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Textures and Patterns in Photoshop CS

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  1. Textures and Patterns in Photoshop CS
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Barry Haynes and Wendy Crumpler show you how to create interesting texture effects using Fill layers along with adjustment layers and Blend modes, Texture channels, the Texturizer filter, and the Pattern Maker.
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Textures and Patterns in Photoshop CS

There are many ways to create and integrate patterns and texture in Photoshop. Once you start to play with some of the possibilities, you'll find it so much fun it's difficult to stop and get back to work. I'll take you through several of the options here. During this exercise, be sure you keep your History palette handy to check the state of your file as you make changes. It will help you determine which effects you really like.

Figure 1Figure 1 The original photo of the Packard.

Use a Pattern Overlay Effect

Step 1: The simplest and quickest way to add some texture to your file is to use a pattern overlay from the Layer Styles menu. Download the Packard image (Packard.psd) and bring up the Layers palette (F10 with ArtistKeys). Double-click on the Background layer and rename it Packard. Use the Crop tool (C) to crop off the copyright notice, then choose File/Save As and save this as PackardLayers. Click the Add Layer Style icon (the first one) on the bottom of the Layers palette and choose Pattern Overlay to apply this style to the layer. Choose the first grayscale pattern, then change the Blend mode pop-up to Soft Light. The advantages to adding texture this way are speed and connection to the layer itself. If you move the layer the effect goes with it. On the disadvantage side, it's not as flexible or as editable as some of the other methods. You can discard this effect now by dragging the word "Effects" to the Trash icon on the Layers palette.

Figure 2Figure 2 Step 1: Click the first grayscale pattern and change the mode to Soft Light when you create the Pattern Overlay. Make sure you have clicked on the name Pattern Overlay to see all the options available.

Use a Pattern Fill Layer

Step 2: A Pattern Fill layer gives you the speed of a layer style, but with more flexibility. Click the Create New Fill or Adjustment Layer icon (the fourth one) at the bottom of the Layers palette and choose Pattern from the menu to add a new fill layer above the Packard layer. When the Pattern Fill dialog appears, click the Option arrow beside the pattern swatch to bring up the Pattern presets, then click that Option pop-up and drag down to the Artist Surfaces presets. Load these by appending them to the current set. Use the Pattern Presets pop-up to view the patterns by Small List, which makes finding the correct one easier. Choose the Parchment texture and click OK to create the layer. Set the Opacity of the layer to 70% and choose Soft Light as the Blend mode. I find that when adding texture, the Blend modes that I use most often are Soft Light and Overlay, but don't feel that you have to stick with those choices. Multiply, Color Burn, and Darken may also be attractive, and if you are using a fill that has color as well, try all the modes to check their effects.

Figure 3Figure 3 Step 2: Creating a Pattern Fill layer.

Figure 4Figure 4 Step 2: Load the Artist Surfaces textures by appending them to the default set.

Figure 5Figure 5 Step 2: Using a Pattern Fill layer, you can quickly try out other patterns.

Step 3: The advantage of using a Fill layer (as well as a layer style) is you can quickly preview and change the fill. Double-click on the Pattern Fill layer thumbnail to bring up the options and again click on the Presets pop-up to bring up the swatches. Make sure the dialog box is situated so you can see most of your image. Now, click a different pattern swatch and watch the image automatically update to show your choice. Try several different swatches, but choose the Heavy Weave pattern and click OK to close the dialog box. With Soft Light at 70% this pattern works well, but you may feel that the texture is a little too coarse to be realistic. So, Shift-Option-double-click the layer thumbnail or choose Blending Options from the Layer palette menu to bring up the Layer Style dialog and do some advanced blending. At the bottom of the Advanced Blending area of this dialog is a powerful feature that has been in Photoshop for a long time. There are two sets of slider bars that are very cool—This Layer, which allows you to remove some of the pixels in the 0–255 range from the active layer, and Underlying Layer, which allows you to specify the pixels from the composite of all the layers that lie below this layer that will definitely be in the composite. In the Blend If section of the dialog box, use the This Layer slider and move the left triangle to the right until it's at about 5. This subtly takes out the darkest pixels of the Pattern Fill layer and softens the effect. Zoom to 100% to see more clearly which pixels are blended away here. Click OK in the Layer Style dialog, then double-click the layer name and rename this layer Heavy Weave.

