Tutorial: Textures as Layer Styles
By Thom Rouse
Texture layers and blending modes have become a standard method for post-production image enhancement. When you find yourself using a favorite texture over and over, it’s time to save time, and streamline the production. Here’s a method for using textures as layer styles for speed and efficiency.
Step 1. Find and open a texture you use regularly. Either select the entire image (command/control + A) or select a portion of the texture with the rectangular Marquee tool. (Fig. 1)
Step 2. From the edit menu choose Define Pattern … and name it descriptively so that you can identify it when you are looking for it. For instance “beige rock” or “green stucco wall”
Step 3. Open a subject image and create a duplicate layer above the original (command/control + J). (Fig. 2)
Step 4. Double-click on the new layer to open the layer styles dialog box. Select Pattern Overlay in the left column, and open the pattern file by clicking on the arrow next to the pattern thumbnail in the dialog box (Fig. 3). The pattern you defined in Step 2 will be the last pattern in the file.
Step 5. With Pattern Overlay still selected, change the Blend Mode at the top of the dialog box to your preferred blending mode. In this example I’ve selected Overlay. You can also scale the pattern using the slider just underneath the pattern thumbnail.
Step 6. Apply a layer mask to the to the top layer and remove or diminish the texture where appropriate for your image (Fig. 4). In this example I’ve removed the texture from the subject’s skin.
Step 7. If you decide you like the effect and expect to use it again, double-click on the top layer to open the Layer Style dialog again, select Pattern Overlay, click on New Style … in the upper right corner to save you layer style for future use (Fig. 3). Name it something novel that you will recognize. Open any other image, copy the layer (cmd/ctrl + J) and select your new layer style from the Styles palette (it will be the last icon) and your texture and blending mode is instantly applied (Fig. 5).
Additional steps: You may find that the new layer style works well for low-key images but is not appropriate on high-key images. You can open you layer style on a new image, modify the style and save it as a new layer style. Now you have the same texture available with two different settings.
In the example below, I’ve used a high-key image, and in the layer styles dialog box with Pattern Overlay selected I’ve changed the scaling of the pattern and changed its blending mode to Vivid Light (Fig. 6) In most of my work I treat each image individually with multiple textures and adjustment layers, but when I want texture continuity across a number of images, for instance a single subject album, I’ve found this technique an incredibly useful time saver.