Whether you’re wanting to create a background for figurative paintings and illustrations or add texture to an abstract design, creating handmade textures can set your work apart and make it truly your own. Learn seven tricks to make custom textures you can use over and over again to give your work depth, warmth, and grit.

Tip 1: Use a Paint Roller on Paper

Use a paint roller on paper to create a dappled texture.
Use a paint roller on paper to create a dappled texture.

Using a paint roller, roll paint onto the surface of a piece of card or thicker paper. You can either use that paper itself for your textured background, or print the paint onto another piece of paper. That will create a dappled effect, as not all of the paint will transfer onto the second piece of paper.

Tip 2: Use a Sponge

Dab paint on with a sponge.
Dab paint on with a sponge.

Use a sponge to dab paint onto a piece of paper or other surface. You can block out certain areas with stencils or frames so that the paint only transfers to certain parts of your paper.

Tip 3: Print Black Paper

Create texture with printed black paper.
Create texture with printed black paper.

Print a piece of paper entirely black. While the ink is still damp, scrunch the paper up into a ball. When you unfold it, you will find lines and patterns across the page. Even if you totally smooth out the paper again afterward (such as with an iron), much of the texture will remain.

Tip 4: Use Sandpaper or a Brick Wall

Scratch the surface of paper with sandpaper or a brick wall.
Scratch the surface of paper with sandpaper or a brick wall.

Taking a piece of black paper, rub over it with sandpaper to lift some of the ink. Don’t press too hard or you’ll make holes in the paper!

As an alternative to sandpaper, find a brick wall outside and rub your paper on that.

Tip 5: Use Your Feet!

Creating art can be a whole-body exercise!
Creating art can be a whole-body exercise!

Take your paper outside to a flattish surface (such as paving stones or the road) and, with the black side facing down, jump or stomp up and down on it. Even better if there are a few little stones on the road to create added texture.

Tip 6: Use a Camera

Use a camera to capture unexpected details.
Use a camera to capture unexpected details.

You may be surrounded by textures that would make a good background for your art. Think, granite countertops, wooden desks, or carpet. Photograph them to utilize these textures in your art.

Tip 7: Scan Into a Computer

Scan your textures into your computer and play around.
Scan your textures into your computer and play around.

Take the textures you create in tips 1 through 6 and scan them into your computer. Using a program like Photoshop, vary the brightness and contrast, and use other tools at your disposal to create added texture.

Become an Expert at Texture

True Grit: Handmade Textures and Halftones for Designers and Illustrators.