Texture can be the element that really takes your designs to the next level. Textures create visual interest and add those touches of detail that were previously missing. Think about what kinds of textures are inviting (silky, soft, fluffy) and which you’d rather keep away from (rough, hard, thorny).
Texture can be used to
- Define shapes or space
- Add visual interest (detail)
- Create a mood
- Create a tactile response, evoke memories and add realism
Often textures are implied; shadows and highlights add depth and realism to a digital design. But you don’t have to be confined to the digital world. Step it up even more outside of the computer!
Remember that the stock (paper or other material) your printed pieces are on is also part of the texture of the overall design. You can use different non-traditional materials, too, like glass, plastic, cardboard, ribbon, wood or twine. Antique shops, hardware and art supply stores are a great places to find some texture inspiration.
Great Design Using Non-Traditional Materials is an awesome little book if you’re really interested in these types of designs. Sheree Clark, one of the authors, recently wrote an article for Dynamic Graphics on using non-traditional materials in your work, complete with suggestions and ideas.
I absolutely LOVE the style of the Free People website and it seems to change almost every time I come back. The (r)evolution taking over the web right now is grunge, which adds the textures of the physical world into this digital realm. Free People also integrates the unique textures and patterns of its textiles, so the design not only is a great example of texture, it’s also an excellent use of incorporating the product into the design. The textures used in this site give it a very earthy, down-home, yet semi-exotic feeling.
Echo textures in the photos or from the text in a layout. If the subject is of an ethnic or cultural nature, find native textures in plants, building materials and fabrics of the region that will add to the overall experience. Instead of a simple solid line for a border on a layout, try dots, dashes or, for even more texture, making it look like sewn stitches, twigs or twine. If it fits the style, “attach” photos to the layout with duct tape, staples or paper clips. Remember, if creating a texture completely from scratch in Photoshop is too difficult or time consuming, take a picture, scan it or search through stock photography collections.
Yolo Colorhouse Packaging
The different YOLO Colorhouse paint cans (found via Communication Arts Design Annual 2005 and The Dieline) have three different main textures used in the backgrounds of their paint can labels. They represent the indoor, outdoor and “little YOLO” lines of paints. The textures are not only visually interesting, but they help the consumer distinguish between the types of paints, so you don’t accidentally buy exterior paint for your bedroom.
The old-fashioned nature illustrations used as the background create an interesting juxtaposition of old and new; the paints themselves are very eco-friendly, which is a fairly modern concern. The handwritten font (Cezanne) used on the paint cans for the tagline—“Created by scientists and artists with nature in mind”—is full of texture and adds to the rustic, vintage feel of the design.
The YOLO labels are a great example of texture being used to emphasize. The background is a wonderful visual experience, but notice how the important information is on a label almost completely devoid of texture. They could have made the label semi-transparent to show some of the background through, thereby promoting unity, but I think it’s much more effective to have it opaque and without texture because of the stark contrast that is created.
Debossing is an awesome finishing technique to add texture to a printed design, like on these letterheads from Passing Notes (also see Abbie’s submission at AIGA). Sure, you can fake a deboss in Photoshop, but nothing can substitute for that tactile connection gained from the texture of a genuine deboss (or blind emboss). The folded notes also add texture to the design as the layers overlap each other. The texture here brings back memories of passing notes in grade school.
Also take into consideration other finishing techniques such as varnishes (matte and glossy), foil stamping or take the piece outside the lithographic world to a letterpress artist!
Let the package’s contents show through the package via a diecut for some added texture, like this Migros meat package found by The Dieline.
Remember that typography has texture, too! Thick or thin, tall or short x-height, dense or loose tracking and leading, serif or sans serif, and especially display fonts (like Cezanne mentioned above) can add to the texture of the canvas.
This has been the fifth installment in Real World Examples of the elements of design. Previously covered have been line, shape, space and scale. Next up will be value, use of color and the color wheel and color theory.