Creating Artistic Photography

March 13, 2014  •  5 Comments

I've had a number of photographers from my Shiloh Eagle Photography group ask me how I create the looks I do with my photos, so I thought I'd put together a quick blog post with some basic information on what I do, and include links to helpful instructions and places.


To get the painterly look with my photos, I use a variety of textures.  To use textures, you need to learn a few things in whichever software you choose to work with.  You need to learn how to add a texture as a layer on top of your original photo, how to scale that texture to be the same size as the photo beneath it, how to change the opacity and/or blending mode of your texture layer, and how to mask away texture from the photo.  It doesn't matter what software you choose to use, but it has to be capable of doing those four basic tasks: layering, scaling, changing opacity/blending modes, and masking.


Note:  Notice I said masking.  It's like erasing, but it's not erasing.  With masking, you get a lot more precision on what you are taking away, and you also have the option to add back the texture if you don't like the way things look after you've removed it.  With simple erasing, you don't get that option.  Which is why you must learn how to create a mask in your software of choice.  Trust me -- I tried the erasing, and masking is so much better


Adding a texture (and multiple textures after you get adventurous!) over a photo can give your photo a whole new look, often painterly in mood and style.  Below is an example.  The original photograph straight from my camera is shown on the left, and the finished photo after adding my Opal Jeweled Sky Texture from my Jeweled Skies Texture Collection is on the right.  {These sky textures can be purchased for only $2 each and they are wonderful for adding a beautiful sky and dramatic painterly look to your photos.}  This photo, Fall Day In The Country, had some basic lighting/contrast/sharpness adjustments made in Paint Shop Pro, and then I took the adjusted photo into my Topaz Software Suite to layer the texture on top of the photo. I changed the blending mode to multiply and masked the texture away from the part of the image I didn't want it, which was on the field area and cows.  I left a little of the texture present around the sides and bottom edges, however, to give a vignette effect to the finished work.  See below for more information on software and for some great tutorial links for beginners.

Examples - click to see larger

I'm often asked what software I use.  Most people use Photoshop.  I am not a Photoshop person. :)  I use Paint Shop Pro, and just recently I purchased the entire suite of Topaz Software.  I am finding while I still mostly use Paint Shop Pro for basic adjustments, cropping, and resizing, I am using the Topaz Software more and more for the addition of the textures.  Topaz has an excellent masking tool, which I find to be more precise and versatile than the Paint Shop Pro masking tool, plus it's much easier in Topaz to learn and do masking functions.  Also Topaz has so many ways you can change the overall look and tone of a photo, I find it has really sparked my creativity.  The Denoise part of the software suite is very good.  In fact, I was only going to buy the specific module for the Denoise work, but after I downloaded their free trial of everything they offer in one package, I decided to purchase the whole kit and caboodle -- and in my opinion, it's my best money spent so far {other than for my cameras and lenses!}.  You can download a 30 day free trial of everything at Topaz Labs to try it out -- and I also found their YouTube Video Channel very helpful!


Here's a few links of beginner tutorials I've found very helpful in learning how to specifically work with textures:


Quick Start Texture Tutorial by Leslie of French Kiss Textures (Leslie uses Photoshop, and she explains masking in this tutorial.  I read her instructions and learned how to work with masking in Paint Shop Pro thanks to the simple instructions and explanations in this tutorial)

Painted Textures Video Tutorial By Melissa Gallo of PaintedTextures.Com

Creating A Watercolor Painting Using Textures by Melissa Gallo

Editing An Image With Painted Textures by Melissa Gallo


Examples-click to see larger


So where do you get textures to use with your photos?  Well, a search on the internet will turn up thousands of free textures you can download from various locations and play with.  Some of the free textures are great, but some of the free textures offered are too small for my liking and not as crisp/clear as I'd like.  So I created a set of high quality free textures in a variety of colors for you to try.  These are high resolution, large size textures.  It might appear as if there are two of each...BUT the second one of each color has a stone wall texture rather than the fine canvas of the first one.  I've made both available, as some people prefer light textures while others prefer heavier ones.  


The example eagle photo shown above features the free Antiqued Brown Painted Canvas Texture.  I used the texture at full strength without changing the blending mode or opacity in order to create a solid canvas background for my eagle.  I also added a vignette using the Topaz Software, and I made some lighting adjustments in Paint Shop Pro to bring out the colors of the eagle better.


As mentioned above, I also have the Jeweled Sky Textures available for purchase on the website here.  Here's a blog post which shows a few example photos processed with the Jeweled Sky Texture Collection.


One of my absolutely all-time favorite places to purchase textures from is French Kiss Collections.  Leslie Nicole is a wonderful artist living in France who offers a fabulous collection of high quality hand-painted textures at great prices.  She also offers lots of other fun goodies, such as overlays, frames and more.  I have been purchasing from Leslie for a couple of years now, and I assure you, you can't go wrong here!


Another place I've recently purchased high quality art textures is from 2 Lil' Owls Studio.  Although I haven't used these too much in my work yet, I've been playing with them and believe they are going to be very useful for some upcoming projects.


There are many, many other texture sources out there.  Just let me warn you ahead of time, it's very fun and addictive!  A word of advice:  start a folder on your computer to save textures into, and when you download free or purchased textures, put them in their own folders within your main folder.  This will keep you somewhat organized, so when you go looking for a specific texture for your project, you won't waste art time hunting down a file. :)


I hope you find this helpful!





Mary Bellew(non-registered)
Thank you so much for the wonderful free textures. They are beautiful and artistic and will add so much quality to my own works of art. Thanks again.
carol rasmussen(non-registered)
Hi I hope you do not mind just sent someone to your web page to view some of your free textures....Have you ever considered posting this article you wrote on textures to your facebook page...If you have already done so just ignore me....thanks carol
carol rasmussen(non-registered)
very helpful and generous with the information
Donna Marr(non-registered)
Nice post Jai, thanks
Rick Sweeney(non-registered)
So very helpful. Thank you!!
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I am a photographic artist living in Tennessee, and I love to spend my days in nature capturing life's most serene and peaceful moments, whether it be in landscapes, watching birds and wildlife, or simply enjoying the beauty of a simple flower. I hope you enjoy my work, and that it will bring a moment of serenity into your day. --Jai Johnson 


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