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From Boring to WOW: How to Use Textures and Overlays in Photoshop


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Textures and Overlays Make a Difference In Your Photos

Not every image looks good with textures applied to them.  In fact textures are often overused in photo editing.  But for an artistic fine art look, or even to cover up unwanted parts of an image, textures can play a major role.

Here is a quick example of how I used textures with this seagull image to add more interest.


The example:

Here’s the before image – unedited.

seagull-before-600x4451 From Boring to WOW: How to Use Textures and Overlays in Photoshop Photoshop Tips & Tutorials


Next I used two textures from the MCP Texture Play Overlays. #3 and #28 – I altered blend modes (I believe these were used on soft light as that is the one I use most often). When using textures on your images, you will want to try different blend modes and opacities.  Also make sure to use layer masks to impact just the parts of the image where you want the textures.  For this one I masked the texture off the bird.

seagull-after-600x4451 From Boring to WOW: How to Use Textures and Overlays in Photoshop Photoshop Tips & Tutorials


For a different look, I started from scratch and tried some other textures. In seconds, by altering which textures I used, I completely changed the look of the photo. For this one I used #12, #31, ad #44. I happened to have the layered PSD for this one so I can tell you more details.  #12 was used in overlay blend mode at 80%, texture #31 was used in soft light at 85%, and #44 was set to soft light at 30%. The best part about textures is that they are fun to use and you can use them as subtly or dramatically as you want. Of course these overlays were masked off the bird for a cleaner look.

seagull-after2-600x4451 From Boring to WOW: How to Use Textures and Overlays in Photoshop Photoshop Tips & Tutorials

If you find yourself saying “I prefer the original” that is fine.  Textures are not for every photographer and are definitely subjective.  While I like the original image compositionally and exposure-wise,  it was boring.  To me, adding texture made it more interesting.

What are your thoughts on using textures on photos? Overdone? Great? Love them or hate them?  I won’t take it personally – I promise.


No Comments

  1. MarilynK on August 16, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    I really like texture/veils but I agree that they can be overused. Sometimes I do feel that because I have so many that I should use them on more pictures and I have to stop myself. If I feel a picture is boring (and I agree that your before is boring), I’ll play around with adding texture/veils. I’m almost addicted to buying them whenever I see some I like and have decided to go cold turkey and just use what I have.

  2. Johnna Everett on August 17, 2013 at 2:05 pm

    I am trying to learn how to use textures, and I was hoping this article would tell be more about the “how” and the “process,” so I am disappointed. I don’t know where the texture layers are supposed to be, above or below, the original image. On which layer to add the layer mask, etc. I am just a beginner, so I need more of a step-by-step process, so your article does not actually tell me “how to use textures…” Sorry…

    • Jodi Friedman, MCP Actions on August 17, 2013 at 4:10 pm

      Check our website for many tutorials on using textures, including videos. We also have a free texture applicator action. This post was showing how applying them can change the look of your photos.

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