Basic Art Element — Texture

Anything that has a surface has some type of texture. Texture is the way a surface looks and feels. It is experienced in two ways — with touch (tactile) and with our eyes (visually). Fine artists often use texture in the following ways to:

  • create a focal point
  • add interest
  • provide contrast
  • visually balance their compositions

tractor tire oil paintingTractor Tire
Still life by Teresa Bernard
12″ x 16″
Oils on gallery wrap stretched canvas

>> More info


Texture is essential in paintings to make objects appear to be real. Even in abstract paintings texture can serve to enhance the viewers experience by suggesting certain feelings or mood regarding the artwork. Texture can also serve to organize and unify various areas of a composition.

Texture can either add to or take away from the overall effect of the composition. When it is used haphazardly or in the wrong way, it can confuse or clutter the painting. However, when used with deliberate skill, texture will bring a composition together creating the illusion of realism and adding unity.

There are two types of texture — tactile and visual.

Tactile texture is the real thing. It is the actual way a surface feels when it is felt or touched, such as rough, smooth, soft, hard, silky, slimy, sticky, etc. 3-D art such as sculpture and architectural structures are tactile in nature because they can be felt. An example of real texture would be wood, sandpaper, canvas, rocks, glass, granite, metal, etc.

Even the brush strokes used in a painting can create a textured surface that can be felt and seen. The building up of paint on the surface of a canvas or board, so that it creates actual texture, is called impasto. Painters may choose to apply their paints thickly or thinly depending on overall effect that is wished to be achieved.

Visual texture is not real texture. All textures you observe in photographs are visual textures. No matter how rough objects may seem to appear in a photograph, the surface of the photograph is always going to be smooth and flat to the touch.

Artists can create the illusion of texture in their paintings by simulation or implying it through the use of various art elements such as line, shading and color. It is created by repeating lines, dot or other shapes to create a pattern. Varying the size, density, and orientation of these marks will produce other desired effects as well.


boat fenders canvas artStill Life with Boat Fenders
Marine life by Teresa Bernard
9″ x 12″
Oils on canvas panel board

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Common Textures

Although there are hundreds, perhaps thousands of different types of texture, nonetheless, all texture will fall under two broad categories — rough and smooth. For example:

Rough Smooth
Course Fine
Bumpy Slick
Dry Wet
Flat Wrinkled
Scaly Silky
Glossy Matte
Sandy Slimy
Hairy Bald
Hard Soft
Prickly Velvety
Sharp Dull
Sticky Slippery

What other textures can you think of? Comment below.

Your Next Art Lesson

If you enjoyed this lesson, be sure to check out another one in this series.

The Basic Elements of Art (Introduction)

Basic Art Element — Color, Part 1

Basic Art Element — Color, Part 2

Basic Art Element — Form

Basic Art Element — Line

Basic Art Element — Shape

Basic Art Element — Space

Basic Art Element — Texture

Basic Art Element — Value


The Basic Elements of Art

Learning about the basic art elements and how they work in conjunction with the principles of good design.

The basic elements of art are the “building blocks” used to create any visual art piece. The elements are color, form, line, shape, space, texture and value. Without them, it would be impossible for an artist to create art. Every artist, whether they realize it or not, uses at least two or more of these elements in their art-making. For example, in sculpture an artist uses both space and form, and a painter will utilize line and shape when creating a painting.


still life oil paintingThe Study
Still life by Teresa Bernard
14″ x 11″
Oils on stretched canvas

>> More info


Defining The Elements

  • Color — A pigment used in artwork, along with their various values and intensities, such as the primary colors – red, yellow and blue.
  • Form — The mass of the shapes created by the forming of two or more shapes or as three-dimensional shapes when showing height, width and depth.
  • Line — A mark (actual or implied) that spans the distance between two points used to define shape in two-dimensional work. Implied line is the path that the viewer’s eye takes as it moves along a path from form, color, or shape within a work of art. Click for more information about lines in art.
  • Shape — Any area defined by edges within the piece bound by line, value, or color. It can be geometric (for example: square, circle, hexagon, etc.) or organic (such as the shape of a puddle, blob, splatter, etc.).
  • Space — Refers to the empty or occupied areas around, between or within components of an art piece. It is either negative (empty space) or positive (occupied space).
  • Texture — The way a surface feels or is perceived to feel. The actual or implied structure and minute molding of a surface (rough, smooth, etc.) which can either be seen or felt with the sense of touch.
  • Value  Shading used to emphasize form. The degree of lightness or darkness of any given color within a piece of art. Adding white to lighten the color is called “tint” while addition of black is called “shade”.

An artist will skillfully use these elements, mixing them in with the principles of design to compose a sensational piece of art. Not all of the elements have to be utilized, however, there will always have to be at least two present.

Questions

Why are the elements of art so important?

Your Next Art Lesson

If you enjoyed this lesson, be sure to check out another one in this series.

The Basic Elements of Art

Basic Art Element — Color, Part 1

Basic Art Element — Color, Part 2

Basic Art Element — Form

Basic Art Element — Line

Basic Art Element — Shape

Basic Art Element — Space

Basic Art Element — Texture

Basic Art Element — Value