The Role Of Textures in Contemporary Graphic Design

Texture is a powerful technique for creating compelling and lifelike design projects, and mastering it will vastly improve your designs.

Ever dreamt of having the skill and knowledge required to produce living, breathing designs?

Texture is the surface quality or feel of an object. The way your skin rubs against the rough fabric of your wool blanket, the warm sensation of the soapy bubbles covering your skin in the bath or the gentle touch of your hair falling down your shoulders — these are all sensations and experiences created solely by the qualities of texture.

In graphic design, texture is generally only a visual thing, but it creates a physical illusion and it continues to play a leading role in the creation of all types of visual elements.

In this article, we’ll walk you through 10 ways that texture can be incorporated into your own designs.

01. Use Natural Textures to Bring Organic Life to Your Designs

The first trick on our list is to incorporate natural textures into your designs. Natural texture imagery comprises things like the crisp look of fresh grass or the gentle touch of a small feather and inspiration can be taken from every corner of our world.

Implementing natural elements into design infuses it with life, bringing vividness, warmth and beauty to the result.

In the poster above, the designer, Dawid Sieradzki, has managed to strike the perfect balance between natural texture and minimalist art creating a warm and organic design. The color-inverted flowers grab the attention of the viewer with their earthy beauty and the deepness of their colors and texture, and they contrast brilliantly with the white text and circular image at the heart of the design.

The key design lesson here is to set contrast between a natural-textured background and a striking foreground. To achieve the same effect, choose a background with similar natural qualities, hues and tones to the one above and overlay it with a powerful message.

In this example, Keith Barney has created a brilliant example of how nature’s texture can be intertwined with graphic elements to create a compelling poster design. The same effect (of the text being immersed into the animal’s head) can be achieved with the use of botanical photography where certain areas of the foliage are deleted to make the text look like it’s popping out of the leaves. These immersion techniques work to bring life to your designs.

This nature-infused flower poster by Jerga Argentina is an ideal example of the technique mentioned above. The large bold letters are placed asymmetrically in the center of the image and each letter seems to be in a different layer of the flower bouquet. Turning your designs into a 3D art which creatively mixes geometry, typography and texture is really easy. All you need to do is imagine that certain elements from the flowers overlap the text. To be able to correctly trace and delete different areas of the letters, first, make their opacity about 50-70% to make the flowers in the lower layer slightly visible. Delete the areas that you feel should look as if they’re overlapping the letters and then turn the text’s opacity back to 100%.

02. Create Experimental Designs By Using Unique Artificial Textures

Artificial textures, unlike natural textures, comprise a wide array of imagery with surrealistic patterns and human-fabricated objects. Artificial texture graphics include a broad spectrum of elements created by photography, three-dimensional design and manufacturing. Washed-out textile, crumpled paper, wall surfaces and artificial geodes along with simple line art can all create an endless selection of texture images that can form a focal point in any graphic composition. By using the power of modern 3D visualisation software, designers can add a broad range of artificial textures to their designs, and the results are limited only by imagination.

In the design above, Jacopo Severitano uses the clean, symmetrical shape of the “A” letter to create a striking contrast against the gorgeous artificial fabric texture. To achieve the same, choose a similar textured background and overlay it with a striking slogan, letter or logo.

This typographical design project by Pawel Nolbert is a combination of quirky DIY, whimsical colors and shape. The typographical art is an exquisite example of artificial texture transferred into graphic design, with the paint literally dripping off the letters.

The work is so detailed that you can see the texture of a paint brush in the letters, giving the impression that each is a living and breathing component of the design.

03. Use Tactile Texture To Build Visual Interest

Unlike purely visual textures, tactile textures are those with a physical quality. Tactile textures come with a wide variety of uses, especially in print art where the paper type, glossy ink layers and matte surfaces attract the viewers’ attention and transforms it into a physical interest towards the design.

While tactile texture describes the physical surface of objects, it can be successfully transferred into graphic design to create a certain feel. Tactile texture is a common design element in stationery design and magazines where the main intention of the design is to create a memorable item that influences the user and creates a bond between the visual and physical qualities of the object.

