Sometimes the pieces of scrap paper I put under my rubber stamping projects to protect the work surface from ink end up with really interesting markings on them. Don't throw these pieces out - when they're dry, scan them and import them into Photoshop to make interesting textures that would be difficult if not impossible to duplicate with only digital tools. This tutorial assumes you are somewhat fluent in Photoshop already - I'm not attempting to teach Photoshop techniques step by step but rather to give you ideas on how to use your imported scanned textures to enhance your own artwork.
Tools and Materials
Paper scraps with ink remnants on them from rubber stamping projects
Computer with Photoshop
Create the Textures
After scanning, here is how to turn each image into a Photoshop texture layer.
Convert the image to grayscale.
Make a solid white layer and put it on the bottom.
Duplicate the original layer and make it invisible. Bring out the contrast in the copied layer as much as you can without degrading the image quality.
Use the Select > Color Range tool with a fuzziness setting of 50 to select the white in the background and delete the selected areas. Continue to select gray areas until the gray and white in the background are all gone and only the black or near black, is left.
Save the original layer in case you ever want it for subtler effects.
Repeat the process for all your textures and save them all in a layered file that you can refer to again and when you need textures.
Make Abstract Art
A technique I use frequently is to take one of my textures, use it to make a selection outline then fill the selection with a solid color. You can use the resulting colored texture as is or adjust the transparency for different effects. Here is how to create an abstract art sample like you see here.
Make a new Photoshop file and decide what composition you would like. Something simple and geometric works well with the very active and organic textures we'll be using. I chose a composition of slim vertical rectangles and filled them with selections from the textures I imported then trimmed them to the shapes I wanted. Any textures that you want to keep as a separate color when you colorize the image, keep on its own layer.
Use some colors from your chosen palette to make background color blocks to set off the textures.
Next turn your black selections into colors by selecting all the content on that layer with CTRL-A then moving the arrow key up and down one time to make a selection. Save the selection outline if you like.
Make a new layer and make the black layer invisible. Use the eyedropper tool to select a color from your palette and fill in the selection. Repeat until all the textures are colorized.
Add a border if you like and your artwork is done!
Here is another example in which I used just one background color and used only layered colorized textures to build the composition. It's lots of fun to reposition the textures and move the layers up or down to see what looks the best!
Enhance a Photograph
A couple of my scanned textures had some frame-like qualities that could be used to bring interest to certain areas of an image, so I looked for a photo with a good focal point that could benefit from some emphasis. I chose this photo I took at Priory Chapel while on a modern architecture tour with ModernSTL.
First I pasted in a texture with some broad areas, moved it around until I liked the composition, then made a selection from it and filled with a solid brown color. I adjusted the transparency on the layer and played with the hue and saturation until I was satisfied with the effect. I made copies of both layers to save in case I wanted to revert at some point then merged them together.
I pasted in another texture and moved it around until I liked the composition, then made another selection. This time, instead of making a new layer to fill with a solid color, I stayed on the merged layer and hid the selection outlines with CTRL-H. Then I used the burn tool with the range midtones and the exposure 10% with large soft brush size to burn in the texture. At these settings the effect will show up gradually which is exciting to see and fun to do! Keep going over the photo with the digital brush until you are pleased with the results, then deselect your outline.
For the last step I cut and pasted elements from one of my textures to make a grunge frame, then filled that in with black.
Make a Texture More Interesting
This scanned image made from a piece of fabric printed with rubber stamps is not bad but I thought it could be enhanced by one of my scanned-in textures.
I used the burn technique described above to make it a lot better!