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Now Carve the Image into WOOD

Synopsis: previously we debossed type into a fabric background. But to demonstrate the flexibility of layers and layer styles, try this...

We get a lot of questions from readers and Photoshop 911 emergencies dealing with wood. How to create it, how to carve it, how to finish it. So let's now use our SAME layers and layer styles and merely add a wood texture to see what happens...

Now, we're going to turn off all our layers to a completely blank file. Notice in the next diagram, I've also compressed the layers to hide the layer styles buttons. (The triangle to the right of the name toggles the layers styles open and closed.)

Now create a new layer and call it "Wood" ... this will be a quick demonstration on how your previous learning can pay off.

new layer

We'll fill this new layer with a brown color, and utilize the
Filters > Noise > Add Noise.

Check Gaussian for a more random effect, and check Monochromatic to eliminate the color spectrum from the noise. To add drama I've set the amount fairly high -- you may not wish to do it this way because it may turn out a little rude. That's up to you.

Now we'll turn it into wood grain by using the
Filter > Blur > Motion Blur.

Set yours up basically like our diagram and create a little wood. We kept the direction horizontal to make the grain long-ways, but you can set vertically as well. The amount really depends on the size and resolution of your file -- since we're working in low-res here, we have a low number. Looks sort of like wood, doesn't it?

Now you can return to the layers Palette and turn your type layer back on... PRESTO! You've got wood carving!

But this looks a little dead. We'll have to enhance it just a little bit further.

Now, Cmd/Click (Ctrl/Click) on the wood background to select all of it and choose Edit > Define Pattern. This will create a pattern made up of the entire background. Later we'll apply the pattern, but to the same file only once.

It's always a good idea to get into the habit of covering our back-side. So, for the sake of this tutorial I'm going to duplicate our original masked background layer (the fabric) to keep it safe. We actually wouldn't have to do this because we know what's going to happen. But until you fully understand the techniques, it's always good to make a copy.

Drag the Masked fabric layer to the "New Layer" button -- then drag this new layer above (on top of) the "Wood" layer we created earlier. For this effect, go up and turn off the Type layer (Click the Eye icon).

Now click on the fabric thumbnail in this new layer to make it the active layer. (never mind what it looks like, it will all get fixed in a moment.)

Now, choose Edit > Fill > Pattern ... and select the new pattern you saved above. Immediately you should see the wood pattern with the layer mask applied.

Now you can return to the Type layer, click its Eye icon and PRESTO ... better hand carved wood.

Nice finished wood

Now, this still looks a little flat, we want a bit more excitement to the wood, so at this point go to your Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation menu and in the resulting dialog increase your saturation until you like what you see. We added saturation and lightened for this finished version.

And Now For The Truth

Actually I played a little trick on you. When you compare both of the images we produced today, you'll instantly see the truism about online tutorials and the power of Photoshop.


I tricked you when I selected the fabric for the first part of the tutorial. I knew it was inappropriate for this effect -- too textured -- and would really suck when seen next to the wood. You immediately saw it, didn't you?

Cardinal Rule: no matter who writes the tutorial, or how many tips & tricks you learn, most of the lessons are not solutions for every situation. It takes discretion and taste to match the techniques with image with intent. Debossing is totally inappropriate for hand-marbled fabric. How about a polished metal like jewelry. Fabric will look much better with jewelry -- debossing or carving is much more appropriate for wood -- or stone.

So, when designing the piece, don't just look around for a new technique to try out. Select a technique that will enhance the image and reinforce the story the image is associated with. Design First; then illustrate to support and reinforce the design.

Finally, remember, there's nothing new about any of these techniques. Web sites continue to repeat them, book authors continue to regurgitate them again and again. And, if you don't believe me, then take a look at this Photoshop "Wood" tutorial I presented at the 1994 Multicom Expo, in Washington D.C., and then posted to the web site ten years ago. The ideas are the same. Only the software changes.

And that about wraps up another case study from the emergency calls at Photoshop 911 dot com

Good day!

Fred Showker


Folks, if you'd like to learn a technique to accomplish your Photoshop or Photoshop Elements vision, just contact me. If you've stuck in a Photoshop emergency, and you need answers to imaging problems, go and admit yourself at the Photoshop 911 Emergency Room.

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