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Using Texture in Digital Art: Adding Imperfection

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Creative Market is a platform for handcrafted, mousemade design content from independent creatives around the world. All kinds of digital materials and creative content are available like fonts, banners, textures, and photographs. You can even start a store and sell your own creative elements. The fine folks at Creative Market happen to be a part of our team at Autodesk, and we’re regular shoppers on their site when we’re looking for just the right font or illustration. But what we probably use most of all from their site are textures. We wanted to show you how we use textured images to make better art inside SketchBook.

All About Textures

What, exactly, is a texture? Usually they come as a flat photographic image or scan. The source of the texture can be anything from gritty noise, glitter, brick, wood, canvas, or paper. Textures are captured by the original artist for you to use in your art. On Creative Market they tend to come in a themed pack of anywhere from five to 50 textures for a small fee.

For example, here are some textures from the Blessed Digital Textures pack by Fishscraps. Each one has a unique “paper tooth” or pattern.

cstep_blessed_collage

How to Texturize Your Art

When using traditional media, like pencils or paints, natural imperfections happen in your art and create texture. The grain of the pencil lead might leave streaky edges, or the canvas texture wears through the paint.

Digital art can suffer from looking too perfect. Everything in your favorite art program is predictable math under the hood. It’s easy to make crisp gradients and clean lines that can give your artwork a stiff feeling. One way to prevent this effect is to add texture, like something from the Blessed Digital Textures pack.

Step one: import the texture into SketchBook 

You can easily do this from the layers window. Click on this icon:

cm-import-texture-01SketchBook will prompt you for the file you want to import. We’re going to import a texture, but know that you can import any image file you want. Select a texture that you want, and click open. It will appear on a new layer, on top of everything.

SketchBook immediately shifts you into the Move Puck after importing an image. You can use the different parts of the Move Puck to do everything related to moving. Hover over each button in the puck — the selected option will show in bright blue. Click and drag while hovering over a button to scale, skew, move, or pan. And click on the “x” to exit the move tool:

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Step Two: layer order and blending modes

The texture automatically imports above the layer you have selected. That might not be where you want the texture to be — but don’t worry, you can move it easily. Try different locations for your texture. You could have the texture on the bottom of the stack, like you’ve drawn your artwork on top of a piece of canvas. Or, you could keep the texture on top of your artwork and use blending modes to change the effect it has on your artwork in the layers below.

To move any layer click on the arrow icon, and drag up or down in the editor.layer-stack

If I put the texture underneath my artwork, this is what it looks like:

friesian-texture-underneath

Want to try out blending modes? Make sure your texture layer is selected and sitting above all your artwork. Use the drop-down menu at the top of the Layer Editor to pick a blending mode. Each blending mode causes a unique effect, but some of them might be too subtle or too intense. You should play around with the different modes because not all blending modes will work with all artwork. Some blending modes are better for art with a lot of dark colors, and some better for light.

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In this example, compare the differences between Overlay, Multiply, and Hard Light blending modes. The texture is at the very top of the layer stack, affecting all the artwork underneath it.

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There’s no one size fits all with textures. Every image will act differently with your art, and a lot depends on the blending mode you choose. You’ve got to get out there and experiment! Whether you’re exploring the textures available on Creative Market or even taking photos of your own to add texture, you’ll find that this technique can add a wealth of character and pleasing imperfections to your art. (Pro tip: Sign up for Creative Market’s Free Goods of the Week email. They often have free textures. They also often offer limited-time deals like the January Big Bundle, which has a lot of textures in it.)

If you’d like to keep this tutorial, download it as a PDF.  Or, watch Renée live on Twitch as she selects a texture for this cute Squirtle image: