Last week I showed you a quick example of what a photo looks like when you add a texture overlay layer to it in Photoshop and I thought I'd explain the process in just a bit more detail. It's really a very simple procedure and it can create some very fun and interesting effects. If you do any kind of graphic arts work or design brochures or newsletters, using texture overlays can be a nice way to customize an otherwise ordinary shot--making a new photo look old, etc.
Basically you only need two things to create the effect: a photo that you want to add a texture too and a texture layer. You can either create your own textures by photographing interesting textures (a piece of canvas or fabric, a close-up of barn siding, a rusted old metal sign surface, etc.) or you can buy them. I bought the texture show here from the FloraBella Collection--they're inexpensive and beautifully done (and you get them in 300 dpi, so if you need to reproduce or print your photos, you'll have all the resolution you need). The set of textures that I bought had three different versions (cold, warm, B&W) of 25 different textures--so 75 textures in all at full resolution for $40. A steal if you ask me. But again, you can easily create your own and that's a fun learning experience. If you are shooting your own textures, try to use side lighting because that will bring up the three dimensionality or "nap" of the textured surface.
To combine your photo and the texture simply open your photo and the texture (separately) in Photoshop (or another editing program) and then use the move tool to drag the texture onto the photo image. Then use the opacity slider (top right of the layers palette) to adjust the density of the texture until you get the level of texture that you want. In the shot above I used an opacity of 29%. You can then also play with layer-blending modes to further enhance the blend (though as I recall I just used the "normal" blending mode for this shot). I did crop the image a tad after combining the two layers.
If you look at the three images above you'll see a) the finished combination b) the before photo and c) just the texture. One thing you have to be sure of is that you have both your original photo and the texture set to the same resolution and color space. Color space usually isn't that big an issue since and I just override the texture's color space to match it with the photo (you'll get a warning screen automatically that will do this for you). If the texture happens to be larger than the photo, you can move it around (again, using the move tool) until it "sits" on the photo where you want it. When you have the image you want, flatten it in that position (or lock the two layers) so that you don't move it around accidentally.
Creating the right positioning and opacity is really a very visual and instinctive thing and it's a lot of fun to play with the various blending modes. The thing I like about the final image here is that it gives the lighthouse photo a kind of "found" old postcard look--like the kind of image you might find while going through a bin of old snapshots at a yard sale.
Any questions, just post a comment and I'll get to them. By the way, unrelated note, I saw my book Exposure Photo Workshop on an Apple iPad MB292LL/A Tablet (16GB, Wifi) the other day--Wow, is that cool! I've already decided to write my next book for iPad and Kindle only--no print version! No trees will die for my next book!