Week 12 Module: How to add a grunge texture to a photograph

This technique has been around for a long time, but it hasn’t lost its fun factor.

I’m talking about adding a textured layer to your photo.

Adding textures to a photo can be done with an app on the iPhone, such as what I did with this photo here. Without the texture, the photo itself was a linear, kind of boring snapshot. With the grunge layer applied with the app, I got a dramatic effect and was able to bring attention to the lines on the train platform.

iPhone 4s photo with grunge from an app action copyright Aloha Lavina Bangkok train tracks BTS tracks Bangkok city

Grunge texture on a photo using an app in the iPhone.

This module is about adding a grunge layer to your photograph to add drama and to bring attention to a particular element in the photo.

Do you collect textures?

When I am shooting, I often come across different textures that would make for interesting overlays for my images.  I shoot them and keep them in my hard drive for future use in a folder marked “Stock textures.” That way, I am always ready in case the mood hits to create a textured photo with a grunge effect.

What photo should you make with this effect in mind?

Any photo can work with this effect, but it might help you to shoot a photo that had just one thing as its subject. That subject could be a person or object in the frame. If the subject is light itself, the photo will probably not work, since its subject needs the context (which we will cover with texture) of the whole picture to work. Similarly, if you had a composition in which you had to balance the frame using two different elements, this effect would harm rather than help your composition. So pick a photo that has one clear thing that you’re focusing on. This is where we will center the composition as we apply the texture.

How do I add textures using Photoshop?

There are a couple of things in Photoshop you have to understand before you can work with a texture layer on top of your actual image.

The first thing is how to use layer masks work. Here is an excellent tutorial that shows you that.

The second thing you need to review is how to use the Blending Modes. Here’s a tutorial that shows you what Blending Modes do to an image.

Now that you’ve reviewed your knowledge about Blending Modes and Layer Masks, here is a video that shows you how to add a texture layer to make a dramatic photo.

Finally, I just completed a short video tutorial on this same topic. If you would like to learn a simple way that I use to add texture to a photo, head on over to my Youtube channel.

The assignment this week is to shoot textures and an image that you would like to apply texture to. Now that you know how to use layer masks and blending modes, experiment and see what works. The only limits to your textured imagery is your imagination and creativity!

If you would like to participate in weekly modules on all kinds of topics in photography, why not join the Imagine That Photography Tribe? Like us on Facebook, and get updates on weekly lessons, have a chance to discuss photography with cool Tribe members, and get free ebooks with your photos featured!

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You might also like:
Stripped to its Essence: The Beauty of Black and White
Using the Background Effectively in Your Portraits
How Different Lenses Help You See Creatively

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About Aloha

I am a photographer and writer currently based in Bangkok, Thailand. My work has appeared in CNNGo, Canon's PhotoYou magazine, Seventeen magazine, The Korea Times, Thailand Tatler, and a few photography books including recently Blogging for Creatives, a book published in the UK. I believe there is nothing you cannot imagine that you cannot do.

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