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How to Apply Textures to Images Using Photoshop

By Pye Jirsa on August 14th 2009

UPDATE – Check out the new Ultimate Photoshop Texturing Video Tutorial which contains all of the techniques from this article, working files, and more!


Many of you have asked us to put up an article on how to texture photos. The fact is, that there are many articles on the web that show you how to texture photos, but it is tough to find high quality articles that give you practical examples and directions that you can apply to your photography business.

This article will walk you through step-by-step on how to texture your photographs using Adobe Photoshop, and we will also give you the tools and knowledge to know how to play around and create your own unique style of texturing. So, let’s get started!

Process Your Image

1. Select Your File – Before we get to texturing, we need to first select a file that is correctly processed. This means that you have already color corrected the image and made it look the way you want. While we use Lightroom for your color correction. Below is our final color corrected image that we will be using for this tutorial. Don’t mind the plug, I will heal it out of the final image.

The following image is shot on a Canon 40D with a Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L


Applying The Texture in Photoshop

1. Start With a Vision – Before I start, I usually have an idea of what I want my image to look like. For this image, I am thinking that a nice vintage scratched look would look really nice against the solid colors of the wall. I also want to give the image a slightly desaturated look but retain the green tints of the wall. So I am going to use one of my favorite scratch textures from my texture library, then I am going to apply some vintage effects to finish the image.

Reminder | See our Texture Pack Intro Video Below

2. Load the File in Photoshop – First, start by loading your image into Adobe Photoshop and make sure you are editing in 8bit RGB mode. To change the image mode, from the menu simply select Image –> Mode –> RGB and 8Bit Channel.

3. Import The Texture to Photoshop- Place your first texture file (File –> Place –> Choose Texture File). Make sure that your texture files are in a printable resolution that matches or is close to your image resolution. Otherwise, you will need to stretch your texture to your image size which will reduce its print quality significantly. For this tutorial, I am going to use one of my favorite bread-and-butter scratch textures as seen below. As a little bonus, promise to share or help promote SLR Lounge and you can download the full resolution texture by clicking here, or on the image below.

Note – The image below is print resolution and is 11.2MB in size, so depending on your connection, it may take a while to download.


4. Resize The Texture – Once the file is placed, resize the file if needed to cover your image as shown in the image below. Once the file is placed and sized, you can hit enter so that it places the file in a new layer of its own.


5. Name the Texture Layer in Photoshop – Often times, I use more than one texture layer in an image. Thus, naming each layer is helpful so I know which layer I am editing. To edit the image name, simply double click on the name in the Layers palette, type the new name in (in our case “ScratchTexture”), and hit enter as shown below.


6. Changing the Blend Modes of the Textures in Photoshop – You now should have two layers in your file, your texture layer and background image layer. However, currently we cannot see the background image layer as the texture layer is fully opaque. So, what we need to do is change the blend mode which is found on the pull down menu right below the layers tab as shown below. The blend mode listing is actually separated into different types of effects. Changing the blend mode of a layer will basically affect how that layer’s pixels interact with the layer(s) beneath it. Below is abrief explanation of the three most common and practical blend mode sets.


i. The first set of modes beginning with “Darken” are all Darken Modes that will darken the layer(s) beneath the blend layer in different ways.

ii. The second set of modes beginning with “Lighten” are all Lighten Modes that will lighten the layer(s) beneath the blend layer in different ways.

iii. The third set of modes beginning with “Overlay” are Contrast Modes that will both darken and lighten aspects of the image. Typically resulting in mixing the blend layers colors with the layers below.

7. My Favorite Blend Modes – My favorite blend modes are the Overlay and Lighten blend modes. This means that while I do often use other blend modes, the Overlay and Lighten blend modes are two modes that are difficult to use incorrectly.

8. Applying the Overlay – For our image, I am going to use the Overlay blend mode. So I have selected it in the blend mode drop down list. You should now have an image like the one below.


9. Adjusting the Opacity in Photoshop – Now, while our ScratchTexture image is blending with the image below, it is much too strong at the moment. So I am going to adjust the Opacity of the texture layer to 65% to lighten the effect a bit as shown below.


