Adding Textures to Your Photos in Photoshop & Elements

I think that adding a texture to your photos is a fun way to jazz them up a bit and add a bit more interest to the final edit.


I love my original edit of this photo (edited with actions from The Pioneer Woman and Florabella Collection), but I thought that a texture would be the perfect addition to go along with the old rusty bridge the kids are standing on.
Before - The Arthur Clan

Adding Texture in Photoshop

Step 1| Open up the photo you’d like to work with in Photoshop.  I always completely edit my photo first and then add textures afterwards just for fun (you don’t have to do this but that’s just how I roll.)

Step 2| Open up the texture that you would like to work with.  Most textures are in jpg format just like a photo would be.  I am using the “Morning Light” texture from the Fall Collection from Chasing Dreams Photography in this tutorial.

Step 3| Locate the move tool in Photoshop.

Step 4| Use the move tool to drag the texture you are going to use on top of your photo.

Step 5| I usually move the texture to the top left of my photo and I make sure that it is over the edge of the photo a bit so that I will be sure to have the entire photo covered with texture.Screen5

Step 6| You now will want to stretch the texture (still using the Move Tool) so that the texture will cover your entire photo.  To be able to enlarge the texture without it becoming distorted, you will want to go to the top tool bar in Photoshop and make sure that your “Show Transform Controls” box is checked.

Step 7| Go to the bottom right of the texture and you will see a double-sided arrow show up.  While holding down your shift key, use the move tool to enlarge your texture over your photo.

• Holding down the shift key during this step will keep your texture from becoming distorted looking.*

Step 8| Hover over the middle right of the texture until you see the double-sided arrow appear, hold down the shift key again and use the move tool to completely cover your photo with the texture.  You can see that my texture is a little bit over each side of the photo.

• If you move your texture over your photo and it is already way bigger than your photo, you can use the move tool to make it smaller if you’d like or you can leave it how it is.  That just means that your texture was a higher-res file than your photo.

• Many times I will now have to push the “Enter” key to set the texture in place before moving on to the next step.

Step 9: In this screenshot, look over in the bottom right where the red box is.  In that layers panel, you can see that the photo is the Background layer and the texture is Layer 1.  Since Layer 1 is highlighted with blue, that is the layer we are working on right now.Screen9

Step 10: With Layer 1 highlighted you now need to change the Layer Mode from Normal to Overlay.  (Please note:  Overlay is what seems to work best for me…
you can definitely experiment with all of the other modes in this area to see what you like best when you are working with textures.)

• You can see the immediate difference in the texture just from changing the Layer Mode from Normal to Overlay!

Step 11: At this point, you can also play around a bit with the Opacity slider bar in the Layers Panel.  For me, the texture was a bit strong at 100%…

• So, I slid the Opacity slider bar over just a bit (to 73%) and the texture was just perfect for the way I wanted this photo to look.

Step 12: I typically do not like to have a lot of texture on the people in my photos, so I usually will create a Layer Mask so that I can erase some of the texture from them.

PSE Users: If you own PSE 8 or lower, this requires an extra step for you because you’ll first need to download a free Layer Mask Action.  Rita from Coffeeshop has a free Layer Mask Action for PSE on her blog.  I know absolutely nothing about PSE so I will not be able to help you with that step.

• To create a Layer Mask, make sure that your texture layers is still highlighted and then click on the small camera looking icon at the bottom of the Layers Panel.


• Once you click on that icon, you will see a blank layer appear next to your texture in the Texture Layer.


Step 13| Make sure that your color is set to black (when you use the Brush Tool, black will erase and white will add the color back in.)

Step 14| Select your Brush Tool (I use a soft roundbrush when I erase textures.)  At this point, I usually tone down the Opacity of my brush as well.  I chose 68% for erasing the texture off of the kids in this photo.

• Please Note:  This is very much personal preference and I change the Opacity with every photo I work on.  Play around with this and see what you like best!


• You can easily change the brush size you are working with by using the bracket tools.

} – will make your brush larger (see the size of the brush on the little girl’s shirt)

{ – will make your brush smaller (see the smaller brush size on the little girl’s shirt now) 

• My Oh-So-Obvious Point of the Day:  Use a larger brush for larger areas and a smaller brush for smaller areas and to clean up the edges of things.  🙂

This photo shows quite a bit of the texture erased from the boy and girl.
Screen20 - off boy and girl

And this photo shows how I erased some of the texture from the trees in the background as well…leaving the more obvious texture only on the bridge.
Screen21 - off trees

If you take a peek at your Layer Mask now, you can see exactly where you erased texture!


Remember that you can always add the texture back on by changing your paintbrush to White and then painting over that area again.

Step 15| Flatten your Layers, save your photo and prepare to amaze the world with your wonderful knowledge of adding textures to your photos.

Or, repeat all of the steps above to add another layer or two of textures to your photo.  That’s when things really get fun!
after - The Arthur Clan

Most of all, don’t be afraid of textures and overlays.  It might take a few (or maybe even 10) times of making yourself go through this process step-by-step, but soon you will soon be able to add texture like an old pro.


Textures I Love To Use:
Even though there are thousands of free textures out there (and I have many of them saved on my computer) I almost always find myself using the textures these companies offer more than any others.

• Chasing Dreams Photography

• Florabella Collection

• Kaleidoscope by Patti Brown

Design Shop by Kelsey Anderson

• Totally Rad Actions

• Love That Shot – Olde World Collection and Photo Veils

Other Texture Resources:

• Jodi from MCP Actions has a free Texture Applicator that you can download in her Free Photoshop Actions section.  Since I know how to do textures myself, I’ve never used hers but it is a wonderful resource that she has created that many people enjoy using.

• Jodi has also compiled a list of 1,000 Free Textures that should provide hours of entertainment for anyone interested in adding textures to their photos.  There is a Texture Video Tutorial at the bottom of this post as well if you learn better that way.

• Amanda from Everyday Elements has a set of beautiful textures available as a free download on her blog.

Most of all, enjoy playing around with this technique a bit and see if it’s something you like or not. Everyone has their own personal tastes and preferences when it comes to editing photos and I hope that this tutorial will give you one more way to have fun with the whole editing process.