5 Awesome Techniques for Using Textures in Your Designs

5 Awesome Techniques for Using Textures in Your Designs

At some point in my design career I came to a realization that I can add incredible depth to my art by applying elements from the real world through scans and digital photos. Perhaps the greatest use of “real-world” elements is through the use of textures. We offer a ton of great textures here at WeGraphics, and sometimes I feel as though the use of textures can be overlooked by a new comer to the world of digital art. Let’s take a look at a few methods to utilize textures in fun and creative ways.

1. Textures as Backgrounds

One of the keys to using textures effectively is to be subtle. Basically don’t over use the texture or make it a distraction over the content, and always keep the texture to scale with the rest of the image.

For example, lets take a look at the WeGraphics log with no texture applied. Clean and simple.

Now, I’m going to apply a texture from the Subtle Grunge Textures Vol2 Pack by just dragging the file to a new layer on the logo document. No edits.

You can see how the texture is out of scale (too large for the composition), it’s distracting from the logo, and the coloring doesn’t fit well with the artwork.

By simply scaling the texture down to match the document size, desaturating the color, and applying a subtle gradient, we’ve gone from distracting to subtle and attractive. Keep these things in mind when working with textures as backgrounds. It can be the difference between a good and very bad addition to your art.

2. Textures as an Overlay

Sometimes textures can be used as an overlay to give an image or piece of artwork a vintage or worn feel. The image below is the original image from the camera.

Below is a concrete texture from a Concrete Texture Pack here at WeGraphics.

Below is the image with the concrete placed in a layer above the background. The concrete’s layer blending mode is changed as follows.

Just by changing the layers blending mode you can achieve a lot of different effects. What’s also fun about overlaying texture is that they take on a completely new life. I doubt anyone would be able to spot the photo of concrete in the above image.

3. Textures for Mock-Ups

Sometimes textures can be used to mock-up a composition to display artwork, such as logos or t-shirt graphics. In the example below I’ve taken a fabric texture and placed a graphic over it to mock-up what the graphic might look like printed on a canvas.

Here is the original artwork.

The canvas texture I’m using is from the Book Cover Patterns Collections.

Combined together with the artwork set to Multiply over the texture, and the proper angle gives the viewer an idea of what a print might look like.

 

4. Textures as Screens for Illustration

Vector Illustrations are always clean and sharp, and it can be part of their charm. But there are times when you want to add a little bit of texture to them to create a printed look or a worn out vintage feel. In the example below I am applying a Screen Blending Mode to the texture on a layer above the illustration to achieve the distressed look.

Here is the original vector illustration.

The screen texture that I am applying is from the Noise Effect Texture Pack.

The final piece.

5. Textures Applied to Text

Textures can also be used to give a text a worn or destroyed look. This is another example where subtlety is key, because if you take it too far the text can become unreadable.

Below I’ve entered some text on a blank canvas.

Now I’m going to drag a texture onto a new layer above the text.

By (alt+clicking) the line between the two layers in the layers palette you can create a mask of the texture over the text.

I then desaturated the texture and adjusted the levels so that the gray appeared more white giving the text a worn look.

Conclusion

This is obviously just a brief sampling what can be done using textures. I’d love to see what unique ways you’re utilizing textures in your artwork. Feel free to share using the comment fields below.

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Nathan Brown

Nathan Brown is a graphic designer who loves working with various media. He combines traditional art styles with a little experimentation and digital flare. Nathan's works have contained everything from ink and paint to leaves and a box of dirt. Everything is fare game when it comes to his approach to art. Nathan lives in Austin, Texas where he has been working as a designer for 10 years. More of his work can be viewed at GraphicMonkee.

17 Comments

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  1. Love these thanks, especially the screens for illustrations (number 4) a technique I’m gonna have a play with on my next project.
    Cheers folks
    Wozzza (UK)

  2. Loved it all… thanks for sharing!

  3. Direct, concise, clear, and very, very helpful. Thank you, Nathan.

  4. Sorry to ask a silly question – I am functional at WP and basic CSS/HTML, but very new to design. What software are you using here and/or which would you recommend for basic logo, image design. Adobe Illustrator together w/Photoshop – or can you get by with just one or the other.

    I am just ready to start and learn but don’t want to spend thousands on software (yet!)

    Thanks!

    Nanci Murdock

    • Hi Nanci, The above examples are all done in Photoshop. I would say that both PS and Illustrator are essential to a designer, as they are used for two totally different things.

      I prefer Photoshop for web design, and Illustrator for logos and t-shirt graphics, and things of that nature. But I’m sure there are many folks here who would argue the opposite.

  5. thats very useful! thanks for sharing! :)

  6. lmao right when i perfect using textures in my work, you come out with this. Still love you though man… still love you! Great job!

  7. The Beach view one is too cool

  8. Example 3 for the Mock-Ups is my fav…
    great Article :d

  9. Larry Gust

    Gotta love bein a web designer, everyone is so willing to share and help. WeGraphics got it right!

  10. Valerie

    What setting(s) do you use in #4 to age the appearance of the vector? Is it a layer effect, an adjustment? I can’t get it to work. Thanks!

  11. Jess

    Great post – but I’m afraid #4 has me stumped too. I tried applying ‘screen’ which had some effect, but how do you remove the black background?

  12. Jess

    Ah, have figured it out. My problem was that I had a transparent background rather than white.

  13. Great examples of texture use here and especially like using them with text. Going to have a browse around for a few good textures now and also a nice bold typeface to work with!

    Jack – Cheshire Web Designer, UK

  14. A big argument broke out in Houston this spring when Capital One sent in an insertion order for an ad that broke this rulebig timeIt went across two pages

  15. hubert

    lol, didnt you noticed the obvious Swastika symbol ?!
    I mean that at part 4. “Textures as Screens for Illustration” /wp-content/uploads/2011/11/texture-tut-12.jpg

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