10. Rasterizing the Texture Layer – If you notice in the image above, the icon next to the texture layer’s name has a little Smart Object paper symbol inside of the image thumbnail. This means that the file is not directly editable in Adobe Photoshop because it is linking an outside file to save on space. However, we need to be able to edit our texture layer, so we need to rasterize the layer. To do so, right click the layer and select Rasterize Layer. Once rasterized, the Smart Object icon should disappear.


11. Removing Areas of Unwanted Texture – Many of you may have images where you don’t want the texture to cover certain parts of the image. For example, you typically don’t want textures to cover skin as it will turn your subjects into 500 year old statues which they may not appreciate.

Those of you that are familiar with Adobe Photoshop might think it would be best to create a layer mask and paint out the areas where you don’t want the texture to show. However, you would be wrong in doing so. Why? Because our texture layer not only applies texturing to the layers below it, but it also changes the tones and hues of any layers below it. So, if you were to mask out part of the texture, that area would have a tone/hue that doesn’t match the rest of the image as illustrated below.


As you can see in the image above, the areas that have been Masked out show a completely different hue and tonal quality as the areas underneath the ScratchTexture texture layer.

So, rather than masking out the texture layer, I am going to give you two options which will remove the texture but retain the tone of the area. Both of which require the texture layer to be editable, which is why we rasterized the layer in Step 10 above.

12. Removing Unwanted Texture with the Smudge Tool – Removing the texture with the Smudge Tool (“R”) gives you a little more control over how much texture stays in a certain area. However, it is my least favorite method because of two reason: The first is that the Smudge Tool is very demanding of your computer’s processing power. In fact, when dealing with large resolution files, it may be nigh impossible as your computer can constantly freeze as it is trying to process the command.

The second reason is that it takes time to get it to look the way you like. Nevertheless, I will teach you both methods so you can decide which you prefer on your own. Select the Smudge Tool (“R”)which looks like the pointed finger as shown in the image below.


Now, on the texture layer (ScratchTexture in our case), smudge away the area where you don’t want the texture to be. You can increase/decrease your smudge brush size by clicking ] and [ respectively.

13. Removing Unwanted Texture by Averaging – Removing the texture by Averaging removes all control over how much texture detail you retain in an area. However, it is quick and easy on your processor making it my preferred method. Averaging will simply take a selected area of pixels, and average all the colors in that area. Doing so will make our image retain its tone, but lose the texture in averaged areas.

i. To start, select your image layer and using your preferred tool, select the area that you don’t want affected by the texture. I am going to use the Quick Selection Tool (“W”) and select the dress as shown below.


ii. Next, select your texture layer once again (ScratchTexture in our case). Now, the selection area of the dress (or whatever you are selecting) should still be selected. Now, click Filter –> Blur –> Average and viola! The texture is removed over your selected area as shown below.


iii. To see exactly what the Average function did to your layer, hold Alt and click on the eye icon next to your texture layer to see just that layer and this is what you should see. You can see that our selection area has been averaged to a single color.


Thus, we have retained our tone, but removed all of the texture detail. Hold Alt and click on the eye icon to bring all layers back into view.

Adding Your Finishing Touches

As I mentioned earlier, I want this image to have a vintage look. We have done the difficult part, but we are not quite done yet. Here is what I am going to do to the image from here.

1. Adding a Vignette – I want to add a strong vintage vignette to the image to not only make the image feel more warn, but to also bring focus into the center of the image. I am going to do so by clicking Filter –> Distort –> Lens Correction and applying a Vignette with the following settings.

Amount: -85

Midpoint: +19

2. Adding Warmth in Photoshop – I like the warm look of vintage images. So I am going to add a Curves adjustment layer by clicking the half black/half white circle at the bottom of the Layers palette as shown below.


i. To add warmth, simply increase the reds while decreasing the blues. You can keep the greens the same. Here is what my Curves looks like after my adjustment.


