Adding Texture to an Image

Today’s post explains  how you can add textures to your images to get a more artistic, aged, or painterly appearance. I’ve used Photoshop CS3 to develop this tutorial, but it works just as well in Photoshop Elements using the same process. Using the techniques below, I turned this image:

west coast, sailing, sail boat, Strait of Georgia, British Columbia, Canada, gulf islands, southern gulf islands, Salt Spring Island

into this.

Salt Spring Island, sailing, sail boat, Vancouver, West Coast, British Columbia, sunset, sunrise, Gulf Islands, Southern Gulf Islands, Strait of Georgia, Long Harbour

I selected this image because it contains strong shapes and a simple composition which I think work well for this kind of texture application.


1. Getting Started

Open your image (the one you’re adding texture to) and open the texture that you want to add. If you don’t have textures already, you can shoot your own or you can download them from a variety of sources online (such as Shadowhouse Creations, Mayang’s Textures, paper texture, Texture King). The textures I’m using for this tutorial are ones I shot at a music museum in Phoenix, Arizona (I’ve included a few of these below).

I started by making some modifications to my image prior to adding the textures. First, I moved the boat over a bit as it was too centred for my taste. Given the simple, uniform background I just selected a rectangular area around the triangle, copied it to a new layer and move it over taking care to keep the shoreline behind the boat lined up. No masking, nothing fancy at all. I also cloned out the tower at the top of the image and the boat on the bottom right. I don’t find textures apply well over water so I blurred the water using the Lens Blur filter (note in PSE, I use Smart Blur as  Lens Blur is not available). Finally, I bumped up the contrast to make the shapes in the image stronger. Here’s my base image after edits.


2. Adding Texture

To add a texture to an image, switch to the texture file in Photoshop, select the whole of the texture image (CTRL+A or Select -> All) and copy (CTRL+C or Edit -> Copy), go back to your source image and paste (CTRL+V or Edit -> Paste). This will create a new layer in your image file with the texture in it. At this stage, the texture should be totally obscuring your image.

To merge the texture with the image, you need to adjust the Blending Mode of the texture layer in the Layers Palette. A good blending mode to start with is ‘Overlay’. Try different blending modes to see the effect of each.

After trying out a number of textures, I settled on the use of four different textures stacked together and this is the result so far.

This is my layer stack at this stage.


3. Adjusting the Textures

The last texture layer I added had lines coming out from the middle, almost like lines from the sun. I like the effect, but I only wanted it applied to the mountains, not the water and not the sky. To apply it only to the land, I added a layer mask by clicking on the ‘Add Layer Mask’ icon () in the Layers palette. This adds a blank (white) layer mask. If you recall from the Selective Colourizing tutorial, white reveals and black conceals. Using this rule, with my layer mask selected, I painted with a black brush over the sky and the water. This removes the texture layer from the sky and water by masking it out. Please check out that tutorial for more detailed instructions on masking.

As the sun wasn’t actually in this image, I’ve also brightened a spot in the sky right above the middle of the mountain range to give a hint of sun peaking from behind the mountains. I did that with a curves adjustment layer and another layer mask.


4. Colour Shifting

At this stage, I’m getting pretty close, but I’m not excited about how the colours have shifted around to this bright yellow. To adjust the colours, I decided to desaturate the image with a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and then colour it using a new layer. On the new layer I used the Paint Bucket tool to fill the layer with a shade of orange to give the colouring of a sunset. I then changed the Blending Mode of that layer to “Color”.

Finally, with a curves adjustment layer and a layer mask, I added a slight vignette to help draw the eye more into the image. This is my final Layers palette.

And here again, is the final image.



For those of you who use textures already, let me know in the comments below if you use a different approach. I’d love to hear your ideas and suggestions.

If you’re interested in seeing other examples, check out Texture Thursdays on both Brandon Brasseaux’s and David Williams‘ blogs. I’ve also done some textured images on my own blog. Click on the thumbnails below for some examples.





As promised above, here are a few of the drum textures I shot recently at the music museum in Phoenix. For the full-size file, right click and choose ‘Save link as…’.

Goat skin   



This entry was posted by Mike Moruzi.

6 thoughts on “Adding Texture to an Image

  1. Pingback: Revisiting Texture « In Search of Style

  2. Great tutorial, Mike. It’s pretty on par with how I work them. Adding the color fills to change the hues is something I haven’t considered, but makes perfect sense. Sometimes I’m happy with the texturing, but not the effect the textures had on the overall image. This looks like a great remedy. One thing I do different sometimes is make a sandwich: texture: photo: texture: photo—and then put masks on all of them and mess around with blending. I find that sometimes it offers a bit more control.

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