Photoshop tutorial: Handmade textures and shading effects

Dominique Byron looks at how you can add depth to a flat-looking piece of digital artwork by combining textures with subtle shading and highlights

In this tutorial, Dominique Byron explains how to add textures to your work to give it a handmade feel, and how to combine these with shading and highlights to provide extra detail to your image. 

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Adding subtle textures to digital work makes it more interesting and can introduce depth to an image that looks quite flat. It also makes the piece appear less computer generated, adding a bit of mystery as to how it was created. This allows Dominique to add an organic flavour to her work’s geometric base.

This masterclass will teach you how to add textures and shading to specific areas of your work using your own papers and textures, while not compromising the colours and shapes of your image. As these techniques are applied over the top of your artwork, it means that they can be applied to all types of images, from vector illustrations to photographs.

Time to complete

1 hour


Photoshop CS2 or later


After I created all the basic shapes of the lobster, water/air and background in Photoshop (either using the Selection tools and Paint Bucket, or intersecting filled Shapes), it was time to apply texture and shading. 

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First, I split the image into sections by merging the shapes into layers. This was so I could work on one section at a time, and therefore reduce the amount of work I would have to redo if I made a mistake.


Next, I opened up an image of some scanned paper. I chose paper with a relatively fine and consistent grain so the image wouldn’t look patchy later on, and also made sure it was hi-res enough to cover the biggest section of my image. I then dragged the paper into my image window so it became a new layer.

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After moving the paper layer to the top of the image, I then Destaurated it (Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + U) to get rid of any colour, and changed the layer style to Multiply, to allow the colour of the image below to show through. 

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I made the colours of the image slightly brighter than I wanted in the final illustration, because adding texture darkens the artwork.


I then applied a Levels adjustment (Cmd/Ctrl + L) and manipulated the amount of black, grey and white in the texture using the sliders. Increasing the black and grey darkens the shadows of the texture, and with the layer style set to Multiply, boosting the white determines how much of the lobster image will show through. I made sure to check reference images of lobsters to ensure that the texture looked natural. 

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Next, I applied the texture to each section of the image. I did this by duplicating the texture layer multiple times, and placing one of these layers above each image section in the layer panel. I then made each texture layer a Clipping Mask (Cmd/Ctrl + Alt + G), so that the texture fit to each section separately. 

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With the texture in place, I then moved on to shading. To do this, I selected the Burn tool, changing the Brush hardness to 0%, setting the Range to Highlights and the Exposure to 7%.

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Deciding that my source of light would be from the front, I then burnt the texture layer in any areas shadows would occur, such as at the joints and edges.


Using the Selection tool, I picked out areas of the texture layers and used the Burn tool to add extra details such as angles and creases in the Lobster shell. Once all the shading was completed, I added highlights to the areas not in shadow by selecting areas such as the eyes, and using a white brush with a soft edge.

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I then added a texture to the black background for continuity, and another different, more uneven texture to the lobster’s main body to replicate a shell, this time without shading it. I sometimes layer between one and five textures in an image to get the desired look, but this only required two. Finally, I rounded the corners of the image, and my image was finished.

See also: 86 Best Photoshop tutorials

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