How do you make a texture appear reflective using Photoshop?
Gold textures can be very tricky to create. Unlike most materials, foils aren't easily photographed because of unwanted reflections, and worse still they don't create any reflections at all when scanned with a flatbed scanner. So it would seem that the best option is to artificially create them from scratch with image manipulation, but then how do you make a texture appear reflective in Photoshop?
If you'd rather skip the tutorial and download 30 high quality pre-made gold foil textures you can download our premium pack here.
Launch Photoshop and create a new document. Make the dimensions square and quite large, I suggest 3000 x 3000 pixels.
The first step is to place our base texture for the foil effect. This can be any type of prexisting texture, such as paper, card or generic grunge. I found that the Grunge Paper Textures on Medialoot work very well. You can download the texture used in this tutorial for free here.
When you have your texture place it into your document as a Smart Object, and resize to fill the entire canvas (don't worry about quality loss).
Apply a small 5 Pixel Gaussian Blur effect to smooth out the details of the texture.
Select Filter Gallery from the Filter menu and find apply an Ocean Ripple effect (under Distort). If you are using the grunge texture supplied then a Ripple Size of 6 and Magnitude of 20 should create the desired effect. If not, you may need to experiment with the settings.
The Filter Gallery effect should be above the Gaussian Blur in the Layers Panel:
Create a new Gradient Fill layer via the Layer > New Fill Layer menu.
Select the default Black to White gradient and set the Angle to -105°. This is to even out the lighting and bring out the shadows in the lower left corner of the texture.
Set the Blending Mode of the gradient layer to Soft Light and the Opacity to 70%.
Create another new Gradient Fill layer via the Layer > New Fill Layer menu.
Create a subtle gold gradient from #DBA76C to #EDCBA1 as shown below and set the Style to Reflected, then the Angle to 120° and tick the Reverse checkbox.
Set the Blending Mode of the gradient layer to Color and the Opacity to 75%. This will change the color of the texture to gold.
Create a new Curves Adjustment Layer and tweak the curve slightly at the top and bottom.
Create a new Levels Adjustment Layer and enter 80 for the Shadows Level and 230 for the Highlights Level.
Then create a new Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer and reduce the Opacity by -20.
The Layers panel so far should look like this:
You should now have a very nice reflective gold foil texture.
To make a silver foil texture, we can simply modify the gold texture. First create a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer and enter +153 for Hue, -94 for Saturation and +24 for Lightness. We don't want the silver texture to be completely greyscale, it should have a slight blue-ish tint.
To give the silver foil a more reflective effect, create a new Layers Adjustment Panel and set the Shadows Level to 37 and Highlights Level to 225.
You can group these adjustments together in order to easily toggle between gold and silver by hiding and showing the 'Silver' group.
In real life, silver foil has a higher tendency to catch reflections than gold. In order to make the silver foil effect more realistic we can emulate some reflections. Start by grabbing a random image from a free photo source such as Unsplash. I chose to use this photo of a bear.
Convert the photo to a Smart Object and apply a Gaussian Blur with 150 Pixel Radius.
Set the Blending Mode of the photo layer to Color and adjust the Opacity until the reflections are barely visible.
As you can see, this technique creates a rather convincing reflective gold metallic foil effect by only using one base texture, gradients and adjustment layers. This effect can be recreated with almost any base texture for different results, however you may want to stick with subtle grunge and paper or card textures for the best results.
Metal textures can seem difficult when you're first designing them but they end up being such a nice abstract background that they are definitely worth the effort.
Don't want to bother with the tutorial? This pack features 30 gold and silver foil textures with a glossy, reflective finish. They make beautiful backgrounds and can also be used to mockup hot foil stamping (tip: apply them to text with a clipping mask). The pack includes 15 gold and 15 silver high resolution images.