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Submitted on
March 17, 2013
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Photomanip: Working with Textures

Journal Entry: Sun Mar 17, 2013, 9:19 PM


Textures are a critical part of so many photomanipulations, but they're not as easy to use as they appear. Below are some great examples of photomanipulations that, in my opinion, demonstrate excellent use of textures:

Flower Girl by kuschelirmel

Moments So Fleeting by vacuumslayer

The goal of this article . . .

. . . is to serve as a resource for those of us who enjoy having textures be a predominant part of our photomanipulations and mixed media work so we can learn to use textures properly. Texture misuse or abuse can ruin an entire photomanipulation that otherwise might have been good. No matter how good we are at something, we can always grow to be better. 

This journal represents the opinions of only one person: me, and it does not claim to be the end-all, be-all of texturing.

Common errors with texturing

I see the same three errors quite frequently and am guilty of making these errors myself. Let's take a look, shall we?

:pointr: Simply laying it over top of your manipulation and setting it to some layer blending mode like overlay or soft light

This isn't automatically a sin; at a really low opacity, laying a texture over your whole image can be really pretty, especially if the grain and colors are complementary to what you are doing. But, more often than not, it is inappropriate because you will not want to cover EVERYTHING with the same texture. It's therefore a good idea to use a mask to blend away the texture where you do not want it to show so that the texture enhances rather than detracts from your piece. And, don't be afraid to use more than one texture so that different parts of your image have different effects, as appropriate to your concept.

:pointr: Using your eraser brush to take out harsh edges or to blend a person/animal/object into the texture

Again, this isn't automatically a sin. The key is to gradually take away one image so it blends into the other rather than having harsh edges. If I must erase, I have the best luck keeping my brush soft and large. Even better, learn to use masks to blend your textures together so that you can undo any mistakes. I personally like using a layer mask set to 'reveal all' and then using a gradient to blend one texture into the next. I bet there a hundred other ways to do it that are even better, and all give a more natural effect than simply erasing.

:pointr: Laying it on too heavily

Again, textures should enhance your work rather than detracting from it. Even in dark art, the most effective textures are carefully placed, well-blended, and often somewhat delicate (like peeling or cracking of skin, as one example). Careful blending (such as using gradient masks, as mentioned above) can help keep things more realistic-looking. Again, don't be afraid to use more than one texture blended together to create the effect you're going for.

My mini-tutorial for smooth transitions between textures

I don't claim ownership of these techniques only from the perspective that I have read so many tutorials over the years that they all blend together in my mind. While I am not copying anyone intentionally, I have no doubt that there are others who have published tutorials on these techniques before me. I am merely explicating them a bit further according to how I personally do it.

To show the technique simply, let's say I want to have a seamless transition from one texture to the next. You can apply this same basic idea for transitioning between a texture and, for example, a model's skin or clothes.

I've dragged one texture file onto another one; you can see the hard line from the edge of the photograph:

Now, in the image below, you can see what it looks like after I take a large, soft eraser brush to the line:

See how it is still super obvious that I just erased (and I did put effort into trying to make it look good)? That's not fixable even if I were to adjust the colors and lighting because the change from one texture to the next is too drastic. It's like patchwork rather than smoothness.

One way to fix this problem is to use the clone brush to blend the edges of one texture so they are more consistent with the other texture. But, in this case I particularly want one texture to flow into the other texture. So, I'm going to use a gradient mask. 

First, I create a layer mask set to "reveal all":

Then select your gradient tool and make sure it is set to "foreground / background." It should be white and black.

Now it's really simple. Just match the cursor to where the line is and experiment with different lengths of the gradient to see what looks best. You want your line to be erased; that's where the black part of the gradient should be so it doesn't show through. You really may have to play with it to get it to where it is blended to your liking. Remember that white shows the texture whereas black hides it.

Also, you can play with the circular gradient, too-- for example, this would be good if you want just a patch of the gradient to show (for example, for a face) and not the part that surrounds it.

Here is my final result for transitioning between these textures with a gradient mask; keep in mind that I have not adjusted the lighting or the colors, so of course it is not blended completely yet. I am just trying to show you how to make a more seamless transition:

Learning textures

I am no guru on textures, but I've been working hard to learn. I think that, like anything else with photomanipulation, you're going to learn the most by experimenting on your own and seeing what different combinations you can come up with.

However, I highly recommend you check out the texture and blending tutorials from kuschelirmel-stock. Here is one to get you started:

Manip Tips + Tricks - Textures by kuschelirmel-stock

night-fate does amazing tutorials, too, and she is widely known for her beautiful work with textures. Don't miss her two-part series on blending and texturing your work:

How to Apply Textures by night-fate

And finally, some explanation about using textures for darker work, created by conzpiracy:

Broken Face - Texture Tutorial by conzpiracy

I hope this has been a useful article for you. Happy texturing!

Some thoughts on working with textures in photomanipulation and mixed media
Add a Comment:
vacuumslayer Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
Some fantastic tips here. Thank you. :heart:
MoodyBlue Featured By Owner Mar 24, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Fascinating... live and learning! :)
Thx for these cool tips! :clap:
OtterAndTerrier Featured By Owner Mar 22, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Loving the manip articles, keep up the great work!
blumilein Featured By Owner Mar 21, 2013   Photographer
Very good article! Thank you!
Lion6255 Featured By Owner Mar 19, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you for taking the time to explain all this steps and to point me in the direction of other resources :)
Aeirmid Featured By Owner Mar 19, 2013   Digital Artist
Glad it was useful! :)
Lion6255 Featured By Owner Mar 20, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
SeventhFairy Featured By Owner Mar 19, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
thankyou so much ths is really very very helpful:love:
tamaraR Featured By Owner Mar 19, 2013   Digital Artist
Thank you so much. I have just recently started texturing and this is helpful. :heart:
Ranshiinsitha Featured By Owner Mar 18, 2013  Student Digital Artist
This is helpful even for regular art :3
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