Diffusion Dither Bitmaps and MezzoTint Patterns

Step 4: Turn off the Heavy Weave layer by clicking its Eye icon. Use Image/Duplicate (F5 with ArtistKeys) and click the Merged Layers Only box to duplicate only the Packard layer. Now choose Image/Mode/Grayscale and then Image/Mode/Bitmap, and click OK to the Flatten Layers question if you get it. You will get a dialog box that has a pop-up with several options. Choose Diffusion Dither and click OK. Zoom the image in to 100% because diffusion dithers don't look right unless the image is seen at 100% or closer. A diffusion dither bitmap is an image made up of only black and white dots; there are no grays. The Bitmap mode contains one bit of information for each pixel; it is either on or off, black or white. These images are very compact, which is useful for the Web and multimedia. A regular grayscale image contains 8 bits per pixel, so each pixel can have 256 different gray values. Diffusion dithers are very universal because you can display them on any computer monitor and print them on any printer that can print black dots. Now choose Command-Z to undo the diffusion dither.

Step 5: Next we'll create a bitmap file, but this time using a custom pattern the same size as the file. Choose Select All (Command-A), then Edit/Copy, and finally File/New (Command-N) to get a grayscale file the same size as the other Packard files. Before clicking on the OK button in the New dialog box, name the file MezzoTint and make sure that the Background Contents pop-up is set to White to fill this new file with white. Choose Filter/Noise/Add Noise and add 100 of Gaussian noise. This is sort of a mezzotint pattern. Press Command-A again to select all of the grayscale pattern. Now choose Edit/Define Pattern to make this a new pattern Photoshop can use. The pattern should be named MezzoTint. Go back to the PackardLayers copy and choose Mode/Bitmap again. This time pick the Custom Pattern option in the pop-up, click the pattern swatch, and then choose the new pattern in the bottom of the menu. That will be the MezzoTint pattern you just defined. Press Return to get out of the dialog and you will see the image with this MezzoTint pattern. Choose Select/All, go to Edit/Copy, and then use the Window menu to switch to your color PackardLayers image. Turn on the Eye icon for the Heavy Weave layer and do an Edit/Paste to create a new layer. Double-click on the name of this new layer to rename it MezzoPattern. Zoom in to 100%.

Figure 6Figure 6 Step 5: Choose the MezzoTint pattern you just created from the Custom Pattern pop-up.

Step 6: With the MezzoPattern layer active and the Eye icons on for all three layers, change the Opacity to 40%. Change the Blend mode of the MezzoPattern layer in the Layers palette to Multiply to make the black dots more black and drop out the white parts of the pattern. It will also bring out better color saturation in the nonblack areas, and you will see better colors from the original Packard. Choose File/Save to update your file. Using the custom pattern the same size as the file means that the pattern did not have to tile and there are no seams or annoying repetitions in the pattern. The disadvantage to a bitmap is that it is only black and white, therefore adjusting tonal values is not an option except for changing the opacity.

Figure 7Figure 7 Step 6: Here's a section of the file with the Mezzo Pattern layer at 40% Opacity.

Streaked Patterns

Step 7: Now we will create another pattern and add some more layers to give you other options with this image. At this point, you may find it easier to work in Full Screen mode, so type F now if you are not already using the full screen. Remember to use the Window menu if you need to switch images. When we add the next layer, we want it to be added above the MezzoPattern layer, so click on the MezzoPattern layer to make it the active layer, but turn off the Eye icon for this layer and the Heavy Weave layer. Click the New Layer icon to make a new blank layer, and then use Edit/Fill (Shift-Delete brings up this dialog) and use Pattern. Choose the MezzoTint pattern you created and fill at 100% Opacity in Normal mode. Use the Rectangular Marquee tool (M) to make a long, skinny selection on the left edge of this layer the full height of the file. This rectangle should be about 1/4 inch wide. Now use Edit/Transform/Scale and grab the middle-right handle and drag it across the screen to the right side of the window. This stretches out the dots within this 1/4-inch selection and gives you a streaking pattern. Press Enter or Return to finish the scale process and Command-D to deselect the area. Double-click the layer name and rename the layer Streaks. Press Command-Option-0 to zoom to 100%. Change the Blend mode of this layer to Linear Burn to remove all the white pixels. Now change the Opacity to 40%, and the black steaks turn gray. Save your file (Command-S).

Figure 8Figure 8 Step 7: Your long, skinny selection on the left edge should look something like this.


When you use Edit/Fill on a blank layer, be sure Preserve Transparency is not checked, so the layer can accept paint.

