The surface quality of an object is called texture. The variation of light  / dark patterns of various textures are indications for visual enjoying.

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.

A designer recognizes 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.


Two categories of artistic texture include tactile and visual. Sculpture and architecture materials are tactile in nature because they can be felt.  Adding thick pigment to is added to great a 3D paint surface the artist is using a technique called impasto.


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. Painters are most likely to take advantage of this to give their painting's surface a lively look. Paint can be built up into rough peaks in a technique called impasto. Vincent Van Gogh is famous for this. Some painters add sand to their paint to make more tactile texture.

Collages can use textured paper and other three-dimensional materials (like string, cardboard, sandpaper, etc.) to make a tactile surface.

Deborah Butterfield creates sculptures of horses with strong textural surfaces.



Physical variations in a surface can create powerful textures even when the artwork is primarily two
dimensional. Lee Bontecou's collage extends out from the wall. The dark, open ovals invite entry into
an even more extensive world, which seems to exist below the surface.



Visual texture refers to the illusion of the surface's texture. It is what tactile texture looks like (on a 2D surface). T

Visual texture is the impression of texture created by the artist by attempting to reproduce the color and value of real world textures.

he 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.

Both types are important to the designer, but in 2D art, the illusion of texture is used more than tactile texture.

Visual texture is always a factor in a composition because everything has a surface and hence a texture.


Albrecht Durer's engraving of a horse is more strongly textured.
The embossed ink and the masterful cross-hatching give the print a wonderful texture.



Texture can be created through multiplication of individual marks or shapes.

As the density of the words increases, the words begin to fuse together, creating variations in the
visual texture while reducing verbal clarity.


Texture can be created through an invented pattern that simulates a textured surface.
Belgian artist Rene Magritte was a master of textural illusion. In The Red Model II, a pair
of shoes metamorphose into the bare feet that rest on the sharp gravel ground. In the
background, a wooden wall presents an even more convincing illusion. Here, representation
is used to raise a series of questions rather than to supply simple answers.


Density and orientation are important aspects of both visual and actual texture. Finer marks, tightly packed,
can suggest spatial distance.
Tightly oriented marks on Karen Hendrickson's Betta give an illusion of fur for fins.

Illusory Texture and Trompe L'Oeil:
Taken to the extreme, illusory texture can so resemble reality that a deception occurs. By replicating architectural
details, Richard Haas created an amazing dialog between illusion and reality in Trompe l'oeil,the French term meaning
"to fool the eye," can become simply an exercise in technical virtuosity, or it can significantly alter our understanding"of reality.
In large scale, as on a city wall, a trompe l'oeil painting can actually appear to extend an archetectural space.


Marks and Meanings:
Every mark an artist makes can add to or subtract from the composition as a whole. When the texture
is random of discordant, the composition will suffer. When the texture is deliberate and appropriate, the
composition will improve.
In Van Gogh's The Starry Night, the texture of oil paint serves three distinct purposes. First, it creates
an invented texture that simulates the tactile surface of the trees in the foreground. Second, it brings great
energy to every painted shape: we feel the wind; we become mesmerized by the glowing whirlpools of light.
Finally, we become connected to the artist himself. His hand is clearly evident in every mark. He speaks to
us with each brush stroke.


Everything around us has a texture. Sometimes we can simulate those textures with paper, but more often the textures we create in our designs are visual rather than tactile. However, those visual textures can be just as provocative or full of meaning as actual textures we can touch.

Basic ways to incorporate visual texture.


Digitized images of actual textures
(from scans, digital photos)



Symbolic textures created with lines or shapes
these patterns suggest various textures and are similar to the use of symbols or icons to represent ideas or objects


Texture: wavy lines could symbolize water, waves, rolling terrain

wavy lines




 Texture: overlapping circles give the look of fish scales

 Texture: a grid of lines could simulate plaid or linen fabrics, wire mesh, or other textures

pattern of lines