In this article, I will discuss how textures and texture layers can transform digital photographs into digital artwork. The article also includes links to two of my Creative Commons images so that you can follow along with the Photoshop tutorial.
A high-key portrait was converted to a line drawing in Photoshop but the result was flat and cartoonish. Texture overlays were applied to the eyes, nose, jawline, and neck to better define the facial contours. The final image has a more realistic, fine art-like appearance.
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What’s old is new again. When I was in school, I learned about the seven formal artistic elements found in the visual and graphic arts--line, color, shape, form, value, texture, and space. By controlling the interaction of these elements, the visual and graphic artist can convey a feeling of movement, ambience, depth, and visual richness within their works. I promptly forgot all that fuzzy science stuff in the pursuit of my technical degrees. But here I am, re-learning the very lessons Mrs. Reynolds covered ever so long ago.
“Why?” you ask. Well, it turns out that digital artistry and photography are bound by the same set of rules and principles Mrs. Reynolds tried to teach me. What’s old is new again; and as an aspiring digital artist, I’m learning a lot by studying painting and drawing technique. I still can’t draw worth a whit, but that’s a problem for another day.
I can still hear her voice when I tell you that there are two types of texture in the visual and structural arts--physical texture and visual texture. Physical texture is texture that can be felt by touching the surface of the artwork. In painting and multimedia arts, physical texture can be imparted by
Most paintings and mixed media works aren’t intended to be touched or handled. So why do artists add physical texture? One reason is to emphasize the physicality and aesthetic appeal of the work. Another reason is to add micro-contrast and visual depth to the image. The grittiness and/or smoothness of the medium contribute to the overall ambiance of the work as much or more than painting technique. Rough surfaces can be visually active, while smooth surfaces can be visually restful. The use of both can impart a sense of personality. The juxtaposition of smooth and rough textures can also create emphasis, rhythm, and contrast.
OK. Let’s circle back. Why am I talking about physical texture in the context of photography? Photography is after all, a two-dimensional medium. My first reason is that some physical texture effects can be simulated by visual texture techniques. Secondly, when photographs are printed, they become three-dimensional objects with their own shape, form, and texture.
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