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An Important Element of Design – Texture

Textures of materials refer to the visual quality of natural or artificial materials. It describes sense (how a material looks), touch (how it feels), and functionality (how the material works). Texture in art, architecture, and interior design enhance the quality of human life.

Texture plays an essential role in building materials. A material’s durability, usability, and penetrability rely on the surface texture. It differs from one material to another. Texture also varies for a single material from its fabrication, installation, manipulation to finish.

It contributes to the physical comfort in our surroundings. Smooth textures seem cold, whereas rough surfaces create a sense of warmth.

Types of Textures of Materials

There are two types of textures :

  • Tactile texture – feel by touch
  • Visual texture – sees by eye

Textures can be of

  • Soft or Hard
  • Rough or Smooth
  • Dull or shiny
  • Dark or Light

Texture describes the surface qualities of a material such as

  • The Roughness of stone/masonry
  • Grain of wood
  • Smoothness of glass
  • The Weave of fabric etc.
texture of materials
Image source – researchgate.net

Visual appearance :

  • The visual appearance depends primarily on the surface color and texture.
  • A Wide range of textures available makes it difficult to distinguish between any two materials. For instance, concrete and clay brickwork appear similar. In masonry, thin recessed joints (2mm to 4mm) can become only a shade line escalating the visual effect of a wall, totally determined by the color and texture.
  • It also influences visual weight of a form.
Image source : sefastone.com ; The light and smooth marble flooring in the above image reflects light and other elements and creates visual interest in the living area.
textures of materials
Image source – dezeen.com Texture-heavy restaurant interiors filled with materials of rough textures such as rough clay walls, river stone flooring, OSB panels, etc.

Durability and Textures of Materials

  • Slightly textured finishes are generally more durable than smooth ones for exposure to full direct sunlight.
  • The maintenance of a material also depends upon the surface’s texture. Smooth surfaces are easy to recognize the dirt and are relatively easy to clean whereas, in the rough surfaces, the dust gets accumulated and is harder to maintain.


  • The workability also depends on the texture of a material. For instance, the rough surface of plaster gives a secure binding capacity for the tiles to place.
  • Textured or profile surfaces used externally control the flow of rainwater and can act as non-slippery surfaces.
  • Wood wool slabs offer good sound-absorption properties due to their open-textured surface.
  • The Texture of a flooring material influences how we walk and feel on the surface.
  • Textured and perforated finishes produce various levels of sound-insulating and sound-absorbing properties (Plasterboard ceiling tiles).

Textures of Materials :

variety of textured finishes can be achieved by distinct fabrication methods, mechanical and chemical processing depending on the type of any particular material. Examples – Grain effect, three-dimensional effect, scraped finish, Tyrolean finish, mesh-textured, etched, pattern rolled, etc.,

  • Bricks – Textures range from smooth and sanded to textured and deeply folded depending upon the manufacturing process.
  • Concrete blocks – Textures range from polished, smooth, and weathered (sand- or shot-blasted) to striated and split face.
  • Stones – can be fine or coarse in texture finish; granular, sawn, sanded, finely rubbed, honed, polished, flame textured or bush hammered.
  • Wood – Textures vary from smooth, Matt Lacquered to wire brushed, Distressed, Hand scraped, Embossed, etc.
  • Plastics – Surface finishes vary from Gloss, smooth or Matt, Pinseal, Sandstone, Leathergrains, Geometrics, etc.
  • Glass – Frosted glass texture, wrinkled glass texture, wire mesh, scratchy window texture, Distressed glass pattern, decorative textured, hammered glass pattern, gold foil glass texture, smashed glass texture, Motif glass texture, etc.,
  • Carpet and Felt – Soft, Textured Plush, Frieze, Shag carpet, Natural Fibers, etc.

Texture and Light

Textures are one of the essential factors in designing/making lighting decisions. They have a dramatic effect on the spaces we create.

Textures also determine the surface’s ability to reflect or absorb incident light. The use of concentrated light and shadows can emphasize texture.

Direct light on the texture enhances it whereas, Diffuse light deemphasizes the surface finish.

Diffused light, such as that produced by overhead fluorescent lamps, tends to soften textural qualities.

Directional light creates distinct shadows between light and dark. It also creates a sturdy contrast to show the material texture.

Diffuse and Directional Light (1) Diffuse light (left) reduces shadows and encourages long-term visual comfort. (2) Directional light (right) creates visual interest due to the creation of contrast in the space. (Russell, 2012, p. 24).
  • Smooth and shiny surfaces such as glass can be highly reflective in nature and attract our vision towards it.
  • Medium rough textures absorb light and diffuse it unevenly, therefore appearing less bright than smooth surfaces.
  • Rough textures tend to absorb light and create visually appealing light and dark shadows.

Texture and Pattern

Pattern is the repetitive design or repetitive motif on a surface which when produced in a scale becomes textured. Pattern helps in balancing the visual weight of a room.


Texture and Contrast

A combination of two or more textures on a building’s façade can create interesting contrasts in depth of color and shadows.

Image courtesy of Prodema ; The two contrasting materials – the wood provides warmth and texture to the environment creating a rustic environment complements with the smoothness of glass creates contrast and a luxury atmosphere.

Texture can stand as a focal point when placed against smooth, lighter background escalating the scale and contrast.

textures of materials
Image source – Designcafe.com

Texture and Scale

The finer the texture, the smoother it appears and coarse textures appear to be rough.

Our perception towards textures get affecting when viewing from a distance, scale and in presence of light. Texture appears to be diminished when seen from a greater distance.

textures of materials
Image source : archdaily.com University of Queensland Global Change Institute / HASSELL
textures of materials
University of Queensland Global Change Institute / HASSELL

Texture and Space

How we combine different textures, how we place them (adjacently or opposite),how we compose them is an important factor in the proper functionality of a space and enhancing aesthetical features for a interior/exterior space. For a smaller room, minimal textures can be used whereas in a larger room, textures can be used to define the functional area.

Combination of different variety of textures and competing textures create a balance and intimate space both visually and functionally.

Image source – hatchdesign.ca ; designed by – BBG-BBGM

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