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Creating Painterly Photographs

Lesson 20 of 21

Applying Textures in Photoshop

Kathleen Clemons

Creating Painterly Photographs

Kathleen Clemons

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Lesson Info

20. Applying Textures in Photoshop

Lesson Info

Applying Textures in Photoshop

So all about textures you've seen quite a few textures in a lot of the images that I showed you and I did this shot of these poppies with the shooting through technique, just shooting through all the poppies, no tool involved, no lace this was just the other poppies and here's what it looks like with the texture added. The textures that I choose are very painterly and they're very soft and they don't have a lot of strong hard lines because I'm using them mostly for flowers they don't have to but that's what I shoot most often. Flowers are about color, line, shape, and texture. And so the last thing I want to do is introduce more lines to the background, I'm trying to reduce any lines in the background. So the textures that I choose are simple and very painterly. So I took this photo of this lovely morning glory weed which is destroying one of my gardens but this was really pretty the way, I can't get rid of it if you have ideas I'd be more than happy to hear about it without chemicals.

But I'm learning to embrace it and photograph it and I thought a texture would look really nice on this so I left this texture pretty heavy so I went from this to this with the background texture. It didn't change the subject but it changed the background to looking far more painterly. The subject already was painterly. And here's another one, this is a dahlia that I shot. The first thing that I did was add that vignette that I showed you to cover up all that green, I picked a color right in the flower and I put a texture over that. So from, oops too far, from this to that with two stops, one quick vignette and adding a texture. So let's look at some of my favorite textures. This is one of my favorite texture companies is called Fly Paper Textures because the textures are such strong brush strokes and that's what I'm looking for in textures. This is another one of my favorites, I think this one is called peacock. I find that I tend to use my favorites, you'll develop some that you just love and you use them quite often. And this is a darker texture, blue tones, again no strong lines, more of a painterly look. This one is called sarings and I use it a lot, it's definitely one of my favorites and these are my French Kiss textures, which is also a very very painterly software and there's a nice hefty discount listed on my gear list for her textures. And sometimes she uses a very strong canvas look to her textures, and you could do this, you can paint a canvas texture yourself and take a picture of it. My sister-in-law is in the process of making me some watercolor textures, which I'm going to print and mount on those foam boards. Take a picture and print them so that I can use them while I'm shooting in the garden and also I could add them in post because I'll have digital files of them. So if you're handy at all and can paint, here's another one of hers, her colors are bold and her brushstrokes are bold too and I think they're beautiful. This is one of mine, I've come out with my own texture line and the first three of my texture collections are black and white because I didn't want to alter the color of my subject when I added a texture and you can use them on color images too, they just don't add any color to the image, and here's the color version of that. It's just something that I was shooting in Acadia when I was sitting in the bushes that I talked about just doing shooting through and I defocused the lens and I took it into Impression and added brushstrokes to it and made my own texture, so I took one of my own photos, de-focused, added brushstrokes, so you can... Here's another one that I did the same thing I just played around with the Impression. This is from my wonderland collection. This is wheat that was moving in a field that I shot in Ireland and I just made it black and white and it makes a great texture. This is rust, this texture actually looks like snow sometimes when you add it to an image, which is very cool. So there are textured surfaces all around you. When I go to Santa Fe I shoot the walls, I've shot frost, frost flowers on my mailbox, anything can be a texture. You just have to start your own texture collection, start collecting these. The other thing that you can do and here's some out of focus leaves that I shot and then I took it into Impression and added some brushstrokes. But let's say that you like this, you can take it into Photoshop and change the color and make a yellow version, now you've got two, you can make a brown version, you can make a black and white version so you can take one and add to your collection by just changing the colors. There's another one of mine, I zoomed my lens on some pink flowers and then took it into Impression and added some brushstrokes to it. So Impression has been really great for me as far as making my own textures. This is another one of mine, just some weeds. So let's actually do it, add a texture onto this flower. This is a poppy, I actually shot this in a garden but it was a garden with a fountain around it and there was cement and this poppy lined up beautifully with the cement but I thought that would be a really nice even base for me to add a texture. So let's open this one up. So the first thing I'm going to do is make that new layer. And let's drag this over here. Now you can add a texture, you have to think of a texture as doing double exposures, you're just dragging one image onto another and playing with the opacity and masking. And you could do that but there are two software programs that I love for adding textures because they're easy to use and I can do it quickly and I can see what a different texture effect will look very quickly because it takes a while sometimes to find the right texture and if you're doing it manually it's going to take you a long time to put it on, oh that doesn't work, put this one on. The first one that I use is called Dirty Pictures by and it's a very simple program and I don't have enough time to show you both. The other program that I want to show you is also by Topaz and it's called Topaz Texture Effects and it's a very big program and it's very powerful and sometimes that can be overwhelming and if you find that, do the 30 day free trial of gettotallyrad's Dirty Pictures and try that out. You open your photo in it and it shows you right away eight different textures, it comes with some textures, you can add your own, but right away I can look at eight different combinations to see