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A Guide To The Types of Textures In Visual Design

If I told you that you can feel images, you’d probably say, yeah go off. But before you doubt me, picture running your fingers over the bumpy grooves of a painting. Sliding your fingers through your dog’s fur. Brushing your thumb over the grip of a skateboard. Feeling the slip of silk fabric on your skin. There are many types of textures you can sense physically and visually.

As touch is one of our main senses, the sensation of different surfaces allow us visual pleasure. Everything around us has texture, and they improve the quality of our visual stimulus. But what about the types of textures found in visual arts? It may seem impossible to replicate a texture we can physically feel in a digital visual, but it isn’t.

Discerning The Types Of Textures In Visual Design

In graphic design, textures are widely used in a variety of techniques to produce a simulated visual effect. Have you ever heard of brush textures or texture packs that you can download for use with creative programs? There’s a way to enable others to ‘feel’ a texture of your digital visual. However, we’re all used to being able to ‘see’ color, but not feel it. With textures, it’s a whole new level. Not sure what I mean? Check out this visual comparison below:

On the left is an untextured digital pattern. It looks:

  1. Flat

  2. Unrealistic

  3. Like it lacks depth

  4. Like it was drawn on

The right side is how it appears with an added effect:

  1. 3D-ish

  2. Has weight

  3. More realistic overall

  4. Like an intricate carving with grooves you can feel

In visual arts, there are about four types of textures you can experiment with.

Tactile Textures

Artists use these to create art forms like collages. They’re textures that you can physically feel with your hand. You’ll be able to describe them as rough, smooth, soft or fuzzy. One example would be the pavement textures in the image above, which the visually impaired use to tell where they’re walking. You will find them in most cities, especially in public transportation hubs. Tactile textures are commonly used in graphic design to produce a replicated effect you can almost feel.

Visual Textures

This is one where artists use implied textures to simulate an actual texture. It’s basically to give a viewer an illusion of a real texture. They mimic effects like the sheen of a fabric to indicate that it’s silky, or the rough grooves of a rock.

Natural Textures

Think about textures you see produced by Mother Nature, such as the veiny pattern of a leaf or grains of sand. Even water and clouds have their own unique textures that display depth to the naked eye. These are all textures available to us in a natural form.

Artificial Textures

In short, artificial textures are from man-made materials not produced naturally. We see and use them everywhere around us, too. The plastic shell of our smartphones, the smooth ceramic of a coffee mug, or the embellished platinum of a watch bracelet.

That sums up the types of textures in visual design. Explore more tutorials and guides with a focus on design and illustration in our blog. Experiment with applying the top trends of the year to your visual arts!

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