Lightroom’s new Texture control

In Lightroom 8.3, Adobe introduced a new effect to control Texture. It is available both as a global adjustment (located in the Presence section of the Basic panel in the Develop module) and as a local adjustment (as a free-from brush, radial filter, and graduated filter).

It complements the Clarity and Dehaze controls and interestingly, Adobe placed it as the first one of these three controls – at first I cursed that decision, because years of muscle memory (going to the Clarity control with the mouse) needed to be undone. ;-) After using it for a while now, I think this was quite a conscious decision. Or at least I’d hope so, because if there’s anything that I’m seeing in a lot of photos, it’s Clarity being applied too generously as a global adjustment.

The Presence section of Lightroom's Basic panel in the Develop module
The Presence section of Lightroom’s Basic panel in the Develop module, with the new Texture control at the top.


Texture Explained

Adobe’s Max Wendt has written an excellent article that introduces, explains and thoroughly illustrates the new Texture control, plus where its similarities and differences to Sharpening and/or Clarity are – From the ACR Team: Introducing the Texture Control. Julianne Kost also has some examples on her blog, with little animated GIFs to illustrate the differences: The Texture Slider in Lightroom Classic.

My own evaluation of Texture matches what’s described in Wendt’s article: in general, the effect is really well suited for work on portraits, in particular skin and hair. When it comes to landscapes, it’s easy to produce an overcooked looking image with too much of it (but then again, that goes for Clarity as well) – overcooked HDR often suffers from too much midtones, and too much Texture leaves a look that reminded me of certain “crunchy” HDR presets. *shudder*

Emphasizing too much of the texture in a landscape photo somehow also has an effect on how I perceive the size of a landscape: too much of it makes the landscape look almost like a miniature to me!

A little bit of negative Texture in landscape photos on the other can be used to add a gentle “soft glow” effect, de-emphasizing fine detail – much better than when using negative Clarity! The look of a photo with overall good contrast but softened fine detail is very desirable to me, and I like what negative Texture can achieve here. Just look at the grass in the photo below – it’s lovely!

What I also really like about Texture (and this isn’t explicitly mentioned in Adobe’s article) is the fact that, unlike Clarity, it doesn’t have as much of a (perceived) effect on the Exposure because Texture primarily affects mid-tones. Negative Clarity is really useful to soften bright spots in a photo, for example – but it may leave a dulling drop of brightness. Negative Texture on the other hand softens without making these areas dull. Similarly, since positive Clarity increases edge contrast, it may lead to an unwanted brightening of highlights – which in turns leads to a perceived drop of saturation. Not very desirable with fine detail on colorful flowers, for example.

Texture for Flowers!

I already find myself using the new Texture control a lot on photos of flowers and plants, where pleasing out of focus areas matter just as much as a well-defined and focused subject. Most often, I’m applying a global negative Texture and/or Clarity, to then “paint it back” locally with the adjustment brush. It works really well. Here are three examples:

1. Flower Field

2. Close-up

3. Macro

I generally find myself using Lightroom’s Presence controls more often with a negative amount as a global adjustment, and then add it back selectively with local adjustments. In the examples above it’s negative Clarity and negative Texture, but even a small negative amount of Dehaze can look really good – it reduces contrast and fills in the shadows (which I found looks particularly good on night photos).

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Alexander S. Kunz is an expert, tutor and teacher for Adobe Lightroom in San Diego, California. His services are available both in person and online, using remote assistance/screen sharing software. Whether you're stuck with a problem in Lightroom and need help, want to learn Lightroom from the ground up, or need assistance setting up your computer, storage and backup for your photographic workflow - Alexander can help you. Please get in touch if you are interested!

All images and content © by Alexander S. Kunz, unless otherwise noted. No re-use without express written permission.

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9 thoughts on “Lightroom’s new Texture control”

    • Right, it works well for that too – but I found that too much of it on feathers will actually *reduce* what fine detail we perceive from them. Needs to approached with caution. :-)

  1. I know you do on-site instruction and consulting. Perhaps you might consider offering online videos or classes? Maybe take some of your themes (macros, trees, almost abstract landscapes, etc) and show how you processed them? (Not to ask for too much, but comments on composition would be great too.) If it does not devour too much of your time (I have no idea), that might be an affordable option for some of us.

    • Phew… I never thought about that, Susan. I’ll have to start looking at the technical basics. :) I do online tutoring/training for Lightroom with a screen sharing software too, but I have never recorded video. Thanks for the idea, Susan!

  2. After some initial problems getting LR updated, thanks to you Alex, I am now playing with the textures slider! :-) What you said about negative adjustments and selectively adding back was very helpful. I’m enjoying the slider – like any of those tools, the best way t o learn is to try it, over and over, and gradually you begin to see the contexts where it’s most useful to you. After that I think the trick is to remember not to get into a rut, but to keep experimenting with it. Thank you very much for this!


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