by Dave Habben

How to Color With Texture Using Photoshop

Artist Dave Habben's shared his method for sketching awesomely, getting inky and becoming confident in coloring choices in Photoshop, but this time he's turned to texture. Using his Intuos Pro, Habben breaks down an important component of his digital coloring process and shows how you can transform line art into a tactile tour de force. Here's the tutorial, in Habben's own words:

Hello again! For this post, I’m going to demonstrate a simple technique for bringing texture into your work using Layer Styles in Photoshop. I learned this tool from an art director early in my career and it’s been a steady part of my work ever since. Simple techniques like these can be a great way to explore new styles, not only for illustrations, but also for all your digital imaging, even photographs. Additionally, I’ll be writing this for experienced Photoshop users, so we’ll be skipping over explanations of how to create new layers, paste scanned images, etc.

To demonstrate adding texture to your work, I’ll be using an illustration I’ve titled “Boat-rocker”. To create these textures, I used scans of paper, a pillowcase, and a necktie. Great patterns can be found everywhere and on everything!

1. Pick a Paper Texture

I began with a line drawing done in Photoshop using my Wacom tablet. The drawing was kept on its own layer, allowing me to edit the color and background without changing the drawing itself.

Then, I add my scanned paper to set up the initial texture. This will give me the paper texture that will show through the color later on. To do this, simply create a new layer and paste in your scanned texture. I scanned a rough piece of sketchpad paper that would provide some nice grain to the otherwise smooth digital surface.

2. Fill Your Flat Color

Having a base layer for the texture helps me to see more clearly where the colors are going. So now that the background is in place, I can add layers of flat color. To do this, I create a new layer above the background but below the drawing layer. Then I fill in my color using the brush tool at full opacity.

3. Let Loose Some Layer Styles

Once the color is in place, we can start to make use of our background texture by using Photoshop’s Layer Styles. Double-clicking on a layer will bring up the Layer Style window. You can also bring this up by clicking the “fx” icon on the bottom of the layer palette.

Near the bottom of the Layer Styles window, you’ll see two bars in a section called “Blend if:” Sliding the arrows back and forth along the gradient bars will allow different levels of color to come through the layer you’re adjusting. Experiment with this by sliding the arrow and you’ll see what I mean.

The challenge of using these bars is that the change is dramatic. You’ve discovered by now that the color will disappear completely if you move the arrow one tiny bit too far down the slider. This is where my skilled art director stepped in and showed me the secret. By holding down the “Option” key (Mac) or “Alt” key (Windows), you can make the arrow split and when it does, the blending becomes much more subtle. Now instead of creating a hard texture, our color blends into the paper as though it was painted directly on the surface!

Using this technique, you can blend any layer into another much more precisely and bring out just the right amount of texture to give your desired effect. Not only does this allow my flat colors to take on a more organic feeling, but I can also apply it to my scanned textures. I simply place the scanned image on its own layer and then trim it down to fill the shape needed. Here you can see that I used my scan of a necktie to create the vest and pants of the main character and an old pillowcase to add interest to the boats oars. The technique I used on the layers of flat color works the exact same way on these layers, allowing me to gradually bring the background texture through.

Once all my colors and textures are added, I can fine-tune them to create the exact feel I’m looking for.

4. Use a Layer Mask to Remove Excess Color and Texture

The final step was to trim the background down to show through just where I wanted it. To accomplish this, I created a layer mask to block out the excess background texture. You can see this in the previous image where I’ve turned it off (the big red X) in the layer palette. The image below show the mask turned back on to achieve the desired look.

I hope you enjoyed this insight into using Layer Styles in Photoshop. I look forward to seeing your amazing creations!