Sunday, August 1

CoffeeShop Still Life Texture Tutorial!

I know you have seen those beautiful textured still life images all over Flickr and the internet. I want to show you how to achieve a similar look without a fancy photography setup and using free textures. All you need is something pretty to photograph.  In this case I picked a pear off our tree. 

First things first, you have to photograph your image. I had to work on these screenshots while my boys were napping, so I went from picking the pear for these shots to editing the final print in less than 30 minutes. So I didn't have much time to prepare.

I wanted a soft colored background and all I could find was some left-over soft faux minkee fleece I had used for diaper covers back when I sewed my own cloth diapers. A funny fact; did you know I invented my own cloth diaper pattern, the RRP (Rita's Rump Pocket)? In fact, before I started really getting into photo editing and before CoffeeShop, I started a blog to share my free pattern. I still get emails about it all of the time! Yes, you knew I was a nerd, but now you know that I am a super nerd...

So here is a photo of my setup. It was quite fancy, some fleece thrown on a child's chair.  The fleece started blowing toward the cup when I took this photo, so imagine it smoothly sitting against the chair. I made sure to have my pear and cup a foot or more from the back of the fabric (which unfortunately has bumps) and I took the photo with a wide aperture (I believe it was 2.0 on my Canon 50mm f/1.8). The porch was shaded and there was some indirect light coming from the left of the pear.

Here is my SOOC  image  (straight from the camera).

This was a RAW file and I edited it in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2 using my free Color Pop preset. The cup was completely blown, especially on the right side. So I had to adjust the setting for the cup, which made the pear look really dark.

I used the Adjustment Brush (K) and clicked Auto Mask (so the settings would only affect the pear) and added brightness, clarity and some exposure to the pear, stem and leaf. I also cropped it a bit. You could do these same types of edits in Photoshop or Photoshop Elements of course, but I love doing my initial basic edits on RAWs in LR.  It is so incredibly fast and easy.

Those annoying bumps on the fabric are driving me crazy!  You can use thick paper for backgrounds or any fabric.  Just don't use dotted faux minkee unless you love that look...

But I am not going to worry about the dots because I am adding a texture from ShadowHouse Creations called Chaos.  So now I will export my image and open it in CS4 (PSE would work equally well). 

I didn't want any color tint on my texture this time, so I clicked Shift-Ctrl-U to desaturate it. You can also add a levels adjustment layer if you want to adjust contrast. I didn't because this texture didn't need it for this image.

I dragged the texture on top and put it in overlay blending mode at 100% opacity. You can try soft light, screen, multiply, vivid light, or any blending mode you think would look nice with your image. Adjust the opacity or fill to taste.

You can see I have two more layers in the middle turned off. Those were my final adjustments and are explained below.

I wanted to sharpen my image a bit, so I did a high pass sharpening. I have a free action here, but in this case I just pressed Ctrl-J to make a duplicate of my background (the pear) and then Filter, Other, High Pass, and set the radius until I saw the details of  the pear pop up. I usually use 5 or 10 for higher resolution images. I put this layer in overlay mode and adjusted the opacity to taste.

I also wanted to burn in the left side of my cup because it was getting lost. So I made another duplicate of my background (Ctrl-J) and then selected my burn tool (click O and make sure you have the burn tool selected; midtones, 50% opacity, soft brush)and I gently painted over the cup on the top left and right side.

If the texture on the cup bothers you, it is so easy to remove.  In the next image I simply added a layer mask to the texture layer (download my free action here if you have PSE).  I then clicked to select the layer mask and then painted over the cup with a soft black brush.  I used 30% opacity (normal mode) and painted over the cup until I removed most of the texture.

I also decided the cup looked too dull after doing that, so I added a Levels adjustment layer and adjusted the gamma (midtone) and highlights up until the cup glowed and then filled the layer mask with black to cover up the effect.  Then I grabbed a soft white low opacity brush and clicked to select the black mask and painted over the cup to brighten it.

When you do this be sure to blow your image up to 100% so that you don't have obvious lines where you removed texture.  Start with a low opacity brush and gently brush a few times.  This was a quickie job and I could have been more careful.

Easy wasn't it! If you want to play with my pear SOOC image while doing this tutorial, you can download it here.


  1. How I love to play with textures especially on still life photos I have taken of my garden or flowers I have been given or beautiful fruit like you did!

    I am editing a wedding right now that I helped my daughter with and after we finish the delivery (and blog it), I soooo want to play with the detail photos and textures, Jerry's are always so wonderful!

    Thanks for the inspiration break.

    Virginia Smith

  2. Very cool! I've only done the basics with texture. I never thought to remove the color. Brilliantly simple!

  3. Way cool!

    Home of Rita's Rump Pocket, ya gotta love it!

  4. Thanks for the lesson. I can't wait to try it. You do make it sound so, so simple!

  5. Rita,
    that is really cool. It shows that you really don't need to have a lot of fancy equipment to make art.
    Thanks for the tutorial.


  6. Can you explain how when and where you use the shift-control-u to get rid of the color? I tried it after I placed the texture on my photo but it doesn't remove the color. Many thanks.


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