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Photography

How to Use the Texture Tool to Enhance Detail in Lightroom

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Adobe recently updated Lightroom with a new Texture feature: an adjustment tool that targets medium-frequency details. It's available for both global and local adjustments.

But what the heck does this new slider do? How is it different from all of my existing adjustment tools? Why is it important? In this tutorial, I'll show you how Texture differs and give examples of it in action.

Texture adjustment
This example of using the Texture slide brings out the details primarily in the bricks without oversharpening the entire photo.

Texture is already changing the way that I work with images. I'm mixing and matching it with Dehaze, Clarity, Sharpening to refine details in a very precise way. Each of these tools brings a little something different to the table; I think you'll see that this new feature will quickly carve out a place in your adjustment tool-belt.

 

Where to Find the Texture Tool

The Texture tool is a new slider that you'll find in the Develop module, where most image corrections and adjustments take place. 

The Texture slider lives on the Presence panel near its detailed adjustment counterparts, Clarity, and Dehaze. Pull it to the right to add Texture to your image, or to the left to remove detail.

Texture added presence panel
Find the Texture slider in the Develop module on the Presence section.

You can also apply a Texture adjustment locally (that is, to parts of an image) using the Adjustment Brush. Learn how with the adjustment brush tutorial below:

What Does Texture Do?

In recent years, Adobe has steadily added new tools and features to Lightroom. How is this one different from the existing tools?

The best example of this is the Clarity tool. To many, it seemed redundant when it was introduced: the existing sharpening features were good enough to bring out details for most people, if they even did their sharpening in Lightroom (many still prefer Photoshop for sharpening). In time, however, Clarity has become a go-to tool for many photographers to add a bit of extra punch to an image. 

In the intro to this tutorial, I showed a before and after image with texture applied. The example below compares that same image with Clarity and Texture adjustments.

Clarity Version versus Texture Version
I think the difference in the images is most noticeable in the brick texture; Texture tends to focus more on the details in the midtones while Clarity enhances edges.

In this image, what stands out to me is this: the clarity adjustment enhances everything, while the texture adjustment focuses on details in the mid-range specifically. In the example with the Texture adjustment, the sky stays more faithful to the original capture.

Another interesting comparison is to view the adjustments in 100% zoomed versions of an image. In the example below, it looks to me like the Clarity adjustment has enhanced edge contrast—lightening the light tones and darkening the dark tones where light and dark areas meet. With the Texture tool, the image stays more true to the original exposure.

100 detail example

In general, what I see from spending time with Texture is that it tends to bring out more details in mid-tones. Clarity is an overall enhancement tool, while texture uses the structure of the image to focus on the details that matter the most.

Luckily, Lightroom's "non-destructive" approach to editing means that you can experiment as much as you want with all of the tools. 

Bokeh Protection with the Texture Tool

The Clarity slider that we saw above quickly gained traction with photographers, but I've heard some editors only half-jokingly call it a cheat code for images because it so quickly improves a photo. And it's easy to go too far with Clarity.

Going too heavy on the Clarity slider can overemphasize certain areas of the photo, which means you'll sometimes need to use Clarity with the adjustment brush instead. This is particularly true with how it tends to oversharpen bokeh

Bokeh is the out-of-focus areas of a photo, particularly noticeable with light sources, wide apertures, longer focal lengths. The Texture slider handles bokeh better and doesn't overemphasize.

In the stock photo from Envato Elements below, you can see an example of how the Texture tool handles bokeh. From left-to-right, see the original image, a clarity increase, and a texture increase. The differences are particularly noticeable in the 100% zoom inset.

Comparison with texture and bokeh
From left to right: original, clarity +100, texture +100. Note that the Texture tool brings out slightly less detail in the Bengal cat but also doesn't oversharpen the bokeh.

By nature, bokeh should feel somewhat out-of-focus. Pull the Clarity slider too high, and suddenly, the bokeh is distracting. The Texture tool adds detail to the subject without overemphasizing bokeh.

Apply Negative Texture for Softening

There's an inclination to use the Texture tool to increase the details in a photo. But sometimes, you're looking for a softer and more ethereal feel in your images.

Don't forget that you can apply Texture as a negative adjustment. Pull the slider to the left to "remove" Texture from the image. In the example below, you can see this effect in action.

Negative texture
The negative Texture adjustment in this photo softens up the details without smearing the entire photo into a pseudo-watercolor.

Negative Texture can soften up the details in a photo without turning it into a watercolor imitation. Use it to selectively pull back on the details in an image. This works well for portraits, too.

Easily Add Style To Your Images with Lightroom Presets

As you've seen throughout this tutorial, the digital darkroom has evolved to include tools that were hard to imagine even a few years ago. More than ever, apps like Adobe Lightroom help you experiment with your images with Develop presets.

Presets are powerful because they give you ideas for your images. Instead of starting with an image and pulling sliders in every direction, use a single click preset to apply a complete overhaul to your images.

The best place to source Adobe Lightroom presets is Envato Elements, the all-you-can-download service for creatives. When you subscribe to Elements, you have access to over 300 packages of Lightroom presets, each of which includes dozens of individual styles.

Envato Elements
Envato Elements includes thousands of Adobe Lightroom presets that you can use to style your images with a single click.

Combine these presets with the Texture tool you saw in this tutorial to style your images. You can use a preset to get ideas for a style, then dial in the Texture slider to create exactly the look you had in mind.

Keep Learning Lightroom

In this tutorial, you learned more about Adobe Lightroom's new Texture tool. This slider has already found a place in my workflow for pulling more detail in images without oversharpening it. As is the case with most visual tools, it can be a bit hard to accurately describe exactly what it does, but the results are self-evident.

Experiment with the Texture tool to see how it can change your images. Check out the learning resources below to keep learning more about adjusting and styling your images in Adobe Lightroom.

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