There are three ways to deal with muddy highlights. The first is to use the Blend If sliders to “pop” the photo’s highlight values through the texture. The second is to use a Curves adjustment layer and its mask to brighten selected areas. And the third is to use a layer mask to gently paint the texture away from chosen regions. These techniques can be applied alone or in combination.
Option 1: Use the Blend If Sliders
Since the flower and vase were captured in front of a stark white background, the Blend If sliders will fail miserably in this example. Nonetheless, let’s take a peek at the process. In the Layers panel, activate the texture layer and choose Layer>Layer Style>Blending Options. To “pop” the highlights of the underlying layer through the texture, hold Option (PC: Alt) and slide the left half of the Underlying Layer highlight slider inward. Holding Option (PC: Alt) allows the highlights to push gently through rather than “tearing” through. In this example, the white background is the first thing to come through.
Therefore, press Cancel to exit the dialog.
Option 2: Use a Curves Adjustment Layer
In this instance, my desire is to brighten the original photo and not the texture. Begin by clicking on the Background layer to activate it. Now click on the Curves icon in the Adjustments panel. Switch on the on-image controls by clicking on the hand icon in the Adjustments panel.
Find a highlight that you’d like to brighten and click-and-drag upward on the image to lighten it. If contrast appears flat, grab the shadow (left-hand) slider and drag slightly inward.
If the contrast changes over-saturate the colors, visit the Layers panel and change the Curves layer blend mode to Luminosity.
Since the Curve affected the entire photo, activate the Curves layer mask. Grab a soft-edged black brush set to 100% opacity and flow and paint over areas that you wish to reset to their former brightness. In this example, I painted over the texture regions.
Option 3: Gently Paint the Texture Away
Since the texture is in Multiply mode, it is still muddying the highlights. To restore them, activate the texture layer and click the Add layer mask icon at the base of the Layers panel. Using a soft-edged black brush set to 30% opacity and 100% flow, paint over all highlights that you intend to restore. Be sure to vary the size of the brush as you paint. Don’t hesitate to paint over regions more than once to bring out even more brightness. In addition to lightening, notice how this process adds dimensionality to the scene.