The Texturizer Filter

Step 8: Another built-in texture feature of Photoshop is the Texturizer filter. For this part of the exercise we'll use a copy of the Packard itself so drag the Packard layer to the New Layer icon to make a copy of it. Double-click the layer name to name this layer Texturizer, and turn off the Eye icons for all the other layers. Now go to Filter/Texture/Texturizer. Use the Textures pop-up to try the four default textures, then press the Option pop-up and go to Load Texture. Navigate to the Photoshop CS Presets folder and find the Textures presets. Any .psd file within that folder will now be available for you to use with the filter. I used the Strands file, but you don't have to end your search for texture with the files in this folder. A .psd file is all you need, and it doesn't matter where it's located. If you've run art filters in previous versions of Photoshop, you'll see the dialog has changed. The art filters are all accessible from this one dialog, which is called the Filter Gallery. Now, instead of only being able to run one filter at time on a layer, you can run a combination of filters, then change their stacking order, settings, and Eye icon states while still in the dialog. You'll see more of this in our next example.

Figure 9Figure 9 Step 8: The Photoshop CS Filter Gallery dialog gives you options to combine several filters at one time. This is what the dialog looks like when you run a single filter.

Figure 10Figure 10 Step 8: Here's the result of using a Zebra pattern I found in the Presets/Patterns/ImageReady folder.

Figure 11Figure 11 Step 8: An unexpected and interesting effect using a color photo of a small boy in a cape with the Texturizer filter.

Lighting Effects

Step 9: Drag the Packard layer to the New Layer icon to duplicate the layer, then double-click the name and rename this one Lighting Effects. Turn off the Eye icons for any layers that are above this layer. Now go to Filter/Render/Lighting Effects. Use the default settings, but change the type of light from Spotlight to Omni and widen its spread a bit by pulling out on the handles of the circle surrounding the light. Lighting Effects can be great for enlivening a section of your photo or for adding special effects, but when you add a texture channel it's also great for creating an impasto or embossed look. Choose the Blue channel for the texture channel and click OK. You may need to play with this filter awhile before you feel comfortable with all its many options, but it's a great addition to your effects arsenal. Here again, you are not limited to only the RGB channels to use as textures, but you can use any Alpha channel that you have created for that document.

Figure 12Figure 12 Step 9: Use these settings...

Figure 13xFigure 13 Step 9: create this effect.

The Pattern Maker

For this part of the exercise we're going to work with the Pattern Maker feature introduced in Photoshop 7. I think this feature will be used most by Web designers, but it's so much fun to use that, whether you need to create patterns or not, you may find yourself spending hours like a kid with crayons. There are two different ways to create your patterns, and we'll do it both ways here.

Create Tiles Using an Image

Step 10: Once again, drag the Packard layer to the New Layer icon on the Layers palette to duplicate it and name this layer My Pattern. Turn off the Eye icon for the Lighting Effects layer, and then go to Filter/Pattern Maker. You'll get another of those very large dialog boxes with lots of confusing options. Don't worry, this one's really quite simple. On the upper-left side are three familiar tools: the Marquee, the Zoom tool, and the Hand tool. Use the Marquee and drag a small rectangle in the area that you want to use as a pattern. I chose the legs of the folding chairs. Now click the Generate button. The layer is filled with the pattern you just created and a pattern tile appears at the bottom-right of the Pattern Maker window to show you what a single tile looks like. The default settings work well for most tiles. If you think the edges are too prominent and noticeable, you can raise the Smoothness setting, and then press Generate Again or Command-G. If you are not seeing details you wanted from the sample you used, increase the Sample Detail setting. Changing these settings causes Photoshop to need more time to generate the pattern, so don't use the higher settings unless you really need them. Another tactic you can try is changing the tile size. You can type in any number for the width and height of the tile, or click the Use Image Size button to create one tile that is the size of the current image. This also may take a bit of time to generate, but it ensures that there will be no seams in your layer. After you have generated several tiles, go to the Preview area of the dialog box and choose Show Original rather than Show Generated. Your original image reappears and you can select a different area to use as a tile. Marquee a small area of the palm tree branches or the flowers in the planter box on the left and Generate Again.

Figure 14Figure 14 Step 10: This area with the chair legs gave me interesting angles and negative space for patterns.

Review, Preview, and Save Patterns

Step 11: In the Tile History area, you'll notice a little control bar that tells you the number of the current tile and how many tiles you have created during this use of the Pattern Maker. You can click the forward and back arrows to review the patterns you've generated one by one. You can jump to the beginning of the list using the second icon in the control bar or jump to the end of the list using the next to the last icon. As you switch between the patterns, the large window will preview the tiled pattern in the image if Update Pattern Preview is selected. For faster scrolling you can uncheck this box. If you come across a pattern that you're sure you don't want, you can click the Trash icon to delete it, and if you come to one that you might want to use for other purposes, click the Presets icon on the far left of the control bar to name your pattern and add it to the current presets. Remember to resave the presets from the Presets Manager if you want to keep your patterns permanently. When you've created and saved all the patterns you want, choose one to fill this layer by clicking OK.

