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Textures vs. Patterns – What is what?

Brandboards often bring one or the other, or both. They both have a lot of things in common, and can be applied in very similar ways. Which is why it’s easy to get them confused or not know what exactly makes them different. So, textures vs. patterns, here we go! Both, textures and patterns, are often used for backgrounds: backgrounds for other graphics, backgrounds for websites, etc. They can be also be used just by themselves as decorative elements. But why can both be used in same ways? Well, because patterns are textures. Let’s go over what textures are: the definition of a texture is the way a material feels. But you can’t feel digital graphics, so, how does it apply in this case? Well, just because it’s a digital image doesn’t mean we can’t make people perceive it in different ways. We can make a graphic feel softer or colder, we can decorate it with light and colors, we can make it more eclectic, mysterious, or futuristic-a texture can change many aspects of an image. You can have a thoughtful quote laid over a parchment graphic, or a fun party invitation over a bubbly one. Both textures and patterns can achieve these transformations. The difference lays in the fact that patterns are seamless. After all, that’s what a pattern is: something that repeats itself. Textures in general are often big graphics. But textures can be any size, since by repeating themselves, they can become as big as you need them to! Why is this relevant-why can that repetition create a big difference? To understand it better, let’s dig into some visual examples!

Textures

Below are some textures I created based on photos. I added colors to them, mix-matched them a bit, and now they’re ready to be applied on other images. If you like the following transformations, check out my Ready for Color graphic bundle, where all three textures are includes.

Textures

This is our base photo that I’ll use to show how each graphic works differently over it. I got it from Jake Melara via Unsplash.

Now the three following photos have the textures from above applied, following the same order they’re on, from left to right. I also adjusted the brightness here and there to make the textures fit better.

These graphics where edited on Photoshop, using layer blending modes. Probably my favorite Photoshop feature ever!

Patterns

Now let’s see how different patterns look on the same image. I’m using the small patterns below for this examples, since big patterns won’t show as big of a difference when working with smaller images. Like the graphics above, I used Photoshop’s layer blending modes for this. You can see here that patterns can really be tiny, and still cover any size.

Conclusion

In a way, patterns and textures are very similar. But the biggest difference is what makes a pattern what it is, it’s continuity. The images above prove how both type of graphics can create beautiful overlays, but a pattern (especially a small one) is predictable and more uniform. Non-seamless textures can be more unpredictable. So, now you can consider what you need for your project: do you need it to look more uniform, follow a baseline? Or do you want it wild and unexpected? Find some images and textures, and try it out yourself! How different does an image look when using different textures? And how different is it when different patterns are applied? The possibilities are endless, so, let your creativity free.

Image divided in 4 with different textures applied to each section

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Welcome to the Stargazed Studio Blog!
A space where we expand on topics relevant to our business and our clients, dive deep into our resources and work systems, share tutorials, prompts, parts of our business journey, and recommend you things we love to use ourselves.

Sara Obando

Date September 3, 2018

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