Textures range from the smoothest polished mirror to the roughest mountain range as seen from an airplane. The term is often misused to refer only to rough surfaces but this is not correct. All surfaces have texture. You as a designer recognize that different textures can affect interest in different ways. Some surfaces are inviting and some are repellent and so are the textures that suggest those surfaces. Using different textures can increase interest in a composition by adding variety without changing color or value relationships.
Visual texture refers to the illusion of the surface’s texture. It is what tactile texture looks like (on a 2D surface). The textures you see in a photograph are visual textures. No matter how rough objects in the photograph look, the surface of the photograph is smooth and flat. Most textures have a naturalistic quality; they repeat a motif in a random way. A motif is any recurring thematic element or repeated figure in design. It could be an object, shape, color, direction, etc. With a texture you may be aware of the repeating motif but you are more aware of the surface.
Tactile means touch. Tactile texture is the actual (3D) feel of a surface. This is of paramount importance to three-dimensional design but of only moderate interest in two-dimensional design. The actual surface texture needs to either be felt, or seen with light raking across its surface to make the texture visible.
A recognizable motif regularly repeated produces a pattern. Pattern requires repetition — in design as in life (a pattern of behavior). The more regular the repetition, the stronger the pattern will be. The most noticeable patterns occur when you see the group before the individuals — notice the organization first (the checker board). All of the motifs in a pattern have surfaces, so there is always texture. But there is not always pattern — only when you notice it. Texture and pattern are related. When you look closely at a tree you can see the pattern of leaves that make its surface. When you back away you lose awareness of the leaves and notice the texture the leaves make on the tree. Farther away still and you can see the pattern of the trees making up the forest and finally the texture of the forest. In this way pattern changes to texture as you loose sight of the individual motifs. This is easy to do with natural patterns, but you have to get quite far away from a checker board grid to see it as texture. Patterns are generally more noticeable than textures. This makes them a stronger visual element for controlling attention.
• How do different types of fibers or fabrics affect your composition? Do different textures of fabric make you relate to the work in a different manner?
• Can you create depth using a visually patterned cloth? Motion? Focal point?
• How can you depict different textures from your home environment?
• What methods do you use that increase texture in your work? Can you think of other methods that would increase the tactile or visual textures in your work?
Let me know how you use texture in your work. I’d love to see photos so leave me a link in the comments!