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I've been asked recently by a few people how I produce my Still Life images with special regard to the textured backgrounds I use. In response to this I've decided to write this blog. I apologise in advance if I ramble on and also if it's not the proper way to do it but it's the only way I know how and it works for me !! Before I start I must add that I always shoot in RAW and do my initial processing in Lightroom 4, saving my files as 16 bit TIFFs then further processing (including adding the texures/backgrounds) is done in Photoshop CS5.
1 Open desired start file and clone any dust bunnies etc. (I then use Velvia Action sparingly).
2 Open Background/Texture file, then on the top menu bar select Arrange Documents > 2 up this will open both files within the workspace. Next from the right hand menu bar select the Move tool and click on the texture file (if you've downloaded the texture from the web you will probably need to resize the image at this point to make sure it covers the whole of your file. Check the size of your file and resize the texture to suit - I resize all my imported textures to 5550 pixels on the longest edge regardless as this gives me plenty of room to spare !! ). Next - with the Move tool still selected,drag the texture on to your image file. At this point a pop up sometimes appears warning that the target document has a different depth - ignore this and click "Yes" then click "OK" on the following warning.Position the texture over the start file as required and close left hand file. When prompted,click "Yes" to "save changes" as this will save your texture to the increased size ready for next time you want to use it !!
3 In the "Layers" palette to the right of the screen change the "Blending Mode" of Layer 1 to "Soft Light" & adjust Opacity to suit ( I usually work to 40-50% . Next from the left hand menu bar select the "Eraser" tool and choose a very soft brush ( I use 0% hardness ) adjust it's pixel size to suit the size of the area you need to erase ( zooming in to 100% helps with fiddly areas ) and with Layer 1 highlighted , carefully erase the unwanted textured areas to reveal the component parts of your start file. Alter opacity of eraser to suit. N.B. Be mindful of glass articles in your start file as a certain amount of texture should be visible through it. I usually go for an opacity of between 30 & 45% on the eraser for these areas. Zooming between 100% (or "Actual Pixels" ) and "Fit Screen" from time to time will allow you to see the overall effect.
4 Repeat steps 1 to 3 as desired,if using more than one texture. I often produce my "multi layered" images in what I call a "two stage" process whereby I'll overlay two different textures, sometimes using different opacities/blending modes for each texture and then to avoid confusion when erasing the textures (easy to do as I'm blonde !!) I'll click "Merge Visible" when I'm happy with the interim effect , then go on to add more textures in order to reach my final image.
5 When you're happy with the "almost" finished image click "Merge Visible" and use Velvia Action (again sparingly) if desired.
6 Now to "Lighting Effects". If, like me you originally exported your start file from Lightroom as a 16 bit TIFF file,you will now have to change it to 8 bit to be able to add any lighting effects in Photoshop. On the top menu bar go to "Image" and from the drop down menu select "Mode > 8 bit".
7 From top menu bar select "Layers" > "Duplicate Background" and with "Background Copy" layer highlighted in the "Layers Palette",again from top menu bar ,select "Filter" > "Render" > "Lighting Effects". Now apply your desired lighting effect. I usually go for "Style" : Soft Spotlight , "Light" : Omni
Alter "Intensity","Exposure" and "Ambience" settings to suit the image. Be mindful of any original light source and direction when placing the centre of your chosen lighting effect and also the radius of the circle of light. Overall effect can be altered to suit by changing the opacity of the "Background Copy" layer as desired.
8 Flatten image and apply any further dodging/burning as needed to increase the 3D effect.
9 Apply a border if desired,resize and sharpen using "Smart Sharpen"
10 Upload !!!!!!
As a footnote. The textures I use have been downloaded from websites such as DeviantArt and GRSites as well as using my own ......and that's easy to do - I just point my camera at any textured surface and press the shutter release !! The upside to using your own is that your textures will be of the same size and bit depth as your start image so no need to resize I have a library of homemade background images ranging from peeling /flaking paint to skies and cloud formations not to mention raindrops on windows - these can be very effective when layered over delicate floral images. Basically I find anything can be used as a background/texture so long as it suits the image,just experiment and have fun !! Although I've mentioned blending mode "Soft Light" here as this generally gives the result I prefer but experimentation is very much the key when using textures as not every image will suit the same mode/effect.
I hope this blog has been useful. If there's anything else you need to know just PM me.
Have fun and happy "texturing"