Create a Texture Library & Enhance Your Print Designs

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Posted by: Kristin Crane Category: Design, Insight Tags: , , Comments: 0

Create a Texture Library & Enhance Your Print Designs

As a textile designer, one of the best tools in my designer toolbox is my texture library. Designing patterns digitally, I sometimes felt the patterns looked a little flat. To breathe life into a pattern, I add texture to a design instead of a flat color. This technique optimizes a pattern by adding depth and dimension. Where it previously felt flat or sterile, the pattern now has the illusion of a woven fabric, regardless of the material on which it is printed. 

My texture library would be useless without the technological advances in digital textile printing. As a designer, I am no longer limited to a certain number of colors that will need to print in perfect registration. Unlimited colors make it possible to use texture to add depth and richness to an otherwise flat design. 

Left to right: a chair, a throw & a rug

How do you create a useful texture library? 

Step 1: Find a texture you like. 

This is the fun part (and easiest, so enjoy it!) Look around you, texture is everywhere. Start with the fabric in your life. Towels, rugs, linens, bedding, cushions, even your garments are all great places to start. I once had to recreate a fabric for an Airstream renovation. The original fabric was a very interesting texture, so I scanned that to use for the printed piece.

As your skills improve, think bigger and look at textures in nature. Can you zero in on those pebbles on the sand? What about that tree bark? Snap photos when you’re out and see what excites you visually.  

A favorite throw pillow became a texture.

Step 2: Put it in repeat. 

Full disclosure, this is the tricky part, and it will take you hours. It’s fun though! (Sort of….) If you’re working from a fabric, see if you can find its repeat. If so, block off the repeat with tape and scan that area. If you’re working with nature, you’ll have to create it from scratch.

I work in Photoshop to put a texture in repeat, and it involves a lot of trial and error. First, tile out the square of your texture. Notice where it needs fixing along the edges and use Photoshop tools to create a seamless join along that edge. It’s easy to fix one area while creating a stripe someplace else, so take your time and keep stopping to step back and look. 

Check your work periodically. You want your repeat to be continuous and invisible. Otherwise, it will look like stripes to the eye. Try playing with the zoom feature to look at different sizes or take off your glasses or squint your eyes. I save different versions along the way, in case I want to go back to an earlier version. 

When you think you have it, step away for a while. Then, look at it with fresh eyes the next day. 

Small handwoven studies provide lots of options.

Step 3: Create a color library for each texture. 

Once you have the texture in repeat, it’s time to create a range of colors for it. I play with the Photoshop tools Brightness/Contrast, Hue/Saturation, and Color Balance. (You can find these under Image > Adjustments) Usually, I build out a range of colors and then a couple of different values for each of those colors. For example, I’ll have a good red and then also a lighter red and a deeper red. 

It takes a lot of time to create a useable texture, but once you have it, you will get so much use out of it. As you build your library, be sure to include a range of different types of texture to use for various purposes. It’s labor-intensive. But like most things that are, it’s worth it in the end. 

Bonus: your eyes will constantly be looking for textures when you’re out in the wild! 

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