This gallery opening poster is a wonderful example of tactile texture applied in graphic design. The title’s texture is beautifully interlaced with the poster’s overall minimalist style. Creating a similar image can be done with the use of 3D text visualisation or photographed lettering placed on a clean background.

The example above by Pierre Mendel presents a great example of layered tactile textures used in graphic design and proves they can be applied to graphic design in many ways. Besides using different ink types as well as gold, matte and gloss foils in magazine print designs, you can also layer different design elements to attract the viewer’s attention to particular areas of the design.

In the example above, designer Siang Ching uses patterns in her design of a droplet of blood to give it a unique, tactile quality.

04. Create Immersive Graphic Design With Textured Graphics

Textured graphics and backgrounds can be used in your designs in a way that gives them the effect that they are truly immersed. Immersing visual texture into your design features brings depth and detail to your art.

This beautiful poster by PKG Branding is a great example of how immersing visual texture (the stunning plant feature) into the textual message of a design can be used to create an overall striking design.

Fabian De Lange’ s exquisite poster design is another gorgeous example of immersive texture interlaced with graphic elements. The “Mumbai” art project represents a beautiful composition of 3D leafs and textile which intertwine with the surrounding minimalist graphics to create an immersive design.

Inspired by the role of textile in the Eastern culture, this poster of the ING Creative Festival makes a beautiful statement. The aim of this project is to maximise the impact of the photography while keeping a simple layout. The isolated fabric textures slightly overlap the ING logo to create a sense of immersion.

05. Use Photography as a Striking Textured Background

Photography can be used as a textured background to create fascinating designs. The poster, below, by Matthem Metz is the perfect example. The textured graphic, being immersed with the textual message, is a stunning photograph.  The yellow lines and text contrast perfectly with the photo, which creates a high level of visual interest in the piece.

This is another lovely example of how photography can be used as a focusing texture background in graphic design. The designer, Alejandro Pereira, has used the natural beauty of tropical foliage photography and has combined it with a semi-transparent foreground and clean typography. Achieve a similar effect by using beautiful and detailed photography in the background and make your text readable by applying a solid color layer in the foreground. Play around with transparency and color adjustment to achieve a better contrast.

The Nostros project shows us yet another wonderful example of accent photography used as texture background. The striking contrast between the grayscale image and the bright yellow graphic elements attract the viewer’s attention. The rectangle acts as a guiding line towards the eyes of the person, creating a symbolic reference to the person’s identity and uniqueness.

Magazine covers often implement photography as a main graphic element in their designs. Combining a beautiful photo with a bold font for the title will create the same effect in any other design.

06. Use Texture to Build Three-Dimensional Layers In Your Designs

Having a static textured background is one thing, but using that background to create the sense that your design is three-dimensional and layered is another. Converting three-dimensional texture images into two-dimensional graphic elements comprises a combination of opacity and transparency adjustments which create the overall appearance of the design.

This poster concept for the 2014 Talling Music Festival is a wonderful example of this technique.

The isolated tropical leaves not only make a great contrast with the pink background — creating a retro, yet minimalist style — but the leafy background is layered in a way that gives the design a 3D effect.

The “Bel Air” album cover design is another brilliant example how the use of multilayered textures can turn any layout into an evoking design. The use of texture here increases the interest in the design by adding variety without changing color or value relationships.

The visual identity for We Love Graphics Design 2014 perfectly shows how the right use of different elements can create a three-dimensional feel in graphics design. The scattered letters create an immersive image and are combined with high-transparency letters which appear as if they’re in distant background. The same effect is achieved with the veils while varying their size, position and rotation.

07. Make a Bold Statement With Textured Typography

Texture can be combined with typography to create stunning design effects. Typographical art offers a wide spectrum of design variations that add diversity and accent to modern minimalist designs. Depending on type size, shape, color and texture, typography art can create a powerful statement without the need for complex design compositions.

This “A” poster by Eren Saracevic is an absolutely gorgeous example of textured typography applied in contemporary graphic design. The design is achieved with the use of 3D splatter visualisation transferred into 2D poster design.

