Changing Your World with Textures

By Benjamin Edwards Back to


We live in an age of endless post-production possibilities. At times, it may feel like it’s all been done before. During those times we must strive to break out of our button-pushing boxes and explore new avenues for our image making. I’d like to share with you one of my favorite ways to enhance images in post-production—the application of texture.Whether you shoot landscapes, portraits, or my favorite, humanitarian causes, utilizing texture in your images can lend a timeless feel, full of depth and emotion.

I was surprised to learn that items such as cloth, wire and glass, have been used in the traditional darkroom development process for some 80 years, most notably by artist and photographer William Mortensen who got his start in Hollywood. Thankfully, for today’s digital photographer, we’re able to employ the use of texture a bit quicker than Mr. Mortensen did and with less of a mess.

After struggling to find a streamlined and time efficient way to apply textures to my images, I teamed up with the action hero himself, Kevin Kubota, to try and solve the issue. Using a collection of textures I’ve photographed from various countries and combining them with Kevin’s extremely intuitive Dashboard™ technology, we created a product that allows you to quickly and creatively apply texture to your images, while giving customization tools along the way. By using Kubota Image Tools Bor-Tex (Borders and Textures) I’ve been able to spend less time in post, which means more time telling stories with my images. In this article, I’d like to show you how to do the same by adding a bit of texture to one of my favorite images from Rwanda.

The image on the previous page was taken on a small hilltop overlooking a fertile valley in Eastern Rwanda. On the hilltop sits a small school where children come to study and eat porridge twice daily. The school is run by Mamma Naomi, a woman in her 60’s, dedicated to helping widows and orphans left by the 1994 Genocide. This image will be used to help tell her story.

1. Once your Borders and Textures (Bor-Tex) Dashboard is installed, you may need to launch it upon opening Photoshop. The BorTex Dashboard can be found under“file/automate/KubotaBorTexDashboard Pallette.” Once open, you can drag the palette around your working space, collapse it by clicking the banner, or exit by clicking on the dashboard and hitting the escape key. If you’d like to geek out, you may also assign a keyboard shortcut to access it at anytime.

2. Located on the upper-right hand side of your Dashboard you’ll see a drop down menu (Fig. 1) from which you can select different texture packs, Earth, Industrial or “all” textures. I’m going to select “Earth.” Notice, the preview panel in the Dashboard makes it easy to see thumbnails (Fig. 1.5) of your available textures as well as any installed sloppy borders. You can also enter text into the search dialogue box to find a specific texture or texture pack.

Fig. 1
Fig. 1.5

3. I’d like to add some nice grain and warmth to this image, so I’m going to highlight the “Buj” texture and click on “apply” on the lower right hand side of the Dashboard. The texture automatically sizes itself to fit the image. You’ll notice a prompt appear that gives you the option to resize the texture, or you can proceed without any changes. You can drag and resize, in this case, I’m going to leave it as is to take advantage of the natural vignetting of the texture.

4. All textures are applied in Overlay blending mode at a layer opacity of 80% (Fig. 2). Blending modes can easily be changed by simply typing “blend” into the Dashboard search box (Fig. 3). Likewise, typing “opa” enables you to select from various layer opacity settings. You can also make these changes directly on the layer palette. In this case, I’m happy with the default settings and will stick with them.

Fig. 2
Fig. 3

5. When the texture is applied to your image, a smart filter with a Gaussian blur is applied to the texture as well. This enables you to “paint away” texture from faces or skin without losing the color shift that may result from the texture. In this case I painted away some of the texture on the skin of the people walking in the foreground, hardly noticeable on the screen but likely would be noticeable in a large print.

When all is said and done, I’ve completely enhanced this image in less than five seconds.

Some “Power User” tips and tricks:

1. Not happy with something you’ve applied? Simply hit “undo” (Fig. 4) and the Dashboard takes you back.

Fig. 4

2. Once you get the hang of applying your textures, you can toggle on “Ignore Stops,” located in the settingsdrop down menu of the Dashboard Control Panel (Fig. 5).

Fig. 5

3. Have a favorite texture or set of textures you want to use 99 times a day? Right-click or control click on the name of the texture you adore, you’ll see a red star appear next to it. Now go into the search box located at the top of the Dashboard and type “fav” (Fig. 6). You’ll then see all of your favorite textures (or borders) appear. If your texture offends you, you can repeat the process to take away favorite status.

Fig. 6

4. Are you a workflow nerd with a bad memory? Try this: Highlight a texture name and click “edit” in the control panel located on the bottom of the Dashboard. You’ll notice a window pop-up with a couple of options. (Fig. 7) From here you can keyword the highlighted texture.

Perhaps you want to remember what texture you used on a specific project. When you type that word into the Dashboard search box, the selected texture will appear in the populated window. From the “edit” menu you can also select a radio button to mark the texture a “favorite.”

5. Want to get your da Vinci on? Select a texture you’d like to use and, rather than hitting “apply” select “paint” (Fig. 8). You’re now able to paint your texture in at your desired opacity with the effect you want, where you want it.

6. Love the texture but not the color shift? No problem. Once your favorite texture is applied, type “remove” in the search dialogue box. (Fig. 9) Select “remove texture color” from the populated window and millions of bits and bytes will take away the color of the applied texture, while leaving the texture. You can also make this feature a “favorite.”

7. As with all of Kubota Image Tools actions, you can customize your look by playing with blending modes, opacities and stacking textures and actions to give your images exactly the look you’ve envisioned—and beyond. Should you need additional help, you can view the Users Guide located in the “Help” tab of Dashboard or contact Kubota Image Tools for more assistance.

Some final thoughts on the use of textures:

If you’re printing your image, keep in mind the final output size. A piece of texture that might seem insignificant on the screen might prove to be distracting when viewed in a large print.

Traditionally it’s been recommended that you sharpen your image just before output. Keep in mind that when you sharpen a file with a texture applied, you’ll also be sharpening the lines of your texture. Experiment to see where sharpening works best in your workflow.

Experiment with adding multiple textures to an image. Some textures work great for adding interesting color shifts and you may find two or three that work very well together.

Textures are a great tool for album design and can be used to give you a fine art look to portrait albums.

Virtually frame your work of art with one of the many amazing sloppy borders included in the Bor-Tex Dashboard pack.

Rock on friend, and with all of your new-found extra time, please don’t forget to change the world.

About the Author

Benjamin Edwards
Benjamin Edwards is a humanitarian, wedding and portrait photographer based out of Bend, Oregon. Benjamin is the photographic artist behind the Kubota ImageTools Borders and Textures pack.