3. Desaturate the Image – Next, I want the colors to be a little less vibrant, so similarly I am going to add a Hue/Saturation layer adjustment by clicking the same menu as we did to add our warming Curves shown in step 2 above. I am then going to adjust the saturation to around -20 to -30. Nice, I like the final image and I am going to call it good! You can see our before and final after image below.

Here is our before:


Here is our final image after our Adobe Photoshop texturing tutorial


Enjoy Your Handy Work!

While I wanted to give you a concrete tutorial to work with, keep in mind that this is all preference and very subjective. Play with your settings, try different blend modes, adjustment layers, etc. This tutorial should have given you all the knowledge you need to go out there and start developing a style of your own!

More Info

If you’ve enjoyed this tutorial, be sure to check out our Photoshop Paper Textures in our Store! See the trailer below.

Click to Subscribe!

If you guys have any other comments, resources, ideas, etc, share them below in the comments section.

All images in this article are copyright Lin and Jirsa, Los Angeles Wedding Photographers

This site contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links, however, this does not impact accuracy or integrity of our content.

Founding Partner of Lin and Jirsa Photography and SLR Lounge.

Follow my updates on Facebook and my latest work on Instagram both under username @pyejirsa.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Michael Peterson

    So interesting and helpful post, thanks for everything. 

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  2. Ken Murika

    Great tutorial! Thank you.

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  3. souvenir ulang tahun

    Is this old adobe photoshop type? Can be used in a new type?  visit my blog

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  4. Tonya Hurter

    This is a great tutorial!  Thank you!  The link to download the texture image isn’t working.  Could you direct me to the right link?  Thanks!

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  5. Barbara MacFerrin

    The link to download the texture image is not working.

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  6. Joseph Prusa

    Great tutorial.

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  7. psionx

    I use very often textures in my photos. Your tutorial was very intersting and the use of the Smudge tool and Averaging was new for me. Thanks for sharing.

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  8. Devin

    Link for image not working.

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  9. Post-Processing Textures & Blend Modes: Zombie Pin-up | So Shoot Me!

    […] For a detailed “how-to” on using Textures in Photoshop, you could do worse than “How to Apply Textures to Images Using Photoshop.” […]

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  10. Zayan Khan

    Dis b da wurst POTOSHOT revue i has evar scene. U shld b ass-shamed. YO DUDE, NOT EVN SWAGGER. If u evers come tu mi internat agin, me n my homeslice will kill u with are superior rapping abilty.

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  11. 財布 kate spade

    キッズ ジャケット

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  12. Cy

    Thank you so much! I have been wondering and hopelessly trying to apply textures successfully for years now, and your tutorial has finally done it :) Amazing!

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  13. photoshop | Annotary

    […] Bhatt: ecommerce crowdfunding Tools& Utilities applications Sort Share       3 minutes […]

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  14. brett Hermance

    Thank you for this tutorial!!!

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  15. Amber

    Such a wonderful tutorial, thank you so much!

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  16. Ulises Amezcua

    I really liked it.. I was looking on how to do this for a while.

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  17. theJagged

    nice tutorial. thanks a lot

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  18. Joe Gunawan

    Learned something new agiain =)

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  19. Joy Colmerauer

    Wow – what an eye opener!  Thank you so much for this tutorial.  The results are so amazing as compared to masking.  Again, thank you so much – I have played around with a couple of my old images for just a few minutes and what a difference!   

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  20. Saptarshi

    Great tutorial. Thank you!

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  21. Alina Shah

    Very nice tutorial and great way to alter a pic, thumbs up for it

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  22. Tipson

    thank you so much, very very useful tutorial…..appreciated that!!!!

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  23. Roe_melissa

    Thank you! This helped me

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  24. Sanpaulija

    Thank you so much, i am very surprised: these technigues are so easy, but look so great on my portrait photo shoots! It’s the discovery of the year for me :)

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  25. Alain Stoffen

    Thanks for this tutorial and for the way you share and teach this technic.  Alain Stoffen

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  26. No

    Great tips man!!

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  27. Nelietab

    This is an excellent tutorial! Thank you. There are Photoshop Actions available to make it a little easier.

