Turn Stock Photos into Textures with Gimp

A lot of times, it is hard to find the type of texture you want to use for your project already as you want it. Many times I end up making very nice textures by taking a lot of raw stock texture photos, combining them into the same image as different layers, and then playing with transparencies, masking, and color. Some nice results can be achieved quickly this way, so let's do it! Note that for this particular guide, I am using Gimp but the concepts are all the same in Photoshop. First, I'm going to to think about what I want to make and find some stock textures to use. I want something gritty, dingy, and some scratches. So here is the first stock texture I selected:

Our First Stock Photo for Our Texture

What I like about this image is the scratches and surface, not particularly the yellow and red colors, so I'm going to get rid of those and turn it to just grey. There's many ways to do this, but I'll go to Colors - Colorize... and then turn the Saturation all the way down. Here is our greyscale image:

The Color is Removed

Now, let's grab some more stock textures and paste them in as new layers. I typically just open the other image I want in Gimp, press Ctrl+C to copy it, then go back to my texture project and click Ctrl+Shift+V to paste as a new layer. Here is my second source image:

Our Second Stock Photo for Our Texture

Now I am going to remove the color in the same way and then I need to add some transparency, otherwise having multiple layers does us no good. I could just lower this layer's opacity, but that will make all pixels evenly transparent and I want some things to show through more then others. Navigate to Layer - Transparency - Color to Alpha. This is where we can turn a particular color into pure transparent, or the alpha channel. All other colors will respond accordingly with partial transparencies. Colors very close to your selection will be more 'see through' thenothers farther away. Here is the Color to Alpha dialog:

Color to Alpha Dialog

At the bottom of the dialog is where you select the color you want to be transparent. I like to usually select the most common background color of my layer, then things like scratches or variations will show through more. Here is my image, the top layer now having an alpha channel:

Our Texture Now Contains Two Layers

If you look at the image above, you can see the scratches from both layers now showing. I want to add more, so using the same method, let's add more! Here is our texture now with a layer of a stock cement photo I added. I then removed the color and added a greyish color to transparency:

Our Texture Now Contains Three Layers

You could do this all day, but I think I am done. The other great tool in combining any layers is layer masking. Right-click on any of your layers and select 'Add Layer Mask' To the right of your layer, you now have a black and white only layer. The idea is pretty simple, pure black is completely transparent and pure white is completely opaque - in terms of the current layer. Add a white layer mask and then brush in some black where you don't want that layer to be present for some nice effects. Here, I have added yet another layer from a stock photo, but then brushed my layer mask around the edges with black:

Another Layer with Some Masking

Go ahead and go wild, using a combination of layers, masking, brushes, colors, and gradients, and you can get some nice results. Here is how my layers dialog is looking for my finished texture:

Layers Dialog of Finished Texture

Our new texture is no fun without doing anything with it! At this point you could texturize a photograph or art piece with it if you wanted. I'll add a shell and starfish from some photographs I took at the beach:

Do Something with Your Texture!

All done, go try it!