Traditionally, there are 4 types of texture in art: visual, tactile, actual, and implied. Different types of textures can create a different effect on the viewer.
Types of Texture in Art
- Visual texture is the surface look of the work. It can be rough or smooth, regular or irregular. Visual texture can be created by the artist using brushstrokes, carving, etc. It is basically what you think you see as texture not what the actual texture is (tactile texture).
- Tactile texture is the way the work feels when you touch it. It can be soft or hard, bumpy or smooth. Tactile texture can be created by the artist using materials that are naturally textured or by adding elements to the surface of the work.
- Actual texture is the three-dimensional quality of the work. It can be raised or indented, thick or thin. Actual texture can be created by the artist using relief techniques or by adding elements to the surface of the work. It is related to tactile texture.
- Implied texture is the illusion of texture created by the artist. It can be created using lines, shading, and other visual effects. Implied texture does not physically exist, but it gives the viewer the impression that it does. It is related to visual texture.
What about the two types of texture I keep seeing?
Actual texture and visual texture make up what many call 2 types of texture. Confused? I bet.
When I first started doing research on the 2 types of texture when I was studying art I had so many conflicting data points and information from various books.
Texture Meaning in Art
My art teacher explained it simply – the texture meaning in art is what you think you see and what you actually feel. Thats why there are more than 2 types of texture.
Let’s break down each of these 4 types of texture, to find that there are many more types of texture as well.
Visual texture is what you think you see on a 2-dimensional surface. It’s how an artist replicates the look and feel of an object without adding any actual physical elements.
Visual texture is the implied texture that your brain decodes from the 2-dimensional image in front of you.
For example, a painting of a tree trunk might have brushstrokes that give the impression of bark. The viewer doesn’t actually feel anything, but they think they see it.
Another example of this would be a painting of water. We can see the ripples and the movement, but we can’t reach out and touch it.
Actual texture is what you can physically feel. This type of texture is often found in sculptural work or any time an artist includes an element that protrudes from the surface or can be felt with your hand.
A good example of this would be a sculpture with raised letters or numbers. You can run your fingers over them and feel the different shapes.
It can be adding sand or wood shavings to paint to create texture. There are many ways to create texture in art and I have written something about it here.
Tactile texture is a combination of both actual and implied textures. This type of texture can be found in work that is meant to be touched or interacted with.
For example, a quilt would have both types of texture. The different fabrics make up the actual texture while the stitching implies another tactile sensation.
Implied texture is created when an artist uses different techniques to create the illusion of texture. This can be done with brush strokes, dots, or other marks.
It can also be created by adding dimension to a flat surface. An example of this would be a painting with thick brushstrokes that give the impression of texture.
Here is an album of textures created for a class assignment.
This is a great activity if you need to put together a portfolio that you can draw on later for information and inspiration. Fill it up with the various textures you like and how to use them.
What other different types of textures are there?
While there are 4 types of texture in art, when you break down tactile or actual texture the list is almost endless depending on what you do to achieve the texture.
Most textures can be painted as an illusion by clever artists and this would fall under visual texture.
For those who can’t, they can add texture to the paint. Some other examples of tactile or actual texture that can be added to or created in art include:
- Sandpaper / Sand – rough to the touch.
- Stone – hard and cold to the touch but it can also feel irregular in texture.
- Metal – cold and smooth to touch.
- Wood – warm and sometimes hard. Can feel rough to touch.
- Glass – smooth and hard to touch unless it is ground up or broken.
- Plastics – soft or hard to touch depending on how it is made. This also includes using epoxy resin to create various forms of texture from smooth to rough depending on how it is applied.
- Fabric – flexible and soft to the touch but can also be rough.
The best way to understand texture is to experiment with different mediums and techniques.
The more you experiment, the better you’ll become at understanding and using texture in your art.
What about abstract texture in art?
What does abstract texture in art mean? It’s about using different mediums and techniques to create a textured surface that doesn’t necessarily represent anything from the physical world.
This is what is usually used in nonrepresentation art.
It can be used to create visual interest, depth, and contrast.
Some examples of abstract texture in art are:
- painting with a brush or your fingers
- using different types of paper in a collage
- using fabric or other materials
- sculpting with clay or other materials
- using found objects and gluing them to your canvas or including them in your sculptures.
When it comes to creating abstract texture in art, the sky is the limit as people are not really expecting it.
Uses of texture in art
There are many uses of texture in art and artists like to use texture to:
- create interest
- add depth
- highlight an area
- create a mood
- add visual texture can make a painting more three-dimensional.
As you can see, there are many different types of texture in art and each one can be used to create a different effect depending on the needs of the artist.
One of my favorite artists is Brett Whiteley and he has a famous painting called “Self Portrait In Studio” 1976 that includes his own hair glued to a self portrait painting in progress within the actual painting.
He could have easily painted his hair but adding this piece of texture gave it a unique focal point.
Joseph Colella (Joe Colella) is an Editor and Writer at WastedTalentInc. As a frustrated artist with over 40 years experience making art (who moonlights as a certified Business Analyst with over 20 years of experience in tech).
While Joseph holds a Diploma in Information Technology, in true wasted talent fashion he spent years applying for various Art degrees; from the Accademia di Belle Arti (Napoli), to failing to get into the Bachelor of Arts (Fine Arts) at the University of Western Sydney.
While he jokes about his failures at gaining formal art qualifications, as a self-taught artist he has had a fruitful career in business, technology and the arts making Art his full time source of income from the age of 18 until 25.
His goal is to attend the Julian Ashton School of Art at The Rocks Sydney when he retires from full time work. Joseph’s art has been sold to private collectors all over the world from the USA, Europe and Australasia.
He is a trusted source for reliable art advice and tutorials to copyright/fair use advice and is committed to helping his readers make informed decisions about making them a better artist.