Create Patterns from the Clipboard

Step 12: The second way to create a pattern using the Pattern Maker is to use a selection from the clipboard. In this instance, we're going to create a small file with texture and color that might work and use it for our pattern. Turn off the Eye icon for the My Pattern layer, and then go to File/New and create a new RGB file 400 pixels by 400 pixels. Choose a nice, warm ivory color for your foreground color and use Option-Delete to fill with this color. Go to Filter/Noise/Add Noise and use Gaussian and Monochromatic of about 10%. Next go to Filter/Brush Strokes/Crosshatch and use 20 as the Stoke Length, 10 for Sharpness, and 1 for the Strength. When you have run both filters, use Command-A to select all of the file and Command-C to copy. Switch back to the PackardLayers file, click the Packard layer to activate it, and then click the New Layer icon on the bottom of the palette to create a new, blank layer. Name this layer Crosshatch, then use Command-Option-Shift-X to invoke the Pattern Maker once more. You may be asked if you want to convert the source data. Click OK to this dialog or you will not be able to use the contents of the clipboard when the Pattern Maker opens. The preview will be blank until you click Use Clipboard as Sample and generate the new pattern. If you feel the preview shows seams, click Use Image Size and generate again. Click OK when you are happy with the pattern to fill the layer. Set the Blend mode of the Crosshatch layer to Color Burn.

Figure 15Figure 15 Step 12: Use these settings for the Crosshatch filter: Stroke Length, 20; Sharpness, 10; and Strength, 1.


Patterns with Transparency

You aren't limited to creating patterns that completely cover the layer. If you make a selection from a layer with locked transparency, your pattern will also have transparent regions. Very cool.


Step 13: Photoshop CS added a new filter called Fibers that creates textures using the foreground and background colors. Low settings give you a sort of gently creased fabric look, higher settings look like wood or marble. I've found these to be interesting as backgrounds for pieces, a little trickier when adding texture over existing images. For this image, I suggest you work with fairly subtle colors (I used a tan foreground and a gold background). Turn off the Eye icons for all layers except the Packard. Click the Create a New Layer icon on the bottom of the Layers palette, then use Option-Delete to fill that layer with the foreground color. It doesn't matter what color the layer starts out, the filter will fill any existing pixels with the pattern. Make sure you have chosen the color swatches you want, then use Filter/Render/Fibers. Move the sliders until you have a look you like, then click OK. Now double-click the layer name and rename this layer Fibers. Depending on the colors you chose to work with, you may find Multiply, Color Burn, Soft Light, or Overlay work for your blend mode. You might also want to reduce the opacity a bit.

Figure 16xFigure 16 Step 13: Start your pattern with these middle values, but move the sliders to discover other looks. The Randomize button uses these values but shifts the pattern each time you click.

Time to Play with Layers and Options

Step 14: Now you have several layers and effects that you can adjust until you get the final image you want. Remember that you can turn off any layer by clicking on its Eye icon. Show the Layer Comps palette, then use the Layers palette to play with Opacity, Blend mode, This Layer slider, and the Underlying Layer slider in the Layer Style dialog for the layers until you get a combined effect you like. Remember, the Underlying Layer slider bar in the Layer Style dialog forces pixels of lower layers into the composite. Once you find a version that pleases you, click the Create New Layer Comp button on the bottom of the Layer Comps palette. In a job like this where you are prototyping effects and have lots of possibilities, the Layer Comps palette is invaluable.

Figure 17Figure 17 Step 14: The Layer Comps palette really helps you decide which effects you want to keep and also what you did to achieve the effect. For this comp, some of the same layers are visible, but the Blend mode for the Fibers layer has changed. Glad I didn't have to remember that all by myself.

Before Photoshop had the Layer Style dialog and before it even had built-in layer effects, it had the ability to create millions of interesting effects using this type of technique of stacking layers, and then running filters and changing the Blend modes of each layer to create many of the effects that the current Layer Style dialog does in a more automatic way. Play with these features of Photoshop to prototype future effects that become the latest in your set of Photoshop surprises. I'm sure you can come up with something that looks great and nobody has ever tried before. The number of effect combinations you can create is unlimited. HAVE FUN!

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