Most discussions of web design center on the visible elements, such as color schemes, graphics, typography, and strategic branding placement.
Here, though, I’d want to talk about a more subtle strategy you can add to your website design toolbox, one that provides background to your information and character to your pages without overwhelming the reader. All right, let’s discuss texture.
If you want your online pages to stand out from the crowd beyond the use of simple solid colors, add some texture to the web.
So, in this tutorial, I’ll define web textures and discuss their usefulness. I’ll show you how to incorporate them into your site and point you in the direction of some of the greatest free web texture resources available.
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A web texture is an image used as a background in web design to create the illusion of a three-dimensional, tactile surface. You may improve a website’s aesthetic with the use of web textures, which provide visual interest and depth to web pages.
To simulate one of our bodily senses, touch, with another, sight, is what makes web textures a novel approach to online design. They create a haptic experience through the visual medium of our computer screens by providing a 3D background for your page content.
It’s fascinating to think about how our minds react to all this; it makes us feel emotions we normally associate with the real world. To illustrate this point, picture yourself resting in the grass on a warm summer afternoon, or contemplating the tiny craters on a sheet of construction paper. The goal of web textures is to achieve that sense of realism in a digital environment.
Types of Textures Used in Web Design
There is a wide choice of textures available on the web for use in creating different moods and experiences. It is helpful to categorize web textures based on their degree of realism and their level of prominence.
The degree to which a texture mimics a real-world texture is referred to as its “realism.” Anything from a color gradient or geometric pattern to real-world objects like grass, carpet, or linen fits this description. This is analogous to the idea of skeuomorphism, which states that a page’s immersion increases as its textures get more realistic.
The prominence of a texture is measured by how much it stands out from its surrounding elements. There is a range from barely perceptible textures at one end, to more obvious ones that nevertheless contribute character and coziness at the other. In contrast, bold textures draw focus to a specific area of a page and help to build a site’s character.
I feel like I’ve gone on and on about textures without providing any concrete examples, so how about we change that?
First, have a look at this abstract and mellow web pattern. You’ve probably seen a lot of gradients like this before, since they’re a simple yet effective method to grab attention visually.
You’re looking at a very busy and abstract web background right now. When compared to a gradual grade, the abrupt edges clearly stand out more. This polygonal pattern, in particular, may conjure up images of the virtual world, making it an excellent choice for a website promoting, say, a new technology company.
The texture is realistic and nuanced. A linen or paper-like texture is discernible upon closer inspection. But when you’re just browning a webpage, you might not even realize it. Because of their ability to evoke real-world feelings in users without their knowledge, textures like these are widely used on websites.
At last, a texture that is both realistic and incredibly resonant; you don’t even need to squint to tell that this is concrete. Websites with such striking, realistic visuals leave no room for doubt about what they’re about. Be wary of using these textures alongside flat objects because of the high likelihood of visual interference.
Web Textures vs. Patterns
As you may have noticed, I have not been using the word “pattern” when referring to web textures. This is due to the fact that, despite their frequent synonymy in the literature, “texture” and “pattern” have slightly different connotations in the field of web design.
Patterns are little, iterative designs. You can most likely identify the “tile” that makes up a web page pattern. Just to give one illustration:
However, spotting a repeated image in a texture can be trickier due to the fact that many textures consist of a single, intricate image that doesn’t have any exact repetitions. Do you see what I mean?
Why Do We Use Textures in Web Design?
Like every other component of design, a web page’s texture should serve a purpose beyond simply aesthetics. You can use web textures for two main purposes on your site: evoking emotions and attracting attention.
Great design takes into account both the visible and invisible aspects for its users. I’m referring to the purely aesthetic aspects of a website that have an impact on the user without being noticed by the user themselves.
Web textures are perfect for this purpose since they evoke favorable feelings in site visitors, which may then be linked to your brand. A grass, night sky, or snow texture would be appropriate for an outside firm. A IT firm may choose an abstract geometric pattern. For example, sprinkles might be added to a bakery’s texture. It’s up to you to convey the character you want to show and the associations you want your audience to create with the real world.
This odd offshoot site for a Vancouver-based digital agency, for instance, makes excellent use of texture. The site’s background, including the buttons, is textured to look like felt, creating an atmosphere reminiscent of the comfort of a warm holiday home.
When done right, a web texture can make your site’s visitors feel as though they’re actually there, perusing the goods instead of merely looking at them through a computer screen.
Guide the Eye
Subtly altering our focus as we browse the web, textures can draw our attention to specific parts of a website. Web textures draw our attention by standing out from the page’s background and emphasizing the area, element, picture, or text they are applied to.
The primary image on the front page of this French design firm’s website has a simple green marble texture that serves as an accent. The widespread associations of marble with museums, high culture, wealth, and grandeur make it an appropriate texture for this usage.
In order to maintain visual consistency as the user scrolls down the page, additional photos are draped over the same marble texture.
Consider whether or not you can add textures to the portions of the page that you want consumers to focus on. Product descriptions, headers, CTAs, and buttons are all examples of these types of page elements. New visitors can be guided through your offers and motivate to take action at each stage of the path thanks to the strategic use of particular textures.
Web textures, likewise, can back up your page’s structure. Textures that contrast with one another help to visually divide your page’s content, making even the most dense pages easier to read and navigate.
How to Use Texture in Web Design
- Don’t overdo it.
- Keep text legible.
- Match your intended feeling.
- Balance image quality with load time.
Finding a nice-looking texture is easy, but using it tastefully into your pages requires some planning. Stick to these four rules if you want to create a web texture that viewers can’t help but interact with:
1. Don’t overdo it.
Like any other part of web design, texture usage should be kept to a minimum. Keep in mind that web textures are meant to complement your main content, not replace it. When there’s too much going on, it can be overwhelming for the user.
You should first determine the purpose of your web texture. To what extent should it serve as a backdrop, a boundary between sections, a header element, or something else entirely? To avoid going overboard with textures, it’s important to have a firm grasp on what role they serve in the overall design.
It’s simpler to add subtle, simple textures without distracting users, so I’d suggest giving those a shot first and altering if you feel the need for something more striking. You should also start with no more than two textures on your site and add more if you desire.
Your texture’s primary purpose should be to both lend your work an individual stamp and direct the reader’s focus where it belongs: on your content.
2. Keep text legible.
The number of websites I’ve seen where the background texture is more prominent than the content is shocking. Not only does it defeat the purpose to draw readers’ attention to textual information if the text is unreadable, but it also serves to swiftly disengage readers from the experience. This is just another argument in favor of keeping backgrounds and text simple.
Avoid using unnaturally bright colors like yellow or dark purple on dark backgrounds. However, if you’re concerned about accessibility, you should also check your pages with a color-blindness web page filter. That way, you can rest assured that your text and graphics will display correctly for everyone.
3. Match your intended feeling.
Because of the tremendous influence that textures have on people’s subconscious perceptions, it’s crucial that any web texture option you use be consistent with the overall aesthetic of your business. When it comes to feelings, you don’t want mixed signals.
It’s probably obvious which textures best fit your company’s image if you’re going for a realistic texture: As an example, grass suggests being outside, but sprinkles are typically associated with baked products.
However, the most obvious texture choice isn’t always so simple, especially when working with more abstract designs and the dozens of alternatives available.
User testing is a quick and easy fix for this problem. Test your site with a wide range of people to see how they react to the various textures you’ve included. Consider the feelings your textures evoke to make your users feel at home. If you ignore it, they may stop trusting you.
4. Balance image quality with load time.
The importance of this final suggestion is in its functionality rather than its form. Uncached page load times may be impacted by the use of web textures, which typically take the form of big photos. Find the best possible texture(s) while keeping page load times in mind.
Again, you’ll need to do some testing to make sure that it’s working properly; smudged textures and sluggish loading times are both frustrating for users. However, the trade-off of slightly slower performance for a more interesting web texture is well worth it, especially when combined with other techniques to lessen load time.
Where to Find Free Web Design Textures
- Subtle Patterns
- CSS Gradient
- Lost and Taken
As it happens, free textures may be found practically anywhere. Enter “free web textures” into Google and you’ll receive a plethora of results.
Here are seven of our go-to sites for free web textures to help narrow down your options.
Subtle Patterns is mostly a pattern library, although its collection of over 500 tile textures is great. Quickly see a preview of any choice in the page’s background before you download tiles. Your site’s load time won’t suffer if you use these images because of how modest their files are.
Stockvault is not only a great place to find royalty-free stock photos, but it also has a great collection of high-quality web textures that anyone can use. Images, the total number of downloads, and the license type (commercial, noncommercial, or creative commons) may all be sorted through.
3. CSS Gradient
To create subtle color gradients for use on websites, you can use CSS Gradient. Put colors into the tool to generate a gradient, or select one from the collection. All you have to do is copy the CSS code for the texture you choose and paste it into your website’s style sheet.
Lost and Taken is a great place to find free textured stock pictures with a wide variety of realistic textures. The website neatly organizes its texture collections into subheadings, making it easy to locate the exact set you’re looking for. You don’t have to give anyone credit for the pictures they contributed to the site.
Textures.com is yet another reliable resource for realistic textures, with a big database of realistic and abstract images searchable over more than a hundred distinct texture categories.
You must register for access to the texture downloads. Free accounts have size restrictions and daily download caps of 15 pictures. Here you can find any free texture you want, no matter how specific. Credits can be purchased for use in either a one-time download or a subscription that renews automatically.
Vecteezy offers a collection of vector textures that may be scaled, and you can browse through them in various ways. Make sure you filter to “Free License” in the license type section so that only free options are shown. There are still thousands more vector textures available, all of which can be narrowed even further using keywords.
You may also use the “Explore” option to discover a wide variety of both abstract and realistic background textures. Once again, there are plenty of open options to keep you busy.
The last place we suggest looking for free web textures is Rawpixel. Searching for “textures” on this membership site, which features photographs of every kind, returns a large number of results, including both subtle and striking possibilities. You can refine your search by selecting several criteria, such as file format, size, and pricing (free or premium).
Taking On Some Texture
Since their introduction, web textures have helped increase user engagement, experience, and enjoyment, allowing them to remain popular despite a recent trend toward two-dimensional web design.
I recommend making a plan for how you want your textures used after you’ve established their function. The next step is to experiment with various texture kinds, see which ones work best on your website, and then fine-tune the designs’ realism and prominence accordingly. The “look and feel” of your site can take on a whole new meaning with some experimentation.