Found in the CargoCollective gallery, this creative typography project shows how texture can be used to emphasise on specific elements of a design — in this case, the word “Please!”. Similar effects can be achieved by adding texture to the larger part of the layout and outlining the title with it.

This Tambari poster shows how texture and typography can be perfectly combined into a minimalist design. The photographed hand putting the letter in its place presents a visual guideline which provokes viewers to read the title. Using photos of people looking in specific directions can achieve the same effect in any design.

08. Build Crispy Designs By Using Paper Texture

One of the most beautiful background choices for modern design projects is the use of paper texture. This texture type provides a wonderful solution for creating visually compelling minimalist designs without emphasizing too much on the background image. Paper is a great addition to all design styles and can be a useful texture for bringing a touch of crisp realism to any graphic design project.

This poster design uses paper texture in the form of a string of mountains to remind the viewer of the powerful bond between man and nature. Mixing paper textures with natural elements will give your design a touch of earthy beauty.

The use of scribbled typography and white paper textures in this design for Wallpaper.com blend to make a statement that speaks to the purpose of the design.

This graphic composition by Foreign Policy presents a stationery design printed on different paper types. The same effect can be achieved only with the use of natural paper texture as a background for the designs. Grunge gray paper is a symbol for industrialism and the brown recycled paper reminds us of the importance of nature preservation. By using the different meaning of the various paper types, designers can play around with the texture, changing both the graphics’ texture background and the message that their design sends out.

09. Create Compelling Art With Textured Fonts

In contrast to textured typography art, textured fonts have a different set of features which aid in the creation of variable designs. Pre-made textured fonts forego the need for you to set up texture opacity and filters by providing a quicker solution for creating visually appealing texts.

The Canyon typeface A is one of the many exemplary projects of the exceptional designer Man Greig Farin. The design perfectly represents texture playing two leading roles in the creation of this poster.

From one point, photography creates a beautiful background for the typography and from another, the type letter itself has texture applied to it, turning it into a geometrical mountain.

The “Kona Hawaii” poster is a wonderful interpretation of the use of textured fonts for creating beautiful contemporary art. Textured fonts are a great focal point on their own, so the use of creative fonts on a clean background will always have the same effect in any other design style. Make sure to combine fonts with sans serif and avoid the use of other decorative fonts to keep the text readable and so that you achieve a stronger design statement.

10. Aim To Create Visually Provoking Designs With Textured Backgrounds

Textured backgrounds are one of the most powerful tools for creating visually provoking graphic designs. They create an accent in design compositions by capturing attention with bright colors and diverse shapes. Background textures and photographs are an unconventional way of sending out a message to the viewer and building captivating designs.

The Saxon Campbell breast cancer awareness poster beautifully uses texture, shape and color to remind us of the core message of the topic without actually presenting a raw image. The same effect can be created by applying a slightly blurred photo or referencing texture in the background.

Again, in the example below, the isolated imagery of the sardines swimming across the graphic contributes to a captivating and provocative design. Be it a thick clump of hair on a hair dresser’s advertising banner or a raw tire print in the background of a tire manufacturer’s logo, isolated texture images are a powerful way to create engaging art that sends a clear message.

Just like the other two designs,  the Le Luxe poster by Influencia creatively combines hand-drawn textures with bright colours to create a robust and provocative design. The yellow text and mint background gorgeously contrast with the geode drawing.

Getting Started With Textures

The use of textures is one of the most powerful tools for creating compelling graphic art without relying on the complexity of different elements. Visual textures, be it photography or isolated images, can evoke emotion and bring life to any design. Starting out your journey to creating texture-inspired graphic design requires nothing more than a clear idea and a good set of images. Whether you’re using the textures as a focal point or an emphasizing component to complement other elements of the design, texture will always have a leading role in the creation of contemporary graphic art.

Veronika is a graphic design whiz, avid SEO specialist and photography enthusiast with entrepreneurial mindset and a soft spot for all things writing & design. When she's not enjoying the mesmerizing beauty of nature, she spends her days exploring the mysterious realms of the Internet with a hot cup of coffee in hands. Catch up with her on Twitter at @vberrenike where her love for graphic art and online marketing intertwine in an inspiring social media feed.