The Power of Textures,
and how you can use them in your work

Textures are one of the most overlooked aspects of web design and graphic design. While textures initially came to popularity as a method of applying surface detail to computer graphics, they have since expanded and become useful for other styles of digital art as well.

Historically, textures were simple images that were mapped onto a given 3D object, in order to give the enhanced illusion of detail and realism. The detail of the texture would significantly affect the overall finished image, and one of the primary reasons that modern computer graphics look realistic is because of the quality of the texturing (among other things) has improved so dramatically.

Simply put, a texture is a detailed image (usually a photograph) of a specific material. For example, a paper texture is simply a photograph of a flat piece of paper, that is designed to allow you to apply the visual feel of paper to a given artwork. Textures are often simple photographs of paper, rock, cloth or other materials, but they can also be manipulated using Photoshop or other image editing software to make the texture repeatable, or to otherwise enhance a given effect.

With the blending together of the various fields of digital art, including photography, graphic design, web design and computer graphics, textures have taken on a new life, and many of the top designers utilize textures for their work, and you should as well. For example, you can use textures in a web design as demonstrated in the tutorial below, where the texture is an overlayed pattern on the background that gives a realistic feel to the design.

Creating a Textured Web Design in Photoshop

Examples of Textures in Web Design

Another application of textures is to use them to enhance a graphic design. You can use textures to create brushes, or you can use them as a background that gives an enhanced feeling of detail as well as a realistic, natural roughness to the piece, such as in the following tutorial.

Design and Photomanipulate a Gorgeous Outdoor Car Advertisement

Examples of Textures in Graphic Design

These are just a few applications that textures are useful for. You can also use them in more simple photomanipulation tasks, such as if you want to turn a human being into a stone statue. To do this, you can simply lay the texture over the photograph, isolate the texture so it is only applied to the areas of the person, and then change the blending mode and opacity. You can also use textures to create artistic effects for photographs, as they enhance color and add an interesting feeling to the photograph, such as in the following tutorial.

How To Use Textures to Enhance Your Photographs

Examples of Textures in Photography

When working with textures, its important to note several qualities that will affect your finished result. The first is whether or not the texture is repeatable. Simple, free textures are not likely to be repeatable textures, which means that it if you try to duplicate the texture and align them, there will be an obvious seam where the textures meet. The second aspect is the overall size and quality of the texture. The larger and more detailed the texture, the better the finished result you're likely to get is. You can always remove details, but you can't add them if they never existed. The third aspect is whether or not you are allowed to use the texture in a commercial work. Free textures are released under a variety of licenses, and not all can be used in commercial projects.

If you're interested in making your own textures (which you can use for your own projects, or sell through marketplaces), it's a relatively simple process. You will need a digital camera and an image editing program to make the process a bit easier and to get the best results, but besides that, all you need is an eye for your surrounding environment. Everything from crumpled paper, plaster walls and dirt can be used to make your own textures. You can see in the following tutorial how to make your own textures.

How To Create Your Own Textures

Examples on How to Create Textures

Hopefully this has given you a bit of an overview of what textures are, how you can use them to enhance your own designs.

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