what I might like and I can change the page and look at eight more and eight more so all at once. That's why I like it and I was using that exclusively until Topaz came out with Topaz Texture Effects and it's mind blowing so let's open it up and I'll show it to you. Back to Topaz. Now Topaz Texture Effects comes with some textures that let's just say are not real beautiful but the good thing about it is that you can add your own, you don't have to use theirs. So the first thing I'm going to do is come up to this little square where it says Create an Empty Effect. I'm going to click Add an Adjustment and look at all the other things that I could do if I didn't just want to add in a texture, I could add a vignette, I could do color overlays, double exposure, I could do a light leak. But I use this mostly for textures. So right away their default textures have come up and I'm going to choose instead one of my collections. So let's go to my textures. And go down to my Wonderland collection. Okay now the texture that I'm adding is black and white and you might think well I don't like that in black and white, but in this program I can change that. I can change the color, up the color strength first so you can see. And the saturation. And the color strength, there we go. So I can make this texture any color I want with the slider. I can go to yellow to a horrible green, blue, purple, pink, and I like it at pink and I'll pull that color strength down a little bit and a little bit of the saturation and you can see that the texture is also covering my subject. But this software has a built-in mask. So I can down here and I can choose the strength of the brush that I'm going to take that texture off and I don't do it at 100 percent, I prefer to build the brush size and go a little smaller and the hardness and I like a soft brush. So then I will come in and I can start removing the texture and if I was doing this at home I would have this at percent on a big screen so I can just remove that, let's pull that strength up just a little bit more, take that texture off and so I'm leaving it just where I want. I'll probably leave it on the stem because I'm really not seeing much at all, so let's look at my original. Plain wall to a softly textured image and it is just that simple. And this like I said is very powerful, there's a community that you can log into and people will upload their textures that they want to share and some of those are beautiful, some of those are not. You can upload yours if you have textures that you want to share, but that means that you won't have to be buying a lot of textures. You can go in and like I said you can easily make your own. So I want to show you one more example. Let's cancel that. Okay this is a poppy that I did shooting through, I think I showed it to you before when I was talking about using the shooting through technique to hide a messy foreground, so let's open this one up. And make a new layer I'm getting better at remembering that. Okay so for this one I'm going to go back to Texture Effects and like I said the default textures are not the best, we're going to make a new one anyway. So we're going to add an adjustment, and we're going to go to Texture and let's try some French Kiss textures this time. Okay so you don't even have to click on these, I'm not clicking on them, I'm just mousing over them and see how quickly they change and how quickly you can get an idea about what's going to work for your photo very simply. And there are more. I think that one's kind of nice it's very different and I can reduce the opacity of it. I can reduce the detail. If you don't like the canvas look to her textures, you can reduce the detail and then you just have the colors, you see how that disappeared, or you can add more detail. Or you can pull it back if you don't like that. Play with the opacity, you can make that texture bigger or smaller. Like I said, saturation, color strength, it's so so powerful you could flip that texture over let's say that the texture you chose had a certain color or texture over here that you wanted over there you can flip it very very powerful. So let's leave this one, let's pull that opacity up a little more so that the texture's a little more obvious but I can show you. And I would click Mask and pull the brush strength down a little bit, go to a soft brush, and just go in and start bringing back the natural texture. And I tend to in the center areas go a little heavier on removing it and then I pull the strength down and go to a smaller brush around the edges, 'cause I don't want it to look like it was cut out. Know if you did that at 100 percent, you'd have hard edges and you don't want that. And with this program let's say that you got a little carried away and masked over here and went oh no you can click on white and you can paint that right back in. So that's really nice to do around the edges if you went a little bit too far or did something a little bit too hard around the edges, let's Cancel that. Not going to save it. So here is a calla lily that I shot at Longwood Gardens up close and of course it was the curves that I was going for. And this was Longwood Gardens, there was nothing I could do about the background unless I had waders and I didn't bring them with me and didn't want to be thrown out of Longwood Gardens so I went into Nik and made and white vignette and then I added a texture to that. So I went from this to this. So I want you to think about combining techniques, not just a texture, maybe a vignette and then a texture because a vignette lays down a beautiful beautiful surface for the texture to adhere to. The rust texture that I showed you does look like snow, I don't know why I'm just happy that it does. I took this shot of this bonsai tree at Longwood Gardens and I put it in the snow by adding the rusty texture behind it. Here's a shot of a poppy that I shot recently that I thought, not a poppy a penne that I shot recently 'cause I loved the windblown effect of the petals and I did not like the strong green in the background so I added a texture to it to calm it down. I could've also done a vignette but in this case I didn't mind the green I just didn't want it to be as strong, so I added a texture. And now just for flowers, textures are wonderful when you have a great scene but the sky is white and generally you would try to avoid getting that white sky in your composition, if you know that you could add a texture to it you can go from this to this and I think in this case the texture made the fog look even stronger and I just did a black and white conversion as well. This is a shot where I wanted to show you how to combine Topaz Impression and texture so let's open this one. And make a new layer. I'm not trusting it now. Okay it's there. Alright