Warming up Some Tulips

In case you don’t live in the DC area, it’s winter here now. The days are shorter, the light goes faster, and there are only so many trips I can make to the National Arboretum or client gardens in search of new images. Today we even had some light snow, but too late in the afternoon to make venturing out with my camera feasible. (Maybe tomorrow.)

So recently I’ve been experimenting with some techniques in Photoshop to add a little warmth and light to some older photos in my way-too-large image library. (Nothing like a 300 MB PSD file to clog up your operating system’s speed, right?) Here’s a 2009 photo  of three tulips, taken in my dining room, where I didn’t have to worry about wind but where the light conditions  and background were less than optimal.

Textures in Photoshop

Three pink tulips with a blah background (i.e., my dining room walls).

And here’s the “after” shot:

Textures in Photoshop, Flypaper Textures

‘Tulips Sea and Skies’ is now one of the images I use for custom note cards. (Without the annoying copyright line, of course)

How did I do it? With the help of two “texture” files from Flypaper Textures, called ‘Sakura Skies’ and ‘Tempest Seas.’

Textures in Photoshop, Flypaper Textures

The two textures I used from Flypaper Texture’s “Spring Painterly” pack to get to the finished image.

In Photoshop CS5 (I just upgraded to CS6 but this technique should work with almost any version of the program, or in Photoshop Elements as well), I used ‘Skies’ as the first layer over the background image, set the blending mode to ‘Darken’ and reduced the opacity of that layer to 80%. (I then used a layer mask to make the edges of the tulips a little clearer.)

Then I added the ‘Tempest Seas’ texture file as another layer, changed the blend mode to Overlay, and set the opacity to 70%. With a final Curves layer adjustment to darken some of the lighter areas and lighten the tulips, I was finished. (For a good online tutorial on blending, click here.)

These texture packs I bought aren’t cheap, although with a little looking around you may find some discount codes to lower the purchase price. But they are very high quality, large images (400 px square at 300 dpi) that have enough variety in each one that you can move them around until you get the effect you want.

If you look online, you may also find some free textures to use, including on Flickr – but be careful to check what rights have been reserved or requests made of potential downloading before proceeding. You can also make your own by taking photos of skies, water, grasses, crumpled paper, or anything else that you think might work. This is all about experimenting, and it’s very much a matter of personal taste.

I’ll close with another image of mine, from the Arboretum last fall, where I thought the use of some textures enhanced the overall effect (the textures are Heather and Necropolis, again from Flypaper Textures).

Flypaper Textures, textures in Photoshop

An image of the Capitol Columns with wildflower plantings, enhanced with texture overlays.

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7 Comments on “Warming up Some Tulips”


  1. I also live and garden near DC. I’m enjoying the cold and bit of snow. 🙂 Love your photos! Much more attractive than my brown dormant garden.

  2. Liz Reed Says:

    I have to say I love both tulip shots. The static or ‘blah’ background allows the beautiful subtle tones of the tulips to speak and it holds their voluptuous shape. The textured tulips create a landscape kind of depth , beautiful in a totally different way. How are we ever going to live long enough to implement all the choices PS offers!

    (Ah, the image library. I keep thinking I can do all the organizing I need in CS6 bridge, but I’m close to springing for Lightroom)

    btw, I just finished an image I created with a home made texture. I used a shot of the light on a swimming pool , blurred and bokeh-ed to bits, then the screen blending mode. Then levels, a bit of fuzzy white paint……………

    • Melissa Says:

      Go for Lightroom. You won’t regret it. I do 95% of my processing in it, including preparing images for the blog. I still need Photoshop for some things, but not nearly as much.

  3. susan greif Says:

    I don’t understand the technology involved, but love the shots of the tulips.

  4. Jeff Says:

    This is so cool. I will have to try it. I love to create notecards from photos of the garden but these will be so much more interesting than straight photography. Thanks for sharing.

    • Melissa Says:

      A word of advice – make sure the images you use this technique on are simple and/or have neutral backgrounds – I’ve found the textures don’t show up as well on “busy” images.


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