I find the “process” of adding textures and other overlays to my images to be quite fun. Part of the allure is that its a new genre of digital art for me and I never really know what the heck is going to come from it… Some fail, some succeed and others go somewhere completely unexpected.  That’s what happened to this owl!

Click any image to embiggen…

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My idea for the image was to take this very graphic owl photograph and add a forest texture to give the illusion of the owl in a forest. This is already a departure from the normal approach, where you add a texture layer to grunge, or tint an image in some artistic way. See my original post via Denise Ippolito for a refresher on this concept. My original high key image had no background per se and although I love it as it, I always want more. Don’t we all? I didn’t have the right foresty image to use as a texture and so I looked through some of the stock texture images that you can find online. Most of these images I found would work fine if I just wanted to composite my owl in to a forest. I was wanting something more artistic. My moral compass on modifying images moves rather freely with the only real no-no, is putting a subject in a different setting. I’m OK with “fixing” wing tips and feet and other Photoshop gardening, but I don’t like huge additions or subtractions that make the viewer think this is what I saw and photographed when it was not. An artistic and obviously no longer photo real presentation is fair game for anything you can dream up…

Since I could not find the image(s) I needed for plan A, I went veering off course with plan b. I decided to use another very graphic image of a forest in the fall that I made with a vertical blur technique in camera.

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Since this was going to end up being very graphic, I wanted to punch up the colors so I used the Brilliance/Warmth filter in Nik Software’s  Color EFEX Pro 4 to punch it up.

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I added the texture layer to my image and I experimented with the Blending Options and found multiply was the best choice for this project. I also felt like the forest was too dominant and my owl looked like he was in jail and not in a forest.

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I took the jail bars err, I mean the trees out of the forest. Can we still call it a forest? Goodness, but Content Aware Fill in Photoshop may be the awesomest gardening tool ever!

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I also felt like the original owl composition was wrong for the “forested” look I wanted so, I reversed things and I added the owl on top of the forest.

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Fortunately my image was high key and so I could knock out the white with the Blending Options menu and use Blend if Grey slider to get rid of the white background. This gave me a much smoother blend. I suppose I could have just gone back and used the un-cropped version of the owl here, but then I could not have told you how to do in Photoshop.

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Much better, but now that my owl is flying in the forest, the perch that he was landing on is a distraction…clone tool to the rescue.

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Hmm, OK now what can I do to it. I think it is still a bit flat and so, I’m going to add some more depth by using a another Photoshop filter from Fractalius. Play, play, and then play some more here. This filter is super easy, but the effects are quite variable and a bit unpredictable. The key lessons, use a layer and the opacity slider is your best friend.

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I actually really like this crazy version, but it wasn’t what I wanted to do today. I tamed it by setting the opacity  to 28%. In doing so, the Fractalius layer had the unexpected, but welcome effect of bringing back the forest!

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I still wasn’t done playing…my inner child was on a role of 3rd grade proportions! Let’s see what my filters from Topaz labs can do to it. I actually did have a plan and that was to brighten it up and see if I could get a bit more depth. I used their Micro Contrast Enhancement Filter found in Topaz Details 2. I just went default here, there are a zillion options, but I was already happy with what I got.

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One more quick adjustment in Photoshop, I tweaked it a bit more with levels, curves and vibrance…

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Lastly….I signed it!

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This technique is on the advanced side of the spectrum, but if you have a working knowledge of Photoshop, you should be able to make it work for you. Of course, I’ve also used several filters that are not free and that makes this one out of reach for the casual fan to play along.

Questions? Comments? Concerns? Leave a comment, I answer them all.