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APPart – Back To Basics: Creating A Background Textural Library

Wow, it’s Saturday again and that means just one thing over here at HQ, Mel Harrison’s weekly Column – APPart. Every Saturday we will publish more of Mel’s incredible work which focuses on digital art and collage images. Each week Mel will be incorporating different ‘mainstream’ editing apps to inspire you to try some APPart of your own. In this weeks’ Column Mel takes us back to the basics, explaining how to create a ‘background library’. All links to the apps used are at the end of this post. Over to you Mel…. (Foreword by Joanne Carter).


If you are working with collage/art images the first step is the background image. The right background is just as important as any other element in your images and really can make or brake your work.



You can make a new background image for each new piece, but I have found having an album in my camera roll dedicated to background colors and textures works well for me.

I have everything from plain black and white to colored textured pieces, don’t be afraid that your images will all look the same if you use the same background more then once, it is amazing how much different processes will change the look of a background.



You can create backgrounds from almost anything! A macro photo of rust flakes perhaps. Take that image of rust flakes and blend it into a plain background for a washed out look, perhaps run that washed out image though glaze!



Paintfx is where the majority of my backgrounds start. You can import an image of any size or shape, even a panorama for elongated collage work, and paint over any effect or layer a combination of effects.

The paint function allows you to paint any color, at your chosen opacity and the textures create some interesting backgrounds.

Take my piece Neptune for example, the background started out as a paintfx layered effect blue textured background that once I added a light leak and a smoke frame it really has the feel of water.



There are dedicated texture apps such as texture+ that allow you to layer textures from the library. It has an erase tool that allows you to lightly or heavily remove parts of the last texture you have applied.



Then you have grunge apps like PicGrunger, Modern Grunge, Vintage Scene and of course ScratchCam, you could not talk grunge without ScratchCam!




This is by no means an exhaustive list of ways to create backgrounds, you are limited only by your imagination. Working on backgrounds is a great way to work through a creative block, you never know it may just inspire your next image!

Links To All App Used Or Mentioned


© Mel Harrison ‘Neptune’


Modern Grunge
Vintage Scene

Joanne Carter, creator of the world’s most popular mobile photography and art website—— TheAppWhisperer platform has been a pivotal cyberspace for mobile artists of all abilities to learn about, to explore, to celebrate and to share mobile artworks. Joanne’s compassion, inclusivity, and humility are hallmarks in all that she does, and is particularly evident in the platform she has built. In her words, “We all have the potential to remove ourselves from the centre of any circle and to expand a sphere of compassion outward; to include everyone interested in mobile art, ensuring every artist is within reach”, she has said. Promotion of mobile artists and the art form as a primary medium in today’s art world, has become her life’s focus. She has presented lectures bolstering mobile artists and their art from as far away as the Museum of Art in Seoul, South Korea to closer to her home in the UK at Focus on Imaging. Her experience as a jurist for mobile art competitions includes: Portugal, Canada, US, S Korea, UK and Italy. And her travels pioneering the breadth of mobile art includes key events in: Frankfurt, Naples, Amalfi Coast, Paris, Brazil, London. Pioneering the world’s first mobile art online gallery - has extended her reach even further, shipping from London, UK to clients in the US, Europe and The Far East to a global group of collectors looking for exclusive art to hang in their homes and offices. The online gallery specialises in prints for discerning collectors of unique, previously unseen signed limited edition art. Her journey towards becoming The App Whisperer, includes (but is not limited to) working for a paparazzi photo agency for several years and as a deputy editor for a photo print magazine. Her own freelance photographic journalistic work is also widely acclaimed. She has been published extensively both within the UK and the US in national and international titles. These include The Times, The Sunday Times, The Guardian, Popular Photography & Imaging, dpreview, NikonPro, Which? and more recently with the BBC as a Contributor, Columnist at Vogue Italia and Contributing Editor at LensCulture. Her professional photography has also been widely exhibited throughout Europe, including Italy, Portugal and the UK. She is currently writing several books, all related to mobile art and is always open to requests for new commissions for either writing or photography projects or a combination of both. Please contact her at: [email protected]


  • JQ Gaines

    Not only are you a great artist, Mel… but you are brilliantly organized!!! I’m inspired to do some housekeeping, now 🙂 Thanks for your continued sharing!

  • Janine Graf

    Wonderful Mel! I do the same thing so I guess great minds do think alike! ;-D You have inspired me to make some new backgrounds! xo

  • CatMorris

    Hi Mel! Great article! And I’m loving your current series too! I do the same thing and I completely agree – its a great way to unblock creatively. Question for you – do you use any organization software on your device or just folders in the camera roll? I use Dropbox to back up my camera roll but it doesn’t stay organized. I need a better system to organize on my phone and in my backups.


    • Mel Harrison

      Oh my I am so sorry everyone I didn’t check in *smacks hand!* Cat I do just use the camera roll, I also have an album for each series as well. I transfer to my computer via cable direct to a Dropbox folder where I name the final image harrison_mel- series name- title and then the theory is to save these to a USB stick or my portable hard drive but I am a little slack with that. I do send them to flickr though as a back up.

      I also keep every edit step along the way (on the computer) I don’t watermark my images or have any info in the exif data as watermarks can be removed and exif data replaced so I keep my edits as a form of copyright protection. I would love someone to try to reverse construct one of my images 😉

      I am always on the holy grail of the perfect image organisation but so far this seems to work for me.

      Mel xx

  • Catherine Restivo

    This is great Mel! Some great tips here… you’ve inspired me! This would be super handy to have at my fingertips…

  • David

    Great article, Mel! While I already have a library of backgrounds created like you have, a while ago I also started to create a library of backgrounds using the filters from app like Scratchcam, Iris, etc. I have a couple of neutral white and gray backgrounds that I apply these filters to…and then save the results in my library. These have been great resources…and sometimes the backgrounds are “finished” pieces in themselves!!

  • sylvia devoss

    i am a texture FREAK .. and these are awesome awesome!! thank you so much

  • Lilian

    I really discover how to use textures recently. This is a great article!
    Thank you!!!

  • Mel Harrison

    Thank you everyone for your comments my apologies for the late reply. I am so glad you found something useful to take away 😀 happy creating
    Mel xx