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I put this technique together while trying to develop a way to do stone textures based on the way I did it with a physical brush. A little experimentation with one of my new filters made me go “Hey, that looks like a leather!”
However, the creative process behind this tutorial isn't why you're here.
I usually start with a 400×400 image to start playing around with textures with. This is no exception. I'm using a black background to start with, though it will be mostly obscured by our later work.
Next we load up the paintbrush. Keep your tool options at the ready, as this is something we'll fiddle with a bit. For this type of texturing, I like to start out with a fairly big brush size, but a very low particle density. I usually never go over 35 when doing this stuff.
Hardness is up to you. I've been doing it a hundred, but I'm starting to experiment with lower levels. I've kept opacity and step at 50%, but do experiment and see what works for you.
Load up your fore and background colors however you like. I find having one of them be white to start with is very useful, but the other color depends on what color leather you're going for. Now, alternate your colors by right- or left-clicking with your mouse.
Cover the canvass however you'd like. I tend to dab it on pretty thick to start with. I also periodically change brush size and density to see how the effect goes. Don't worry about using layers anywhere in this.
Now, change one of your brush colors to match the background color. It's time to thin out the colors you've been using by painting in some black. If you use similar settings to what you've been using with the other colors, it looks quite nice.
When you're done with thinning the colors on the canvas, call up Xero's Tekstya plug-in. (Effects > Plug-In Filters)
You can duplicate your original canvas layer, before you go messing around with the plug-in, but you don't have to. It is a nice way to save that part of your work, though.
I recommend turning the zoom on the example box up to 100% so you can see exactly what you're doing.
This filter has two default colors. I've yet to figure out what effect the second color has on the image, but change the first color to suit you. I'm using a dark green. Fiddle with the other settings as you see fit, but leave Use Source checked and Sparsity at 1.
Now, if you want to, you can make a few changes to your image before you leatherize. I find that a small Gaussian Blur blends the colors nicely. (Effects > Blur > Gaussian Blur)
Finally, use the built-in Fine Leather filter. (Effects > Texture Effects > Fine Leather) Choose a leather color that works for you. If it's too near the color of the original image, then the furrows and such will barely show up. Then fiddle to your heart's content - the little eye icon makes checking out how it looks on your image a snap.