Mar 21, 2014

How to Add a Background Texture to a Portrait in Photoshop

How Textures can Enhance Your Images

In this tutorial you will learn a simple technique for adding textures to your images. We are using multiple textures combined together to create the final effect.

Download 6 Sample Textures

How we use the Textures

After loading the textures onto our portrait we group them and place a layer mask on the group. In this case we don’t want the textures to effect the entire image so we mask out areas where we want left alone like the subject’s face.

Next we change each layer blending mode to SOFT LIGHT and use LEVELS to adjust the brightness of each layer until they blend in. You can also use opacity to change how visible the textures are on your image.

Creating a Portfolio

Brooke Shaden has been using textures to create exceptional images for years. Her work conveys a certain mood and she uses textures to help bring that mood to the viewer. She is an amazing artist and a wonderful person.

Check out her blog post on using textures here. She also offers free textures for download.

PRO Textures

If you enjoy using textures, be sure to check out our PRO Texture packs.


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    • user image

      Thank you so much for letting us use your image! Keep up the great work Volker!

  • user image

    I’m trying to remember a technique I saw on Creative Live. When using textures the person did something like use the pattern stamp tool with a 50% Gray solid pattern on the texture layer or a mask on that layer. It allowed the color of the texture to come through without the pattern of the texture. I’m wracking my brain trying to remember how it was done. Any of that sound familiar?

      • user image

        I think I figured it out though it is a bit destructive to your pattern layer. On the pattern/texture layer set to soft light or overlay, use the healing brush tool with source as pattern (create a pattern of a 50% gray block). Brush over the areas like skin or clothes where you still want the influence of the color of your texture but don’t want the pattern of the texture. (I’ve emailed a friend to see if he still has the email I sent him when I learned it. I just don’t use textures enough to remember it.)

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    Michael Maersch

    Some great (additional) ideas on how to work with textures as we build our illustrations Aaron; thanks. Cool textures too (I added to my growing collection). So I thought I would share with you and the rest of the community as well – 14 pretty much monochromatic dirty window details saved as high-res JPEGS. Just right-click on each detail page to download >
    cheers, mm

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    Kris Cox

    Can someone please help me out … I have edited a few photos with this technique but now I am having issues. I have my original layer, I have a group of 4 textures at which I put in a group, add the black layer mask by hold option and then click add layer mask. I chose the ‘white’ to reveal, chose my brush med size … start to paint and nothing happens, no matter what I do! I have the mask selected and NOTHING ….

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    Carol Ma

    I’ve learnt so much from your tutorials – they are so straightforward and a pleasure to watch. Thanks for the free textures too!!

  • user image

    I drag the picture in the photoshop and its different on what happened on your videos..

  • user image

    all your you tube so helpfully so much and the way u give the audience lesson is very very straight to the point,and works. tq

  • user image

    Thanks for this plus all the other tutorials – You’re a real ‘phriend’

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    Love that tutorials. I just discovered phlearn this weekend and it is helped – a lot ! But I have a question for you. I bought the 5 pack texture package from your site. How do you get multiple textures and your main image to open in Photoshop CC like you did ? I noticed you had what appeared to be a different window for each one. And they didn’t look like PS windows.

  • user image

    Hi Aaronand fellow “friends”. Does anyone have any ideas how Volker achieved that soft “painterly” effect on his daughter’s portrait? The effect reminds me of the kind of stuff surrealist photographer Maggie Taylor uses. I have been hopelessly trying to achieve it for months, and have searched for tutorials on it with no results. Any suggestions would be very much appreciated.

  • user image

    Love your tutorials! They’re really great.

    I would love to download the textures you mention that Brooke Shaden has provided, but I cannot find them anywhere. You mention they’re on her blog post and on Plearn’s site but nowhere to be found. Unless I’m just missing something. Would you please provide more info on where to find Brooke’s free textures? Thanks so much!

    And, as William previously posted, I, too, would truly love to know how Volker achieved that soft “painterly” effect on his daughter’s portrait. Volker…anyone…help… 🙂

  • user image

    Love your easy to follow tutorials plus you make it funny which takes away my frustration to try to learn so many techniques at once!

  • user image

    I love this tutorial! So easy to do, and what an amazing effect. I tried it on a photo of mine and it came out so amazing. Thank you

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    Thank you for teaching me how to do all these amazing things! I love your guys please keep the lessons coming. Best Regards; Spirit