The texture is visual and tactile, including the surface or substance's feel, appearance, or consistency. Without a sense of structure, the texture is just a pattern that may create a variety of visual interests. Texture also conveys moods. For example, a rough texture evokes a different feeling than a soft or smooth.


Natural texture is the appearance of a material, such as wood grain, metal, glass, or leather. The tactile or physical texture is the variations of a surface or material, which may also be felt by the touch, such as animal fur or reptile skin. When light hits the variations in the surface, it casts small shadows. Visual or inferred texture is a realistic illusion of a physical or natural texture on a 2D surface, usually by alternating values.


"Texture" is both a tactile and a visual phenomenon. It refers to the roughness or smoothness of a surface, i.e., the physical feel, appearance, or consistency. Every material has a different touch or tactile quality to it. However, smooth surfaces also have textures such as marble or wood. In the visual arts, "texture" is one of the "Visual Elements of Design" and falls into the following categories.

What is Texture?

Tactile Texture

Also known as 'physical texture,' refers to the actual variations or surface. It can be felt by touch, i.e., animal fur can be smooth or rough.

When the light hits the physical variations, it casts a shadow that appears as a pattern. It won't appear in shadows or areas of shade because it needs light to stand out or be seen.

Tactile Texture

Visual Texture

Visual Texture

Or implied texture is an illusion. It is created on a two-dimensional surface, in drawing or painting, and makes the appearance of a physical texture. For example, paint-spattered from a toothbrush in watercolor will create visual texture. The visual texture created may portray the subject matter realistically. However, the texture appears as a repeating pattern without a sense of structure or form (i.e., cone, cylinder, sphere, cube-type shading, etc.).

In a drawing, implied texture can be created by repeating shapes, dots, lines, stenciling, or mark-making. Remember to use the edges or contours of the object to enhance the texture (i.e., fur does not have a smooth edge around it, it looks furry).

A visual texture may also be produced by some types of drawing papers with a lot of tactile texture or 'tooth.' These papers are considerably rougher than a computer or printer-thin sheets of paper. Paper with a lot of 'grain' or 'tooth' may not be best suited for creating the illusion of a flat, smooth surface or texture. However, it's suitable for 'graining,' a drawing technique that involves the gradual build-up of marks or medium over the 'grain' of the paper. The texture of the paper will come through and add to the overall visual and textural effect.

Yume Gardens by Christy Olsen.
Pen & ink on watercolor paper heightened with gouache. 8x14.

Detail of 'Graining'
(build-up of ink from brayer & brush on cold press watercolor paper)

In oil painting, visual texture can be created with a physical build-up of paint, a technique called 'impasto.' The paint protrudes from the canvas or board. The painter uses a palette knife to add globs of paint or build up layers that appear as textured areas.

Natural Texture

Belongs to a specific organic element created by the natural world, such as the grain of a piece of wood, reptile skin, or elephant skin. However, a smooth, polished surface such as marble is also considered a natural texture.

Marble has a "Natural Texture."

Hyper Texture

Or artificial texture is created by a computer or cyber graphics simulating surface texture. Textures are produced by adding minor distortions across the surface of an object or by describing the texture in a repeating photograph.

Simulated or "Hyper Texture"

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