Texture in art

When I began to sketch more wildlife, the concept of texture took on a whole new meaning. The intricate skin textures of elephants, the fur of animals, and the fascinating way these textures interact with light opened my eyes. I discovered that while pencil is my go-to for studying and capturing these details because of its versatility, the pen also offers a unique, definitive approach to defining texture.

Key points

  1. Mastering texture in art requires keen observation of the natural world and the objects around us.
  2. Experimenting with different tools and techniques is crucial for conveying the sensation of texture in sketches.
  3. Practice and patience are key to developing the ability to create depth and realism through texture in your artwork.

Overview of texture in art

The importance of texture in art, particularly for those of us who prefer sketching, cannot be overstated.

It's the secret ingredient that breathes life into our drawings, adding depth, realism, and emotion. My exploration into the world of textures began with wildlife sketching. This focus not only challenged my skills but also deepened my appreciation for the natural world's complexity and beauty.

Through texture, my sketchbook pages transformed into a more immersive experience, inviting anyone who glanced at them to not just see, but feel the story of each creature and landscape.

Understanding texture in art

When I talk about texture in my drawings and sketches, I'm referring to the magic that makes my artwork feel alive. Texture, in the world of art, is all about the sensation a surface evokes, whether it's something you can physically touch or just see and imagine the feel of. Let's dive a bit deeper into what texture means and how it can transform your sketchbook pages.

Actual texture vs. implied texture

There are two main types of texture that we, as artists, play with in our creations: actual texture and implied texture.

  • Actual texture is all about the physical. It's the real deal; you can touch it, feel it under your fingertips. In drawing and sketching, this might not be as common since our creations are on paper, but think about mixed media art where materials like fabric, sand, or even leaves are added to the page. That's actual texture.
  • Implied texture, on the other hand, is where the magic of illusion comes into play. It's about suggesting the feel of a surface through our strokes, lines, and shading. When I draw the rough skin of an elephant, you can't actually feel the roughness, but I use my pencil in a way that makes you think you could if you touched the page. This is what most of us are doing in our sketchbooks.

The role of texture in sketches

Incorporating texture into our sketches does more than just make them look good; it adds dimension and depth, making the drawings come to life.

Imagine a sketch of a furry cat without any texture. It might look flat and more like a silhouette than a soft, fluffy creature. By adding texture, suddenly, the cat seems like you could reach out and pet it. That's the power of texture. It adds interest, making our sketches more engaging and realistic.

You could also explore something like the rough skin of an elephant. What would it look like up close?

How about different studies of tree bark? This could easily be an entire sketchbook if you wanted to explore and draw textures at this level.

Observing Texture in the Natural World

One of the most thrilling aspects of drawing and sketching for me has always been the direct connection it allows me to have with the natural world around me. Observing and capturing the textures of our environment isn't just about enhancing our artwork; it's a practice in mindfulness and deepens our understanding of the world's intricate beauty.

Here's how I've learned to sharpen my observation skills and how you can do the same:

Importance of observational drawing

The foundation of creating convincing textures in art starts with observational drawing.

The more accurately we can observe and understand the textures around us, the better we can replicate them in our sketches. This goes beyond just looking; it involves seeing the subtle nuances and details that make each texture unique.

Whether it's the smoothness of a pebble, the roughness of tree bark, or the delicate veins in a leaf, these are all textures worth exploring in our sketchbooks.

Tips for observational drawing of textures

  1. Focus on everyday objects: You don't need to go far to find interesting textures. Start with objects around your home or in your backyard. The fabric of your couch, the pattern on a ceramic mug, or the surface of a fruit can all serve as great subjects for texture study.
  2. Explore natural elements: Nature is the ultimate playground for texture enthusiasts. Leaves, rocks, tree bark, and animal fur offer a wide range of textures to explore and replicate. Pay attention to how these textures change with light and shadow throughout the day.
  3. Carry your sketchbook everywhere: The best way to practice is by making it a habit. Keep your sketchbook handy for whenever you come across an interesting texture. Sketching on the spot will help you capture the essence of the texture more vividly.

Start drawing texture in your sketchbook

It's easy to fall into the habit of relying solely on contour lines and shading in our sketchbooks.

However, dedicating a section of your sketchbook to texture studies can significantly add interest and depth to your work. Try incorporating textures into your everyday sketches. For instance, if you're drawing a landscape, pay extra attention to the different textures you can include, from the roughness of the rocks to the softness of the clouds.

Incorporating texture studies into your sketchbook doesn't just improve your ability to depict textures; it also enriches your understanding of the elements of art, enhances your skill in using line and shape to convey depth and dimension, and broadens your exploration of mark-making and materiality in art.

Each texture study you complete is a step towards a more nuanced and compelling artistic practice. So grab your sketchbook, and let's start exploring the textures that make our world so fascinating.

Techniques for drawing texture

Mastering the art of conveying texture in sketches is like unlocking a new level of creativity.

It's not just about what you draw, but how you draw it. Implied texture, or the illusion of texture, is a powerful tool in a sketchbook artist's arsenal, allowing us to bring depth and realism to our work.

Let's dive into some common techniques for creating implied texture and how you can apply them to your own sketches.

Common techniques for implied texture

  • Hatching: This involves drawing closely spaced parallel lines. It's a straightforward way to build up tone and texture, especially for smooth surfaces or to suggest light shading.
  • Cross-Hatching: By drawing lines at an angle across your hatching, you create a denser, more complex texture. This technique is excellent for adding shadows and depth.
  • Stippling: Dotting your page might seem simple, but stippling can create incredibly detailed textures. The closer the dots, the darker the area appears, making it perfect for detailed work like skin textures.
  • Scribbling: Don't underestimate the power of scribbling. Random, controlled scribbles can create lively, dynamic textures. It's great for organic subjects like foliage or rough surfaces.

Step-by-step guides

Hatching and Cross-Hatching

  1. Start with hatching: Draw a series of parallel lines close together. Use a light touch for lighter areas and press harder or add more lines for darker shades.
  2. Add cross-hatching: Layer another set of lines over the first, going in a different direction. This adds density and depth, perfect for areas that need more shadow.


  1. Begin with outlines: Lightly sketch your subject's outline.
  2. Dot away: Start adding dots within the outline. Begin with areas that are darkest and gradually work towards the lighter sections. The closer the dots, the darker the texture will appear.


  1. Loose start: With a relaxed grip, start making loose, circular or back-and-forth scribbles. Don't worry about being neat.
  2. Build layers: Gradually build up layers of scribbles to vary the texture. Use tighter scribbles for darker areas and lighter, looser scribbles for highlights.

Tips for Creating Contrast and Depth

  • Vary your pressure: The harder you press, the darker your lines or dots will be. Use this to your advantage to create a range of tones.
  • Mix techniques: Don't be afraid to mix hatching with stippling or scribbling in a single drawing. This can add complexity and interest.
  • Consider light source: Always keep in mind where your light is coming from. This will help you decide where to place your darkest textures and where to keep it light.
  • Use texture to guide the eye: Use contrasting textures to draw attention to the focal point of your sketch. A smooth texture next to a rough one will make both stand out more.

Incorporating these texture techniques into your sketches can transform flat drawings into lifelike scenes that pull the viewer in. The key to mastering texture is practice and experimentation. Don't be afraid to try new combinations or to push the boundaries of each technique. The more you play with these methods, the more intuitive they'll become, and soon, you'll find your own unique ways to express texture in your art.