The smooth comforting feel of your soft cotton sheets…

The rough bark of the old tree that you climbed as a young child…

The creamy, yet sticky feeling of your favorite chopstick on your lips…

These are all examples of texture. As you may have noticed, textures have a way of creating a memory for you, even when you aren’t actually touching them.

Texture is how a surface feels or looks like it would feel. There are two different types of texture. Actual texture is the physical touch of any given object. Implied texture is what that object looks like it would feel like. 

In the digital world, we work in the realm of implied texture. I like to say that when you create a texture in graphic design, digital art, or photography, that you are allowing the viewer to reach out with their mind’s hand and feel what’s in your image.

Graphic design

Using texture in design can add a sense of reality to a design or give you clues to the type of design that you are looking at. Sometimes a designer will use photography to illustrate their textures (like the first flyer pictured above). You will often see this on magazine covers, posters, or promotional flyers.

Sometimes they will use line shape or other elements to create the illusion of texture (like the second flyer pictured above). The conference promotion features zigzag lines that create a continuous flow of motion that brings waves to the mind, which is very reminiscent of the first flyer shown.

Digital Art

In digital art, the concept is much the same, but you can put a lot more detail in a digital artwork than you can in most graphic designs. Stephen Mcmennamy uses texture to relate two completely unrelated photos together to make one image. As with the elephant tree above, many of his “combophotos” use texture to help tie the artwork together.


The nature of Photography allows you to really explore texture with nearly every image you take. Nearly every image taken will include some kind of texture, but for my example I wanted to choose something that would really emphasize it. Known for her botanical photography, Imogen Cunningham regularly captured texture in a way that really made “your mind’s hand” want to reach out and touch it! She used sharp lighting conditions to emphasize the texture.

Texture is a really important tool no matter what kind of art you choose to experiment with. Of the 7 elements of design, texture has a great potential to bring your artwork to life!

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