with a guitar. Let’s add a little bit of a mood and emotion.

(example 1)

Step 1: Parchment Texture

Place the texture over the image.  I’m dragging this texture from the Library panel to the document. (you could also open the texture as a new image and combine them as shown here. ) You can photograph your own textures, or download them from different places including Adobe Stock

Step 2

Resize it to fit. Press Cmd/Ctrl+T for free transform, Hold down the Shift key and drag out from the corner.

Step 3: Different Blending modes for different looks

Now, obviously, the texture is hiding the layer underneath. The way to apply these texture overlays is to simply use Blend Modes. There’s different types of Blend Modes here.

  • (a)These darken them
  • (b)These lighten them
  • (c) these work with the midtones (50% gray).

And I have a much more comprehensive training on Blend Modes on PhotoshopCAFE, as well as a free eBook, so check that out.

let’s try a Multiply Blend Mode.  All I’ve done is apply this Blend Mode and it’s given us this grungy effect.

Try a Color Burn and you can see it gives us a different flavor

color burn blend mode

There are other Blend Modes that generally work, but the ones that work best are Multiply, Screen and Overlay. Those three are going to be your best friends.

Let’s have a look at Overlay. It creates a completely different effect.

overlay blend mode

Have a look at Screen. It is just going to kind of lighten it up a little bit. Sometimes, you play with the opacity and drop that down a little bit and it kind of gives us a bac- lit kind of a look there.

screen blend mode

Tip: To cycle through blending modes: Choose the Move tool (V). Press Shift + or Shift –

Okay, so let’s have a look at other ones like Soft Light and Hard Light are also good ones to use. Once again, if we look at this before and after, see how just adding this one texture with the Blend Mode changes the entire feel of the image. The other one we could do is go down to Hard Light which looks a little bit like something used on a record cover. You can see this is very textured and you could apply other kind of textures and text and different things over the top of it.

Step 4: How to find textures within Photoshop CC (example 2)

Let’s take a different picture and make a very popular snow texture. Why don’t we find a new texture?

Open up the Library panel and type in “snow texture.”

searching for images within photoshop

Step 5

It’s actually going to go into Adobe Stock and show the result right within Photoshop. I’m just going to choose one and drag it directly into our image.

add texture to photoshop for the library panel

snow texture

Step 6

Change to Screen Mode and you can see, instantly, we get this nice snowy texture.

screen blending mode

Step 7 Getting the Highres version of the texture

Notice that we’ve got a watermarked version. You can try as many different textures and files as you like from Adobe Stock without having to pay anything. (You can also use your own photos if you like).

And if you really like the result of a texture, you have the option to license it from Adobe Stock. This will remove the watermark and also replace the image with a nice, high resolution version. The image will also be in your Library for you to use again in the future.

Right click and choose “License Image.”

You can get 10 free images right now to try this out

Step 8: Using Layer Masks with Textures (example 3)

Let’s try a third look with a bit more of a commercial look.

So let’s go and grab a bluish kind of a texture.

Step 9

Choose Screen Blending Mode and we  get a TV show kind of a look.

Step 10

To customize this look we will use a layer mask. Click on New Layer mask in the Layers panel to add a mask to the texture layer.

Step 11

Grab a large soft-edged brush and set opacity to 50%, Choose black as the foreground color. With the Layer mask selected, paint around the face a little bit to reduce the texture in that area.

You can see a text of a plain, boring background and adds a bit of visual interest to it.


Step 12: Combining multiple textures for a deep artistic look (Example 4)

One other thing we can do is combine textures.

Let’s  go back to this one here where we used the snow.

Step 13

We will load in 3 texture layers. Grab out our grunge texture, also this blue texture, and the snow one.

stacking up layers in photoshop

Let’s start with this blue one. Let’s just use this around the edges of the frame.

Add a layer mask

Step 14

Using the Marquee Tool make a box around the edges

Step 15

Fill this with black, (Option+Del(Alt+Backspace Windows))

Turn off this selection by hitting Ctrl D.

Step 16

Let’s soften this rectangle. Open up the Properties panel.

Increase the feather to make the edges nice and soft. You can also change the blending mode to Multiply if you like.

So now we’ve got this kind of texture around the edges, but what about in the middle?

Step 17

Turn on the layer visibility for the middle (browny-orange texture) layer. Position it.

Change this to Multiply. There we go

Now we’re combining the three textures. Let’s refine it a bit.

Step 18

Move the the snow on top.

Now you can also play around with the opacity. I dropped the Blue edge to about 75%.

So thanks for checking it out. Until next week, great to see you at the CAFE.

Don’t forget to grab my Layer Blending Modes, ebook (it’s free), no ads, all juicy content 🙂



Layer Blending Modes. Free eBook by Colin Smith

As you can see, Layer blending modes play a big part in this kind of thing. Grab your free PDF ebook right now. We were going to sell this for $9.99, but figured we would give it away instead and see what happens 🙂



5 responses to “how to create a texture overlay of a photo in Photoshop”

  1. While I kinda know this, I must still tell you Thank you! You did this for those who wish to learn from a pro! It is very much appreciated!

  2. Colin, thank you for this tutorial! I have a question about sky overlays. Suppose you want to change the sky in a photo and want to use an overlay to do that. Do you have to brush out a portion of the overlay with a mask to get it to fit in realistically? What about those photos that have trees and other complicated objects? How would you go about getting the overlay to mesh realistically with them? Again, thank you and keep up the great work!

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