Still Life with Textures – Tutorial #2

This tutorial uses Photoshop, and two apps – Topaz Labs Impression and Topaz Labs Detail. The original photo is ok, it’s not very crisp, the flowers were actually starting to fade! It’s really not well lit at all, I shot it on an overcast day. But, what I do like about it is the composition, so it had at least one thing going for it! Considering all the negatives associated with this photo, I wanted to see if I could make it look “better”. Can I, with my little designer’s eye, use apps like Photoshop and Topaz Labs take a mediocre photo and make it look more visually appealing – let see…

Click on the images to view larger.

The original shot… it’s ok…

The first stop is Topaz Impression. Using the Pencil option I experiment a lot with the different settings. But here I’m not looking for a typical sketch, I’m looking to create a texture, so I push a lot of settings – width, brush size etc. to the max setting so the “sketch” is more dramatic. In this case I set the Pencil sketch to “soft light” so the texture I created with the sketch didn’t completely overwhelm the original image.

Once I have the pencil sketch texture back in Photoshop I decide that the tones of the image and top the image might need some adjusting, so I simply use my old tried and true, boring…, technique of duplicating the pencil layer and using “Levels” do darken up the photo a bit then erase areas that I don’t want. You can the same thing using masks.

Next is deciding what texture to use. I select one of my current favorites from the texture master Jerry Jones, otherwise known on Flickr, as Skeletal Mess.

Add the texture to a new Photoshop layer and change the opacity to Hard Light and set the fill to 47%. I often change the fill rather than the opacity on my layers.

Once the texture is added the center of the flower disappears so I duplicate that layer, added a Mask and mask out everything except the stamen. Before going any further I opened just that layer in Topaz Detail and tried to pull out as much detail from that section of that photo that I could. Back in Photoshop I set that layer to Mulitply – 100%. Then I flatten the image and used Topaz Detial to sharpen it up overall. Pull out some small details and get some contrast going so the image looked crisp.


Back in Photoshop, the last thing I did was reduce the overall image to 700px high and opened it once again in Topaz Detail. This time working with the medium and small details I tweak the settings just a little – reducing the image can soften up the image.

So was I able to change the photos? Make it look better? For me, yeah.. I think the new image has a more moody or emotional quality to it overall so I’m pretty happy with it.

Trying to determine the right settings for the pencil overlay takes a lot of experimentation, and setting the proper opacity once you have the settings you like takes a eye for knowing when too much is too much and too little is not enough. Its easy to overload an image with too much or to many different textures that can hurt the overall image, sometimes less it more even when using texture overlays!

The choice of texture is always what seems the easiest part of the task but in most cases it’s actually pretty hard! However in this case I’ve been using this texture for a number of images now and I just love how it looks overall so I sort of already know how it will effect my photo and what type of atmosphere it will bring to the image. I do play around with the tones of this texture, sometimes even eliminating the color completely and replacing it with black and white! In this case I left the tones as is.

The most important thing is to have fun, have a general visual in your head of where you want to take the image… but also be open to what may be a mistake… because it may look fantastic and lead the image in a completely different, but more exciting direction!