Getting Creative with Textures and Overlays

Church at the New Richmond Heritage Center

This church was captured on a very gray day the end of October and with all the negative space in the sky, I thought there might be room to add something creative.

Image Prep

First, I cloned out the building intruding on the right with content-aware fill and then cloned out all the parked cars in the background.  I also wanted to make this a little less photographic with all the detail, so I used Topaz Labs’ Simplify plug-in and used a preset I created.  I then added a color balance adjustment layer and moved the red-cyan slider towards the cyan side.

ClonedTopaz SimplifyColor Balance

Adding Textures

The real fun started with adding textures and overlays on separate layers. The first layer was from a digital scrapbook kit. I loved the color and texture and put it on a layer above the background. It was not large enough to fill the frame, so did a free transform to scale it up to fill the image. This totally obscured the background until I started trying blend modes to change the way this layer would interact with what was below. Although I sometimes use multiply and darken, more often the contrast blend modes of overlay and soft light work best, and I usually modify opacity. With this layer, I ended up using hard light for the blend mode and kept the opacity at 100%. I like what this did to the sky but not what it did to the church and especially the foreground.  I added a layer mask and with a soft black brush at 100% opacity, I brushed out the effect in the foreground and church.

Scrapbook TextureScrapbook Texture before masking0Scrapbook Texture with MaskScrapbook Texture Masked

Adding More Clouds

I wanted a little more interest in the sky so I went through my collection of cloud photos I’ve taken over the years and put this one at the top of the stack and transformed it to fit. This time I used Soft Light for the blend mode and kept the opacity to 100%. I made a layer mask and brushed away the cloud layer from the church.

CloudsClouds Masked

Making a Moon

I liked this, but thought the sky needed a little more interest. I could have taken a photograph of a moon that I had but I didn’t like the idea of introducing something so photographic compared to the rest of the composition. I made a moon by adding a new blank layer at the top of the layer stack and created a circular selection with the elliptical marque tool and then filled it with white. I gave the moon a Gaussian blur to remove the sharp edges, which would have drawn too much attention. Since I didn’t want a full moon, I added a layer mask to the moon layer and with a soft, black brush, I masked away until I got what I liked.  Making the moon on a separate layer made it possible to reposition it anywhere in the composition by just moving it around, and using a layer mask to change the moon left more future options open.

MoonThe moon layer in PhotoshopImage with the moon

Final Adjustments

NightnCurves AdjustmentWith a moon showing the whole image should be darker to give the feeling that this was at night and to make it more dramatic. I added a curves adjustment layer to darken the brighter areas, using the target adjustment tool to pull down the highlights. This also darkened the shrubs at the base of the church and so I masked the effect out in that area.Curves adjustment to darken edges

To help keep the eye in the picture, I added one last curves adjustment layer to darken the edges. I pulled down the darks, created a layer mask and filled the layer mask with black. This black layer mask prevented the adjustment from showing, so I took a large, soft white brush at low opacity and gradually added the effect in where I wanted it.

 The Final Result

Church composition with textures and overlays


This entry was posted in Photoshop Creativity.


  1. Jan Rollow March 29, 2014 at 12:31 pm #

    Amazing. Mostly, I have no idea what you are talking about, but the photos show me. So cool. You are better than the folks who do this for a living!! Yay! for you. x0

  2. Michael Huber March 29, 2014 at 4:12 pm #

    Great job Terry. This might be a fun mini-tutorial sometime….

    • Terry March 29, 2014 at 8:42 pm #

      Sounds like fun, Michael.

  3. Marilyn Rau March 29, 2014 at 4:51 pm #

    Terry I look at this and remember the day we were there if it was that day? I would love to try a few of these techniques.

    • Terry March 29, 2014 at 8:42 pm #

      Yes, Marilyn. We were there together. One of the great benefits of having someone like you as a shooting buddy who knows where to go.

  4. Judith March 30, 2014 at 12:14 am #

    Terry, this is just so beautiful. Just when I thought it was the best it could be, I saw more. You really made a masterpiece. Such a lovely, peaceful scene. I need to come back and catch up on your beautiful work. It is truly amazing.

    • Terry March 30, 2014 at 6:20 pm #

      Thanks, Judith! Hope all is well with you.

  5. Janet March 31, 2014 at 6:07 am #

    Well, you made a real treasure out of that photo, Terry. Great job and thank you for telling us how you did it.
    Hope all is well with you. Spring has come early here to California and flowers are in bloom everywhere.

    • Terry March 31, 2014 at 7:32 am #

      Thanks, Janet. I am so jealous, since we still have big piles of snow around here.

  6. jane April 1, 2014 at 9:41 pm #

    just found this tonight and have so enjoyed looking and reading all the good stuff …It makes quilting seems very boring……..I made cotton sun dresses for little girls in Mexico today I am exhausted this evening….looking forward to seeing you next month……jane

    • Terry April 2, 2014 at 7:14 am #

      So happy you stopped by here, Jane.