The World of Texture. Introduction | WebReference

The World of Texture. Introduction

[Dmitry's Design Lab]
Dmitry Kirsanov's monthly column
December 1997 (Revised May 2005)
The World of Texture
Some of the best web page designs out there rely on something more subtle and yet more powerful than just form, color, or composition: They creatively use textures to make the surfaces of objects look and feel different.

The pixels that form all of your graphics not only have different colors and may combine into various shapes.  Put together several dozens pixels, and they'll make up some texture---the surface will acquire a new dimension, so now you can tell not only its shape or color but also "how it feels."  A texture can be rough, smooth, lubricous, even warm or cold.

Sometimes, an unusual texture makes for a greater emotional impact than differences in color, size, or shape.  This could be compared to touch and smell which, despite being more "primitive" senses than sight and hearing, sometimes achieve a deeper impact---they get "straight into your soul."  This often overlooked aspect of web graphics is the subject of this month's column.

Most textures on computer screen are analogous to some material surfaces, although cyber-textures have a number of unique features irreproducible in real-world objects.  Like colors, textures on the screen can be more varied than those in print, since the glossy paper of magazines or the coarse raster of newspaper prints often dampen the fine texture in the image.  Although screen resolution is inferior to printing devices, the capability of screen pixels to emit their own light and their wider color gamut allow them to create some very engaging textures.

The first two parts of this article discuss the two major types of textures, simple and complex.  Simple textures, besides the most obvious "flat" variety, comprise various geometric patterns (some of them involving very interesting pixel-level effects).  Complex textures are those made with halftoning, photographs, or reproductions of various material surfaces.

Texture is especially important when analyzing background/foreground relations.  A texture (again, just like color) needs to be stretched over some space in order to be perceivable, and it is therefore more often that a (larger) background plate---or the whole web page background---has a marked texture while a (smaller) element placed over the textured plane is more likely to be plain flat.  The third part of the article will discuss the creative and technical issues pertaining to the use of image backgrounds on web pages (for a treatise on much more common plain-colored backgrounds, see the previous article about color on the Web).


Created: Dec. 19, 1997
Revised: May 03, 2005