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Add a Texture to Your Photographs

By Elizabeth  ·  August 19th, 2011

Textures are one of my favorite things to experiment with inside Photoshop Elements, and they can be used to enhance just about any image. However, placing them and using them can be a bit tricky, so I’ve come up with a sure-fire way of using them!

  1. Choose a photograph you’ll add your texture to. I’m going to use a portrait, but textures can look great over just about any photo.
  2. With your texture open (mine is a canvas book cover), go to the Select menu and choose All (PC: Control+A, Mac: Command+A).
  3. Go to the Edit menu and choose Copy (PC: Control+C, Mac: Command+C).
  4. Go to the photo you’re adding your texture to, and choose Edit > Paste (PC: Control+V, Mac: Command+V). This should automatically produce the texture on its own layer. If you need or want to resize your texture, use the Free Transform command (PC: Control+T, Mac: Command+T) to move it into place so that it covers your image. (If the orientation of your texture is off, remember that you can rotate any layer by choosing Image > Rotate > Rotate Layer Left 90°.)
  5. In the Layers palette, change the blend mode of your texture layer to Overlay or Soft Light. Try testing them both, since they do different things; I tend to use Soft Light more often because it’s a little bit more subtle.
  6. Start to lower the opacity of the texture layer until you’re happy. Again, there isn’t a formula for this, so experiment!
  7. I’m going to burn in the edges of your texture layer a little bit more to help add a little bit of a vignette (and focus). So, make a duplicate of the texture layer (PC: Control+ J, Mac: Command+J), and on this duplicate layer, change the blend mode to Multiply.
  8. Select the Elliptical Marquee tool (NOT the Ellipse Custom Shape). Drag out an oval selection that leaves a little bit of room around all the edges, like the one below:
  9. Right-click or Control-click inside your oval selection to open up a drop down menu and choose Feather.
  10. Inside the Feather Selection dialog box, type in a number between 150 and 200 pixels (this will depend on the resolution of your image: the higher the resolution, the higher this pixel number should be) and press OK. You might not notice a change in the selection, but don’t worry about that.
  11. Now just press the Delete or Backspace key and voilá! Lower the opacity of the top texture layer in the Layers palette if you’d like. I usually lower mine to around 50%, depending on the image. Your final Layers palette should look something like this:

Here’s my final image (I’m pretty happy with it!):

The canvas texture used here is one that I photographed, and it’s one of my favorites, because it’s just so versatile. I love its warm quality, I love that it can make any photo look a little bit like a painting–without going too far–and I love that I can use it on just about anything. If you’d like to download it, along with a bunch of other textures we’ve created, it’s in our PET Textures Pack 2 collection, which we just posted, along with five texture collections from our friend Julie McLeod, which can be found on our Julie’s Textures (Metal, Wood, Stone, Abstract) download page.

I photograph most of my own textures, mainly because finding them online can be difficult and confusing. Sometimes, if you have a high-resolution image and download a texture online, it has such a low resolution that it won’t look right when you resize it. However, I’ve hunted and found a few great online resources for free textures:

  • Lost And Taken, a website run by the wonderful Caleb Kimbrough, offers up hundreds (yes, hundreds!) of free-to-use textures of all different kinds. My favorites are from his Vintage Wallpaper textures, which I keep trying to find reasons to use.
  • Deviant Art, the largest online social network for artists, can be a hard website to maneuver around, but is worth searching through. I go straight to the Textures browser, pick a category (I lean towards Metallic and Paper, they’re my favorites) and wander through the pages until I find something fun. I think you’ll be happily surprised at what pops up!
  • Another great resource for high resolution textures is WebTreats, etc. They produce a lot of wonderful and unique textures that are free to use and distribute.
  • If you’re not interested in freebies from the strange depths of the internet, iStockphoto is a great way to buy textures at extremely high resolutions. They also have something called the “Dollar Bin,” which can be a great place to find cool images to use for a lower price.

We have lots of texture resources here on PET; I think the best place to start is with Diana Day’s article from the March/April 2009 issue of the magazine, “Add Excitement to Your Photos with Textures.” (She also has a great list of texture resources, “Using Textures with Photos: Examples, Tips, and Links“) Once you’re ready to expand your horizons, you can check out all our articles and videos that have the ‘working with textures’ tag.

Happy texturizing!

4 Replies to Add a Texture to Your Photographs:

  1. Robert

    September 2, 2011 at 5:09 pm

    Elizabeth, you mentioned in you article that you photograph your own textures. I would like to experiment with creating my own textures. How do you do it and how do I create my own texture palette thingy in PSE layers do hicky. As you can tell by my computer terminology, I don’t know much about computer stuff. KISS ( keep it super simple). I’m still not up to speed with computer 101. Still in computer pre school. Been in pre school for a few years now. BTW, I have a Mac.

  2. Wynn

    September 2, 2011 at 9:54 pm

    I think this texture is stunning, I am new to this sort of thing but I am going to give it a try.
    Thank you for sharing it with us

  3. Kevin

    October 9, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    I followed the above directions, but did not get a texture added to my photo. I believe that a step is missing, in that it does not say how to get to the PSE presets folder where the texture file is located. From the texture file you then have to select the texture you want and open it up in PSE as a second photo.
    From then on the instructions work fine.

  4. George

    December 29, 2011 at 10:27 pm

    Regarding the fabulous Lost and Taken Web site, after spending about 2 hours going through the various offerings set by set, I stumbled on the Gallery, which provides an easy and quick way to see all the texturs that he has offered to date. Here’s the URL:

    Thanks very much for an an extremely informative tutorial.

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