so I would add the texture first and then I will take it into Impression so let's go to Filter Topaz Labs Topaz texture effects and like I said you will use your favorites and I know immediately with this one that I wanted serings which is a Fly Paper texture, so let's click here to get a new window with a texture, I'm going to go to Fly Paper I believe that's in the spring painterly collection, let's see. Yep here it is. It's also the one that I just showed you on the bridge shot with the fog, so I do use it a lot. Now it's brown but because I'm in Topaz Texture Effects I can pull the saturation right out of that texture and make it black and white and then I will leave the opacity somewhat high because I like the brush strokes. And then I'm going to mask let's see what the size of the brush is. My opacity, pull that brush down a little bit it's a good brush size and then brush back a little detail. I don't want to lose that little red building. And I definitely don't want to lose the boat. I'm just doing a quick edit here. I don't like the strong brushstroke on this edge of the bridge I'm going to go a little heavier there and let's say that I want to cross the opening and was like oh but I want a texture there, then I'll click on the white and I'll bring that texture back. So let's say that let's do just a little more over here, oops got to go back to the black. Pull that out so that that building is really going to show and say OK. And then I'm going to go back into Topaz, but this time I'm going to go to Impression. And you know the default isn't looking too bad right here I think it's pretty the opacity is a little strong though so let's pull that back just a little bit. And say OK. Let me show you that, let's cancel bridge. Sorry, I want to escape bridge and show you the finished version of this on a larger size so that you can get a better look at it. So I've combined the texture to get some interest in the sky and a painterly look at the same time so don't be afraid to mix things up to play with the different software together. Hit Save and that is it for all things texture. Questions for me on this, good. Folks at home I don't know about you guys but I know that I have taken hundreds and hundreds of images of things that I want to use as textures but then don't do it, so thank you I'm sure there's a lot of people out there, for some of the ideas about how to actually utilize them, thank you. Good. With the hundreds of varieties that you can do with each of these pictures, do you, sometimes it can be just absolutely overwhelming 'cause you don't know where to start do you have most of the time you have in your mind's eye where you want to go with it and then sometimes it's just serendipity? How do you approach images? Exactly, like the painterly effect from Impression that showed up on the boat, it wasn't the one I had chosen to show you, but I liked it. So there's that, but with that software too you find your favorites and I think you go back to those. But there are some images that I have done before and I'm fussy I'll admit that, but sometimes I just feel like I can't find the right one so being able to quickly look and see what each different effect will look like lets me try a lot of different ones quickly and I think that that helps with that. And there are some images where I'm not really sure what I want to go for. Sometimes I know like that serings I knew for that shot that that's what I wanted because it's one that has broad brushstrokes and it's one that I use a lot. The French Kiss textures I've just started using so I don't have those intuitively as in when I'm shooting this would be great for a French Kiss, I don't have that right away. So the more you use the textures, the more you find your favorites, or similars, or you just know your textures and especially the ones of mine that I have made myself, I have three black and white collections and one garden collection, which is color. And I'll sometimes even be taking a shot and I'll be thinking my garden number five is going to look amazing with that, so that just comes from experience. Now just a quick follow-up, do you ever make two or three or four or five different versions and let them sit and then go back have you ever gone back to an image that you did a year ago and go eh I think I want to change that? Yes, yes, yes definitely and I do that with textures too. I have become addicted to making textures, I really love it it's just fun and for me to put a texture collection together takes a long time because I'll get into texture mode and make all kinds and then I think some texture collections are too large and people get overwhelmed so I keep mine to nine. So then I've got to look at the 40 or so that I've put together and choose the nine that I think people would like the most and have the most versatility. So yeah I have to sit with my textures for a long time and even then I'll look back and go I don't know if I should've added that one, but I have four more collections started I just haven't got to the point where I can edit them down to nine. I really think when I buy textures and there's 50 it's like I don't even get through all of them to check them all, to look at them it's just too much. And that keeps the price down as well just nine is good. I can see with the... We don't have the Topaz collection so I was looking at it thinking how do I do this in Photoshop and I can see pretty clearly that you can do that a lot of the same techniques in Photoshop and the only one thing I haven't really looked for is the brushstrokes in Photoshop but I'm sure I can find that as well. But we can build your own textures and then... Sure you can make custom brushes, you can, yeah, you definitely can. The problem with adding textures in Photoshop is just it takes so much time to add them individually where I can just really not even click, just hold my mouse over and see what so many different ones would look like and I can do that with Totally Rad's Dirty Pictures as well and that's what attracted me to it. It is not difficult to add a texture just in Photoshop on your own, but it does save me time being able to try a lot of different varieties and different looks quickly and then I do sometimes will do a couple different ones and live with them a little bit and decide which is the one that I like the best too. And some of those plugins work faster than Photoshop does also, my Photoshop chugs along sometimes. Alright fantastic, well that kind of was related to the question that a photo maker had asked about once you have used these brushstrokes and textures and after creating something like the dancing flower, can you create a brush for some element of the image to repeat the effect over and over. I'm sure you could, or an action. Exactly.