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  28. Misty_beeches

    it would have been helpful to have explained how to resize the texture to fit your image!!!!!!!

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  29. Malen

    Thank you veeeeeery much, it’s really difficult sometimes to find accurate clear tutorials. Yours isn’t just that, but you also explain all the tools you’re using. Congrats :)

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  30. RebeccaL

    Fantastic tutorial. I’m using PSE 10, but many of the tips also work there. Thank you so much!

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  31. Lookfortheroses

    Thank you so much; echo that it is a heck of a tutorial.  This has added a new layer of interest to my photography.

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  32. Tigerlilyquack

    Oh my god. My jaw dropped. I’m 12, teaching myself everything I know about art. This is the one thing I really couldn’t figure out and I’m amazed. This tutorial opened up a new door to my pathetic art skills. Wish me luck and thank you so much!

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  33. avital

    this was truly simple and amazing! thank you soooo much!

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  34. KO

    thank you so much! Very well explained and easy to follow!!

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  35. Maria

    can i do this in lightroom to?

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  36. Junewith2

    Very helpful!  Thanks for sharing!!!

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  37. Laura W

    thank you so much! the average part was SO helpful to me as a graphic maker! I always thought layer mask was the best way to go but thank you for introducing me to this!

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  38. website development

    Nice and helpful article, thanks

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  39. Denver Photographers

    This is actually a heck of a tutorial,… I’ve never thought of using the average function for tones… great idea.

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  40. pir

    i didn’t know about averaging; that is a really useful technique. thanks so much for explaining it!

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    […] * Post Production – How to Apply Textures to Images Using Photoshop […]

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    […] a month. Popular articles on the site at the moment include Free WordPress Themes, followed by a post production tutorial on applying textures. So, definitely check out their site. They provide a number of ways to participate in their […]

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  43. Anna

    WOW!!! Love it, love it, love it! Thank you for such thorough explanation. Beautiful!

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  44. mary

    Thanks! Any ideas on how to start batch processing with texture in lightroom?

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  45. Gillian

    Love how you’ve explained this!! Love the images too!! Thanks for sharing!! :)

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  46. sa faroque

    thank you for ur direction

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  47. Colleen

    Learned a bunch–even after using phop since prelayers. thanks!

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  48. Lourdes Torres

    I’m a student still learning the ropes. I love the way you explain everything..I’m usually the slow one in class to pick these kinds of things up so keep them coming! Thanks!

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  49. Thomas ng

    Great tutorial !! Thanks for sharing.

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  50. Ebony

    Wow! This method is totally different than the method I am accustomed to using! It was very detailed, and informative.

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  51. David Hardwick Photography

    Great effects. You make it look so easy. Thanks you very much.

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  52. Mary Vican

    Thanks so much for this great how-to. I’m learning texture work now, and you made it very easy to find alternate methods. I agree that masking really can look unnatural! thank you.

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  53. J Lloyd

    Cool – I’ve always used a different method for texturing pics, but will give this a try and see how it compares. I really like the pic, so fingers crossed and thanks for the texture download!

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  54. Anthony Yoon

    Great post! Very informative. Gleaned some ideas for my own fine arts photos!

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  55. Anthony Yoon

    Type your message here

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  56. Libby


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  57. Will Pateman Photography

    Great article ..very informative site..thanks for sharing

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    How to Apply Textures to Images Using Photoshop…

    Many of you have asked us to put up an article on how to texture photos. The fact is, that there are many articles on the web that show you how to texture photos, but it is tough to find high quality articles that give you practical examples and direct…

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  59. Dee Dee

    Fantastic article! Thank you! I blogged about it. Anyone who wants to play around with textures and layers should read your fantastic article!

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  60. Charlene Day

    Love it!

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  61. RE

    Great tutorial.
    Thanks so much for sharing!

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  62. Trudy

    Awesome tutorial. Thank you.

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  63. John Pitt

    Good tutorial. thank you!

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  65. James

    Wow, amazing article. Much more detailed than most and very well written. Thank you so much!

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