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Abstract reality to extract nature's hidden textures

Added on Monday 27th of August 2007 02:37 am EST


Adobe Photoshop 7/CS/CS2

Operating Systems:

Macintosh, Microsoft Windows


Oftentimes there’s more than meets the eye in a given photo, but our eyes are trained to recognize only what’s in plain sight. We’ll show you photos of five ordinary, natural objects and describe how—with the help of Photoshop filters and layer blending modes—we captured an alternate perspective, discovered new potential, and released the hidden textures shown in the figure above.



Nature is a great source of inspiration for many photographers and artists. Trying to extract an alternate perspective from an ordinary scene keeps our creative juices flowing. Photoshop helps us take that quest even further with its snappy filters and layer blending modes. In our experiments, we’ve come up with some interesting textures of our own. We’ll show you how we did it so you can create these and other unique textures for your designs.

We’ve provided low-resolution finished files for you to follow along. Simply download the file from the URL given above, and extract the files texture1.psd, texture2.psd, texture3.psd, texture4.psd, and texture5.psd. (Images provided by PhotoSpin. Some images modified for educational purposes.)

All of the files have a copy of the original image if you want to practice, but keep in mind the settings we provide in this article are based on 300 ppi high-resolution files.


Texture 1: Blue Waves

For our first texture, we started with an ornate shell, which as you can see in Figure A, has an interesting form and pattern.




First we zoomed in and cropped out a section of the shell that contained the most contrast and texture, as shown in Figure B.


Then, we set the foreground to white and the background to a light blue, and chose Filter > Sketch > Bas Relief. We set the Detail setting to 13, Smoothness to 3, and chose Bottom from the Light pop-up menu, for results shown in Figure C.



Texture 2: Plastic Giraffe

The giraffe is one of nature’s wonders with its long neck and tall skinny legs, but for this technique we’ll focus on its patterned fur, as shown in Figure D.




We selected Filter > Sketch > Chrome, and set the Detail setting to 4, Smoothness to 10, and then clicked OK. Then, we chose Filter > Artistic > Plastic Wrap, and set the Highlight Strength to 15, Detail to 2, Smoothness to 15, and clicked OK for results shown in Figure E.



To colorize the new texture, we added a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer. We set the Hue slider to 108, the Saturation slider to 40, the Lightness slider to 26, and clicked OK for results shown in Figure F.



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