Class Description

Short on time? This class is available HERE as a Fast Class, exclusively for Creator Pass subscribers.

Make yourself stand out among nature photographers by adding a new dimension to your images. Painterly techniques draw attention to the delicate patterns, lines, textures, and designs that we often overlook in the natural world.

Kathleen Clemons is an experienced nature photographer, known for her creative techniques and her unique, stunning compositions. 

Join Kathleen for this class, and you’ll learn:

  • How to achieve the painterly look in-camera with slow shutter, selective focus, Lensbaby, and multiple exposures.
  • How to evoke the painterly look in Photoshop with panning.
  • How to use Topaz Impression and NIK software to make painterly photos.
In this class, you’ll learn how to create painterly images by using a wide variety of techniques. Kathleen will show you how to apply effects using in-camera settings, different lenses, Adobe Photoshop®, and low-tech tricks like applying vaseline to filters. Capture the magic of nature and turn your photography into remarkable impressionistic art. 



Wow. I really loved this class. I took her other class, "The Art of Flower Photography" as well. She is very thorough, explains concepts clearly and is professional, yet kind. I have been doing photography for decades, but flower photography is a little bit of a different animal. I have found it to be extraordinarily challenging - which is also invigorating! At the same time, using Kathleen's principles, I feel like I now have basic rules and tools under my belt which I did not have before. This is a little humbling as I have been doing photography for so long and was surprised there were a few basic concepts I didn't "get the memo" on. haha. This class will save me heaps of trial and error time. I will be much better able to zero in on what I really need to work on. I actually recommend taking both her Creative Live courses. Yes, there is a bit of overlap - but that little bit of repetition is actually helpful. They are not the same class. Oh, and one more "perk" get to view some of the most stunning flower photography ever created. Masterful. Thank you, Kathleen.

Donna Macri Stevens

As I've been watching this class, I have literally been sitting at my computer and saying aloud, "Wow....WOW!" This is an absolutely amazing class!!! I began watching it while it streamed, but had to buy it. Kathleen is an amazing instructor, and she is SO generous with her tips and techniques. I love that she supplemented her instruction with on-site videos, in class photo manipulation and so much more. If you love flower photography or want amazing tips on how to make your photos more painterly, CLICK BUY NOW! I'm just blown away! This is a GREAT, GREAT class!


Kathleen's images have a very artistic and painterly character, so she is a great presenter for this subject. In this class she openly shares many of her methods of shooting to create in-camera artistic images (even with your phone) as well as post-processing techniques. She presents this material with her open, calm, strong and passionate manner that gives you an "artistic license" to experiment and discover "What happens if?" I have admired her work for a long time and am so excited that she shares the secrets of creating her enchanting images here. If you are interested in capturing images that go beyond what you see to incorporate how you feel about a subject, you will love this class!