10 Simple Steps to Replace Your Basic Background with a Texture | Photoshop Tutorial

In this tutorial I will show you how I replace a boring, basic background with a far more interesting one.

This is my original image. (Taken by me, featuring 14 day old Julian).


The texture used in this example is from Sarah Gardner Photography’s Beachwood Textured Papers.  http://sarahgardnerphotography.blogspot.com.au/2013/11/beach-wood-textured-papers.html

One thing I enjoy about Photoshop (I am using Photoshop CC) is that there are usually many ways to do the same thing. In this tutorial I have done things the way I like to do them but that doesn’t mean it is the only way to do them. Enjoy experimenting and finding different ways to do things. I have tried to add some more basic information for those new to Photoshop.

1. Getting started. Open your chosen image and place your texture over the top.  To place your texture you can open the texture and just drag and drop it onto your image or you can got to “file” in the top left hand corner and down to “place” then navigate to where your texture is saved.

Not all textures will suit all images.  Sometimes a little trial and error and experimenting is needed.  As a starting point I try to chose a texture that has similar colours to my image.


2. Fix the scale (if necessary). I found the scale of this particular texture wrong for this particular image. This wont always be the case and you may not need to do this at all. But for this particular image I duplicated the texture layer (Ctrl or Cmmd j) and squished them up a little so that the floor boards where narrower. I then flattened the two texture layers so I only had one layer to work with. To do this I turned off the background layer (click on the little eye ball to the left of the layer in the layers panel to turn the layer off and on) and merged the visible layers (ctrl/cmmd shift e). Then I turned the background layer back on.


Now the I have merged the two texture layers you will notice an obvious join line. I used the clone tool to remove this line. Also depending on your texture and your image you may want to do a bit of further cloning so repeated patterns in the texture aren’t too obvious or distracting. I didn’t worry about it in this image as much of the repeated pattern is hidden under the baby and scarf.


3.  Change opacity. Next I reduced the opacity of the texture layer. I did this so it wasn’t so strong and some of the creamy original background colour showed and to make it easier to mask off the baby. It is up to you and your image if you adjust the opacity of the texture layer or not. You may chose just to lower it to assist with masking and then take it back to 100%.

4.  Masking. Add a layer mask by clicking on the icon at the bottom of your layers panel or by going to “layer” (4th from the left at the top of your screen) and down to “layer mask”. Remember when it comes to layer masks “white reveals and black conceals”. So on your white layer mask you want to paint with a soft black brush over the areas that you DO NOT want the texture applied. If you don’t know about layer masks, please let me know as I do have a tutorial on them that I did some time ago that I can post.


So that you know where you have and haven’t painted on your layer mask, with you mask selected hit your | key.  The areas painted black on your layer mask will be covered in red. This makes it much easier to fine tune the fiddly little edges. To turn the red off, simply hit the | key again.


5.  Check. t’s time to sit back and check your image. If you dropped the opacity of your texture check to see if anything undesirable from your original background is showing through. You can see in mine that the lines in the original flooring background are showing through. You may not have this problem but it is worth checking.


To fix this I turned off the texture layer. I selected the background layer and duplicated it (ctrl/cmmd j) and I used a combination of the heal tool and clone tool to remove those lines. I don’t like to work directly on the background layer. If you work on a duplicate layer and you make a mistake you can just delete the layer and do it again. You can’t always go back a fix things if you have been working directly on your background layer. When you are happy with your work, turn your texture layer back on and let’s make this texture layer look a bit more like it belongs.


6. Adding blur. What you need to do to your texture to make it look it belongs in your image will vary image to image and texture to texture. The bowl that this baby was in was only shallow so there wasn’t much of a change in the focus from the baby to the floor. So this texture works fairly well. But if you look at the tassels on the scarf they are a little more blurred than the detail on the texture. So I blurred the texture just a tiny bit. Adding blur to your texture so that it is consistent with the amount of blur in your original background will help significantly with making your texture look like it belongs. I selected my texture in the layer panel. Went up to “filter”, down to “blur” and then to “Gaussian blur”. A box will open up with a preview of your image and a slider so you can adjust the amount of blur. If you aren’t happy with the end result, undo it (ctrl/cmmd z or “edit” and “undo) and try again.


7. Modifying the textures colour. I wanted to alter the colour of the texture a little to better suit the other colours in my image. To do this I used a colour balance adjustment layer. I used the sliders to adjust the colours to my liking. I only adjusted the mid tone colours but you can easily adjust the colours in the shadows and highlights instead of, or as well as, the midtones to get the result you want. You can open a colour balance adjustment layer in a number of ways. You can go to “image”, down to “adjustments” and then to “colour balance”. Or you can click on the little balance symbol if you have the adjustment panel open.  And lastly you can go to the bottom of the layer panel and click on the half white/half black circle and chose colour balance from the list that appears.


