Giving Your Right Brain a Regular Workout

How to Create Your Own Vector Textures in Illustrator

There are a variety of ways to make, add, and manipulate textures in Illustrator. If you haven’t already, check out our post on photographing your own textures to use in Illustrator and Photoshop. It’s so much fun to use textures you’ve made yourself, they add a piece of your surrounds to your custom piece. Today we’ve identified one of the simplest ways to add textures and images to vector objects in Illustrator. This tip takes only a couple of minutes and can really make simple vector bits and bobs pop right off the screen. You can also make a transparency mask to achieve a very similar result.

1. Find your textures and save them

Once you’ve got about 5 textures selected and saved, open up a document in Illustrator and a basic vector shape. You could pull out specific parts of a larger design or illustration to add texture to each one.

2. Find your “Draw Inside” button

With the object selected, you’ll notice at the bottom of the left hand side tool menu that there are three very small options. The button on the far right is “Draw Inside” which is what you want to click on with your object selected.

3. Make sure everything is highlighted and selected

To make sure the next step works, make sure your original vector object is selected and that the “Draw Inside” function is working. You’ll be able to see if it’s working if some black dashed lines appear in a box around your vector object.

4. Place your texture

Go File>Place and a box will appear for you to choose your textures from your computer. With your textures saved, you can select them at this stage and click “Place.”

5. Anchor and set your texture correctly

To make sure your texture fills your entire vector space and doesn’t jut off in a weird way, make sure your X and Y axis are highlighted green and are set to be “anchored” by placing your texture. You’ll be able to manually click and place the texture yourself, so it’s important that it fits in the left hand corner of your vector image to fill it up. Both the placement of the texture, and the vector object will remain adjustable.

6. Manipulate your opacity

By using the sliding bar on the top menu you can manipulate the opacity of your texture. You can manipulate in increments of 10% or create a mask to manually use the gradient slider to change opacity and transparency. We dropped our opacity down to 10 or 20% for each texture we placed on our vector. If you’re after a subtle look, you will require a smaller opacity number out of 100.

7. Experiment

Don’t be afraid to use some unusual looking textures. Textures that appear to be garish or too strong often dissipate once they’ve been placed and had their opacity dropped way down. We found a good looking texture that emulated negative scratches on camera film, and some roller paint textures that look better once they’re in the context of your Illustrator file. Again, it’s a good idea to check out our post on Photographing Your Own Textures as we have an extensive list of ideas for textures to get you going.

8. Use these resources

Smashing Magazine made a list of truly beautiful textures. You can re-live the ’90s glory of grunge with vector+tuts’ list of free texturesTexture Mate has a comprehensive collection of every imaginable texture catalogued here. Spoon Graphics have an awesome guide over here of even more textures. And All Free Download will have you lost in textures and patterns for a long while.

Be sure to head over and check out some of our similar tutorials here.

Have you had any success making or playing with textures in Illustrator ? Do you have any favorite RB images that use a lot of rad textures? Please share your work, and the work of others in the comments below. 

See more Tips and Tutorials