How to Apply the 7 Elements of Design to your Work. Element 4: Texture.

elements of design: texture example
17Mar, 2014
Texture can have many forms. It can be experienced through touch or it can be visually simulated to portray meaning. In this article, I will explore both actual and simulated texture and provide advice on how to include either into your designs.

Other posts in this series:

How to Apply the 7 Elements of Design to your Work. Element 1: Line.

How to Apply the 7 Elements of Design to your Work. Element 2: Shape.

How to Apply the 7 Elements of Design to your Work. Element 3: Space.

What is Texture

Texture can be defined as the surface characteristics of a design and can either be tactile in nature (experienced through touch) or be purely visual (experienced through suggestion or simulation). The power of texture is the ability to associate it with how a design looks or feels, which in turn, enables us to evoke senses or feelings relevant to the topic. For example, a shiny surface would portray metal and hardness; a furry surface would portray some kind of animal and a sense of softness.

Tactile or Actual Texture

Tactile or actual texture is experienced through touch—it’s the real thing. For example, if you were to pick up a piece of old wood and run you finger across it, the surface would be rough and give you a sense of its age. Obviously, when it comes to designing printed products, we are limited to the surfaces on which we can print on. Therefore, actual textures are quite limited and may only consists of subtle changes in the stocks surface. As a result, the most common method of adding texture to a 2D design is by simulating it.

Visual or Simulated Texture

Visual or simulated textures are achieved by placing an image of the texture onto a design, giving it a 3D appearance. Visual textures can also be achieved by repeating shapes to form patterns or by repeating letters and words across a design. The possibilities are endless, it comes down to the creativity of the designer.

Tips for Using Texture

  • As with the other elements of design, make sure you consider the underlying meaning of the texture to ensure it suits the topic of design.
  • Explore the different kinds of substrates (printing surfaces) that can be used to add texture to your design. There are many different variations of paper/cards which have textures such as linen or recycled. Also, some printing techniques such as ink-jet and laser engraving allow for the use of a greater range of substrates.
  • Embellishments such as embossing and foil stamping; varnishes and/or spot varnishes are a great way to add texture.
  • Adding texture to a 2D design can be expensive using some of the techniques outlined above. It’s best to check with a printing company to see what is possible and how much it costs to ensure your client doesn’t get a nasty surprise!


Examples of Texture

Below are some examples of texture used in everyday design.

Elements of deign: texture example

Annual Report – Granby Zoo by Patrice Huneault licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

Annual Report – Granby Zoo

An image of animal fur was used to portray the topic of this annual report for Granby Zoo.

elements of design: texture example

elements of design: texture example

Alpha World City by Kevin Espeche licensed under CC BY-NC 3.0

Alpha World City

A texture is overlaid to the final logo to add to the vintage look and feel. Without it, the design would most likely appear too “clean” for the topic.

elements of design: texture example

Wedding Invitation by Chase Kettl licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

Wedding Invitation

This is an example of using actual texture within a design. The type was laser engraved onto the timber.

Final Words

Hopefully you can now see that, both visual and actual textures provide the opportunity to be creative with your designs and further help to convey their message.

About The Author
Matt Smith is a graphic designer and principal lecturer with expertise in print media and web design. He has over 20 years of experience under his belt and has dedicated much of his career to educating others. He founded Edgee in 2014 with the aim of providing quality education for new and experienced graphic designers. With ‘hands on’ experience and qualifications in graphic design, along with a Bachelor of Education in Adult Vocation, Matt combines his passion for design, typography and teaching with his expertise in Adobe Creative Suite to develop eBooks, tutorials and informative articles aimed at helping designers of all levels improve their skills and knowledge.