10 tips for textures

With the current FM on the theme of textures, we though this week would be a good one to give you a few tips on the subject, writes Andrew James and Jon Adams. Probably the most abundant subject around, you still need some thought and creativity to get it right.

Create a texture library
Spend an hour or two in the back yard and you can create a texture library of different shots that can be used to texturise other images. The best type of lens for this is a macro lens, as by working with small areas, you can isolate the texture in wood, concrete, bricks and crumpled paper. By working close, you’ll find that something as simple as a paving slab can give rise to a dozen or more different texture shots, so if you like being efficient, it’s the way to go!

Shoot flat at a narrow aperture
When you’re shooting a texture, such as a rusty wall, or even something with more depth like these spools of yarn, to make sure you have sharpness throughout the image shoot at an aperture of f/8 or f/11. A wider aperture will blur areas of the image making it less visually appealing (even if it is totally flat) as the interest is in the detail. If you are handholding, rather than setting the camera on a tripod, then watch the shutter speed because at a narrower aperture there is less light reaching the sensor. Make sure your shutter speed is fast enough to prevent any camera shake ruining the frame, so at a minimum go for 1/250sec but better still use 1/500sec.

Save as mono
When you introduce a texture layer to another picture in Photoshop, you’ll see that any colour in the texture image will affect the colours in the image you’re applying it to. For this reason, you’ll find it much simpler to save all your textures as black & white images – that way, the colour of the texture won’t alter the colour in the main image. Of course, you can use colour texture images, too, but using a mono workflow makes life easier!

Soft light or Overlay
Blending a texture with another image in Photoshop requires the use of Blending Modes. In the Layers panel, click where it says Normal and you’ll reveal a drop-down list of loads of them, which can be rolled over to see the impact they have. You’ll find that the ones you come back too again and again will be Overlay or Softlight, so these tend to be the default starting points when texturizing an image

Light with an LED
If you are shooting a still life that has lots of textures in it, then try side-lighting it with an LED to create more obvious texture. Put the camera on a tripod and switch on Live View, then move the LED around so you can see the difference the height and angle of your lighting makes to visible texture.

Get up early/stay out late
This is the natural approach to what you’re doing with an LED. When the sun is low, it creates much greater texture in the landscape. Whether you are taking a wider landscape shot, or zooming in with a telephoto, this kind of light will give you a much more textural quality to your results.

Lens choice doesn’t matter
Macro, 400mm prime, wide-angle zoom, they can all be used to create a textured image. It’s natural to think that you have to use a macro on just a tiny area of a scene for it to work, but if there is texture and contrast within your subject, then you will find you could use every single focal length to create a different but perfectly valid image that has lots of interesting texture.

Use multiple texture layers JA
When adding textures, you don’t have to stop at one! If you want two or more textures to overlap to give a more complex overall texture, you can use as many as you like to build up the effect. Sometimes you might want to use two layers of the same texture in different positions, and other times you may want different textures to interact. By using Blending Modes and stacking the texture layers on top of one another, the choice is yours!

Experiment with WB
Depending on the subject you are shooting, a little creative twist with the White Balance can help make the texture a bit more interesting. For rust, try warming it up with Shade WB, or for metals, try the coolness of Fluorescent WB to give it an extra kick. As always, if you shoot raw you can just pull and push the WB slider to your heart’s content to see what works best. If you’re clever with Masks you could even combine one warm and one cool white balance.

Composition still matters
If you’re shooting for a texture library, the composition of the texture itself can be controlled by using Free Transform on the Texture layer and adjusting its position and size using the control handles. But if you’re shooting a texture on its own, then composition is as important as with any other image. You’re not taking a record shot – you’re taking a photograph that should be as well-considered as any landscape or wildlife shot. Think carefully about how you arrange the texture in the viewfinder, perhaps using traditional composition guides like Rule of Thirds to arrange your shapes in the frame.

Published in Camera Skills
1 Comment
  1. good stuff 🙂

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