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Visual Textures
Texture Lesson 2

Everything around us has a texture. Sometimes we can simulate those textures with paper, but more often the textures we create in our designs are visual rather than tactile. However, those visual textures can be just as provocative or full of meaning as actual textures we can touch.

It's extremely easy to find or create visual textures for your designs. There are four basic ways to incorporate visual texture.

  1. Objects within a photograph

    photo of chalk and drawings on cement Textures: fairly smooth surface of the chalk; rough surface of the cement

    photo of bottles and potholders Textures: smooth glass bottles; fabric of the potholders

    photo of crochet mallet on grass Textures: worn wooden mallet; grass


  2. Images created with photo-editing software
    these textures may mimic actual textures or be imagined textures

    simulated satiny fabric Texture: mimics drapes or folds in a satiny fabric

    simulated rock Texture: simulates a rough, rocky surface

    simulated texture Texture: random soft circles create an imaginary texture


  3. Digitized images of actual textures
    (from scans, digital photos)

    straw mat Texture: a straw mat

    tire mat Texture: piece of door mat made from old tires

    tree bark Texture: tree bark


  4. Symbolic textures created with lines or shapes
    these patterns suggest various textures and are similar to the use of symbols or icons to represent ideas or objects

    wavy lines Texture: wavy lines could symbolize water, waves, rolling terrain

    overlapping circles like fish scales Texture: overlapping circles give the look of fish scales

    pattern of lines Texture: a grid of lines could simulate plaid or linen fabrics, wire mesh, or other textures


You can enhance or alter the appearance of visual textures depending on the actual texture of the paper used. Keep this interaction in mind when using texture. While you can easily simulate a rough texture on smooth paper, using a 'slick' visual texture on some rough papers changes the visual appearance.

As with paper textures, choose textures that relate to the concept of the piece and are appropriate to the design. Just as some paper textures can interfere with the readability of text, so can visual textures used as backgrounds. Use caution when placing text over heavy or busy visual textures.

Hands-On Exercise
Look at brochures, books, ads, business cards, and other print projects and find three examples of visual texture as follows:

• Objects in photographs that create interesting textures, especially textures that relate to the purpose and concept of the whole piece

• Backgrounds or filled objects that appear to use simulated textures or scans of actual textures

• Symbolic textures and patterns created with lines or shapes

If you have access to photo-editing software (such as Adobe Photoshop) explore the options within the software for using existing textures or creating new textures. Many programs come with preset fills that mimic recycled paper, rippling fabric, cement, or other 'real' textures. Look for options to alter the colors to create a greater variety of visual textures.

Next > Lesson 3 - Textures from Printing & Finishing

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