The 7 Elements of Art: Texture

Texture 7 Elements of Art by artist Lillian Gray


Watch this lesson for free on our YouTube channel 

Free Lesson on the 7 Elements of Art by artist Lillian Gray.

This is a video and blog series teaching the 7 Elements of Art in an easy-to-understand way. The series consists of 7 lessons presented by artist Lillian Gray.

Hi, I’m artist Lillian Gray, and today’s lesson is all about texture.


Texture is the feel of a surface Now often in art when we draw or paint we are taking a 3-Dimensional object and making it 2-dimensional.

So we need to create the illusion of texture.

Real or Implied Texture

Texture in artworks can either be real or implied.

For instance, on a sculpture or an installation artwork, we have the actual texture you can literally stroke your hand over the sculpture and feel all the bumps and cracks.

In drawings and paintings, the texture is only implied.

So we can’t really stroke the drawing and feel what a woolly beanie feels like, we need to indicate to the viewer what it might feel like if they could touch it.

2D Artworks and Texture

Let’s first talk about 2-Dimensional art when we need to create the illusion of 3-Dimensional objects.

We do this by using several different elements or building blocks of the seven elements of art, such as form, value, space, and texture.

All of these things work together to create a 3-Dimensional effect.

Art is a universal language.

What I mean by that is that no matter where you are people understand art. If I draw a flower in South Africa, somebody in China will know that it’s a flower.

Somebody in Mexico will know that it’s a flower.

Somebody in America will know that it’s a flower.

We all speak the language of art, so as artists, whatever you are holding in your hand, whether it’s a pencil, a brush, a fine liner, a pen, you are communicating. You are talking with that tool.

Communicating Texture with only a pencil

So let’s focus on pencil sketches for the sake of this example. If we’re going to do a pencil sketch of still life and we are only allowed to use a pencil, how do I tell the viewer that this is hair, this is brick, this is glass, this is smooth? this is glossy, this is soft, this is wood?

How do I communicate all of these textures only using a pencil? We do so by creating the illusion of texture. First, we need to understand what we are seeing before we can convey it to others. What makes a great artist is not their skill, is not their talent, but it’s how they see, how they observe the world.

You need to train your eye so first.

Sit back, observe your object and ask yourself: Is this hairy? Is it soft? Is it dull? Is it bumpy?

Does it absorb light?

Does it reflect light?

Creating Texture with various art mediums

Once you understand what you need to communicate, you can decide which method is best to do so. The texture is built up of various mark-making techniques. Now there are different ways to do this, with different mediums. Let me just show you some of the most popular mediums. Using a pencil, we use different kinds of lines and strokes to create the illusion of various textures. In watercolours we can create various textures by using different techniques, such as dry brushing, wet on wet.

We can also add awesome things to our paint to create even more contemporary textures. Here are a few examples of various techniques to create texture using oils.

We can also apply the paint extremely thick so that the paint actually becomes 3-dimensional. This is called impasto. When using acrylic paint artists often add texture paste or gel mediums to create thick impasto acrylics.

That’s just a quick overview of how to create the illusion of textures using some of the main mediums in art.

Texture in 3-dimensional artworks.

Lots of artworks are not just made to look at, they appeal to other senses, such as sculptures, tapestries, and installations and they try to engage the viewer’s sense of touch.

Now I am not saying you should be running around in an art museum touching all the sculptures and installations. I’m sure you’re going to get into serious trouble and some alarm is going to go off. What I am trying to say is that even if the art is not meant to be touched, these artists put a lot of thought and work into the texture of their Artworks.

Famous art movements and their use of texture.

Traditional Still Lifes

Way back artists used to specialize in still lives. They spent hours and hours perfecting their still-lives. Have you ever wondered why?

This was their cv, this was their bragging rights, this was to show their absolute skill and how well can they paint glass, metal, organic shapes, man-made shapes, or fabric textures. These styles were then exhibited at court so that the wealthy could browse through them and select the artists that they wanted to use to paint their self-portraits. These still lives are really to showcase how well these artists understood texture and communicated them visually.


Moving on through the ages and getting to the Impressionists, and the Post-Impressionists, such as Van Gogh, we see how artists started using paint in a very thick way. Remember this is called impasto, and Van Gogh is known for mastering this skill. Just look at these beautiful close-ups and textures that he created with his brush strokes.

Abstract Expressionism

Abstract Expressionism pushed the boundaries of textures you could create with paint even further. This is a Jackson Pollock, look at all the textures he created by dripping the paint and dragging it all over the canvas.

Famous artists and their use of texture.

Ai Weiwei Snake Bag

Ai Weiwei

This is Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s sculpture installation called Snake Bag. This artwork makes use of backpacks to create an interesting texture. It comments on an earthquake that hit China in 2008. Approximately ninety thousand people were killed. Ai Weiwei created the serpentine sculpture, made of backpacks to commemorate more than five thousand school children who were killed when their shoddily constructed school collapsed.

Penny Siopis

South African artist Penny Siopis’ earlier paintings used some interesting techniques to create textures. Her parents owned a bakery shop and she used cake decorating tools like piping bags to paint oil paintings. This is quite a unique way of creating textures.

Peny Siopis

Jeff Koons

American artist Jeff Koons is recognized for his work dealing with popular culture, and his sculptures depicting everyday objects. This includes his famous balloon animals, produced in stainless steel with a high mirror finish. This is an interesting use of smooth texture.

Jeff Koons Balloon Dog

Nicholas Hlobo

South African artist Nicholas Hlobo combines tires, ribbon, and bone in his sculpture to create interesting textures. He bases these sculptures on stories of his Xhosa heritage.

Nicholas Hlobo

Improve your own artwork

Now that you know a little bit more about texture, you realize that this is an important building block for creating artworks. You need to use this knowledge to improve your artwork.

Whenever you look at your artwork, ask yourself: Am I communicating the texture of this object? By looking at my drawing or painting, does my viewer know how this object feels? If the answer is no, you need to keep on drawing or painting until you have communicated the texture properly.

When creating 3-dimensional objects, such as sculptures or installations, think of texture as a message.

  • What is relevant to your artwork?
  • What is relevant to your communication?

if you are talking about pollution, maybe using plastic to weave and create a sculpture will add a deeper meaning to that artwork,

I hope you guys now know how to communicate various textures in your artwork.


A 32 Page Worksheet Pack focused on teaching the 7 Elements of Art. Ideal for art students to learn how to apply the 7 Elements of Art and reinforce the principles.

FREE online videos available on our YouTube video for each worksheet.

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