Friday, 17 February 2012

Digital print texture bank - for illustrators & designers

One of the advantages of having a studio in a large printmaking workshop, is that I have access to everybody's rubbish!!

Over the years, I've struggled to find a consistent source of high quality print textures, for use in digital illustration and design. There are bits and bobs on the web, as you'd expect, but apart from the low resolution required to compress most internet images, there's also the issue of moral rights. Sure - maybe not a burning issue for many as a texture may only be an enhancement to an image, rather than the focus, but it's not good practice really - is it?

Over the past 8 months, I've been scavenging, rifling through bins and drawers (in typical Sim fashion), and generally pestering the artists at the press to donate what largely constitutes rubbish in most print processes, but which to me is texture GOLD!!

I've been collecting, preparing and scanning this material, and I now have a significant digital library of textures which to all intents and purposes would be impossible to recreate digitally. I've also been screen printing colour blocks, blotting and thinning the ink as I produce a run, to get as much texture variation as possible. I use these colour blocks as image backgrounds, frequently overlaid with textures form other processes, such as etching.

It's occurred to me recently that, as it's such a valuable resource to me, it may well be to other illustrators, digital artists, graphic designers, compositors, 3D & CGI artists, animators, etc. Before I just go ahead and make all this stuff available though, I'd be very interested to get as much feedback as possible on the matter. Please feel free to comment on this post, or email me.

I use a Microtek 9800XL pre-press scanner. It produces VERY high quality scans. It will scan at resolutions up to 1600dpi, but as a rule I tend to scan everything at 600dpi, 48 bit RGB TIFF's. Unless there's a requirement for dramatic enlargement (for large format digital print, for example), 600dpi is more than enough. Most high quality publications are printed at 300dpi, so there's plenty of margin there.

Above is an example of a prized find... a test print from an etching plate onto stiff proofing paper.

Another great find - a piece of newsprint which an artist had used to rest a roller loaded with oil-based relief ink.

These are great... I have very many, many variations. It's tissue paper used to protect etching press blankets from ink smeared plates. They take a fair bit of preparation prior to scanning, as the tissue wrinkles substantially due to the pressure and the softness of the blankets.

This is an example of a bespoke screen printed colour block. The first few prints in the run tend to result in solid blocks of colour - although at reasonably high resolutions, they still contain lots of textural depth and variation. As the run progresses, the prints become more varied. I purposefully introduce mistakes, and allow errors to happen, as they make for very interesting broken edges and marks. I only stop the run when the ink is gone, and the images become so feint and broken, as to render them pointless. This makes for a huge bandwidth of useable textures. This particular example has been re-coloured in Photoshop. I also have all manner of marks, from drips and splashes to smudges, thinned ink rubbed by cloth onto newsprint, hand & finger marks, brush strokes, screen filler (translucent blue) on acetate, scanned using a transparency adapter which makes for a very striking effect, scratched perspex, and all manner of dots, splodges and marks - too numerous to mention!!

I currently have around 300-400 scans, which I'm adding to all the time.

If you've stumbled across this post in a hunt for such textures - please do post your feedback below. If you're struggling to find something that you need now, do email me... I may have exactly what you're looking for!!


Print textures now available to buy at Nanamee (part of You Work For Them)

My website's on the way, but I'm too busy to make it happen soon, Nanamee are great though, and the images are all available as large 600dpi files. You get to choose between small, medium, large, Xlarge, and XXlarge files at great prices - So we're all happy!!


  1. I hasten to add... I'm simply not set up at this stage to sit here sending out textures all over the place - I'd never get any work done!!! But, if there's enough positive feedback, maybe it's worth me thinking about setting up a website or something. I want to try and keep the textures as inexpensive as possible - probably just a couple of quid to cover my time & effort. FEEDBACK PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE!!!

    1. I would happily pay if they were good enough. Would have to see more. Print textures are so hard to come by!

      email me if you like -

  2. some useful textures there for your efforts

  3. Great idea! You're just "repurposing" and recycling the stuff you throw away. So long as there are no recognizable images that could be a copyright problem, go for it.

  4. Great idea, set up the website, it'd be extremely popular I'd reckon.

  5. Great - cheers! How many of you guys use textures like this sort of thing?
    What do you think about making low res textures free, and just charging for high res files?

  6. This would be so very useful. Please try and set this up, would you're proposing sounds great.
    Great effort!

  7. I'm in the process of setting up the website now... All ideas and feedback gratefully received! Watch this space for info...

  8. Wow an Illustrator on the inside, you could be sitting on a goldmine! I use textures every day in my work I'm constantly searching for new sources, for some reason screen print texture seems especially hard to find.

  9. Thanks Martin. Yes - it's all looking very promising, but I'm not going to order a Lamborghini just yet!

  10. Print textures now available to buy at Nanamee...