Now I don’t want my baby or props to be affected by this colour change and I am way too lazy (and busy) to mask the colour change off the baby so I used a clipping mask to do this for me. A clipping mask will basically attach your layer to the one below it and the adjustment you made will only be visible where things are visible in the lower layer. So in this case the lower layer contains the texture already masked off the baby. When I “clip” the colour balance layer to it the colour change will only be seen on the texture not across the entire image (ie not on my baby). To do this put the layer you want to clip directly above the layer you are going to clip it to. Make sure that the top layer of these two is selected. Then use the keyboard short cut ctrl/cmmd, alt, g to clip it. Or while holding down the alt key hold your cursor between the two layers in your layers panel and when your cursor changes shape, click your mouse. You know that you layer has been clipped to another when you can see the little arrow symbol (in the image above). To un-clip the layer simply repeat the same keyboard short cut.

8. Adjusting contrast. At this point I thought my image looked a bit flat. It needed some depth. I wanted to make the blacks in the texture look blacker and perhaps the whites brighter. You can use a curves adjustment layer or levels to do this. I am a curves girl so used a curves layer. To add a curves adjustment layer go to “image”, down to “adjustments” and then to “curves”. Or you can click on the square symbol with a line through it if you have the adjustment panel open. And lastly you can go to the bottom of the layer panel and click on the half white/half black circle and chose curves from the list that appears. Then simply slide the little black triangle to the left to make the blacks look blacker and slide the little white triangle to the left to make the whites brighter. I chose adjust the blacks only.


9. Adding a shadow. By adding the texture to my image I have covered up the original shadow and you will notice that without those shadows it looks a bit like the baby and bowl is floating. Whenever something touches a surface there is a shadow. To look realistic our texture needs a shadow. We are lucky because we have the original image to copy the shadow from.


Turn off all of your layers and go back to your original image. (Hover your cursor over the eye ball of your background layer whilst holding the alt key and click. To turn them back on click again). Study the shadow in your original image. The size, shape, colour. By doing this you can work out where you need to add your new shadow. Sample (using the tool that looks like a little eye dropper in your left hand tool panel) a dark part of the shadow to get an appropriate colour for your new shadow. With my image I couldn’t sample the shadow colour close to the bowl as it was too creamy/yellow and wouldn’t work for my new shadow. I sampled a dark shadow colour from beside the scarf tassels where the colours matched my texture’s colours. If you can’t find a good place to sample just select a dark grey or black colour and work from there.

Create a new empty layer to paint your shadow on. ctrl/cmmd shift n, will give you a new layer as will going to “layer”, “new” and “layer”. I turned off my texture layer so I could see my original shadow and using a big soft brush I painted my new shadow over my old one. Use a big soft brush to give a nice fade to the edges of your shadow and don’t worry if your new shadow covers too much area, we will fix it soon.


Obviouly we don’t want the shadow over the baby, bowl or scarf so we need to mask it off.  Again,  I am lazy and I don’t want to do that when I already have a perfectly good mask I can copy. Select the layer mask on your texture layer. Right click on it and go to “add mask to selection”. You will now have a bunch of “marching ants” all over your image. Now go and select your new layer with the shadow painted onto it. Then go to the bottom of the layers panel to the layer mask button (rectangle with a black circle in it) and click on it. You should now have a copy of the mask from your texture layer on your shadow layer.


Now drop the opacity of your shadow layer until you like how it looks. If you need to, you can use a soft black brush on your shadow layer mask to remove more of the shadow.

10. Flatten, save and enjoy!

Here is my finished image


  • Fantastic! Thanks so much for sharing!ReplyCancel

  • Debbie

    Thank you so much for sharing. Love this photo 🙂ReplyCancel

  • This is a WONDERFUL tutorial! Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • This is awesome. Thank you for sharing!!!!!! 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Radene

    Great tutorial! Thank you! What key do you hit to turn the mask red? Can’t wait to try your techniques!!ReplyCancel

    • Dream Art

      Hi Radene. It is the | key. Mine is on the same key as the \. Hope that helps.ReplyCancel

  • Betty

    Thanks for the detailed tutorial! Your painting is perfect. I have trouble with the edges, since the soft brush feathers. What size brush did you use on the edges of the basket? And do you have any tips?

    Thanks again.ReplyCancel

    • Dream Art

      I use a large brush initially but to do the edges and details I use a teeny tiny brush and enlarge the photo a lot so I can see all the little details. I also use a graphics tablet and pen which may give more control than using a mouse.ReplyCancel

  • Natalia

    Brilliant! Thank you very much! Do you mind to share another tutorial you were talking about above? ThanksReplyCancel

  • Betty

    Thank you, Dream Art for the painting tips!ReplyCancel

  • Terri

    Sorry I can’t read your blog, the color if the front is very pale.ReplyCancel

    • Dream Art

      Sorry Terri. Only you and one other have commented on this. The font is in black (blackest black there is) so I can’t make it darker. I have changed the font in case that helps.ReplyCancel

  • Christie

    Thank you for sharing. Got some aha moments here 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Jorge Salum

    Nice tutorial .. it would be nice to be able to share it on pinterest, hope you soon can give us this option. Regards.ReplyCancel

  • Eric williams

    thanks for spending the time to help other photographers.How you manage to find the time with your work load.Well done you have come a long way since we first met ,looking back now what a journey .ReplyCancel

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