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Texture Screens and Overlays


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Texture Screens and Overlays

20 Apr 2022 3:15PM   Views : 418 Unique : 244

Adding textures to images is a creative tool and isn't something new, so why not personalise your work.

You may have seen, and indeed liked, images that have an overlaid texture. Whether you readily identified the technique or wondered how to create it, it's nothing new (most things aren't, at least in principle), so a little historical explanation first. You can while away a cold wet afternoon (if there's no rugby to watch, of course) with your experimentation.
I don't know for sure when the idea first appeared, though I'm guessing in Victorian times. I understand it had some popularity in the 1950s. I remember reading about it in photo magazines and seeing adverts in the small ads for such screens in the 1970s and 1980s.

So what exactly is a texture screen. Very simply it's a piece of film (commonly a black and white negative though a colour transparency would be an interesting alternative) containing an image of a textured subject. Typically you could have canvas or other cloth, sand, gravel, wood grain, a tarmac surface and so on. While you could buy them they were simple enough to make. You just had to find suitable subjects. You'd sandwich the texture negative with your chosen image in the enlarger and make a print as normal.


A canvas texture from a Billingham photo bag

You wouldn't want the texture to dominate or obscure the image so your texture negatives needed to be 'thin', in other words underexposed. It was helpful to have a texture taken at different magnifications so that you could make a good match with the enlargement. So a 10x15 cm print would need a different size texture than an A3 print all things considered. That's still true today.

I have a small selection of textures taken on Agfa DiaDirect black and white slide film. The ideawas ti sandwich these with a colour transparency but it's something I never got around o doing. If I'd wanted to keep the result I'd soon run out of textures to use, too. So having recently rediscovered them I've scanned them ready for use. Imperfections in the image or from scanning aren't an issue as that's all part of the character of the texture. Similarly if I were to shoot new textures I'm not looking for any sort of perfection. Neither would I worry about any resolution mismatch unless it was huge.


A texture of freshly forked soil

Move into the digital domain and you can use the same principle. The textures are referred to as overlays because you're , well, overlaying a texture on the image. Some software has built in textures, but why not create your own? Whenever you see an interesting texture just take the image as normal. Keep a folder full of textures that you can call on whenever needed.

The technique works best if the texture is mono as you're just after the basic textural effect. However, I'd keep all the images at least as a colour original as different mono treatments can give a range of interesting results. For some images the texture will need to be of much higher contrast for example and having the colour original to hand just increases your options. There's no need to worry about exposure when creating these textures like I mentioned above, as I'll describe below.

Adding the texture involves copying the texture image and pasting it as a new Layer on your image. Initiall you'll just see the texture but that's where adjusting the Layer Opacity comes in. Alter that to make the texture less or more visible. If there's a resolution mismatch between the images just stretch or shrink the texture layer to suit. That won't adversely affect the result (unless there's a massive difference though the result may be acceptable to you) as the texture is there in a supporting role.


Patterned glass texture

We can go further because as well as adjusting Opacity there are the different Blend Modes to try. And while mono textures work best there's no reason why, especially with Blend Mode options, that a colour texture won't work. For example a sand texture in colour can give an attractive warmth.

There is a caveat, as there always is. You can end up with an awful mess. You'll have learned a lot though so it's time well invested.

Using a suitable subject with the texture applied sympathetically should work to great effect.

All text and images Keith Rowley 2022

Tags: Textures overlays

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davetac Avatar
davetac 14 69 2 United Kingdom
23 Apr 2022 8:15AM

Here's one I prepared today. Composited from yesterday's wind surfers and an earlier one of a sunglasses wearing observer.
dark_lord Avatar
dark_lord Plus
19 3.0k 836 England
23 Apr 2022 11:08AM
Interesting one Dave Smile

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