In the visual arts, texture is the perceived surface quality of a work of art. It is an element of two-dimensional and three-dimensional design and is distinguished by its perceived visual and physical properties. Use of texture, along with other elements of design, can convey a variety of messages and emotions.
Physical texture, also known as actual texture or tactile texture, are the actual variations upon a surface. This can include, but is not limited to, fur, wood grain, sand, smooth surface of canvas or metal, glass, and leather. It differentiates itself from visual texture by having a physical quality that can be felt by touch. Specific use of a texture can affect the smoothness that an artwork conveys. For instance, use of rough surfaces can be visually active, whilst smooth surfaces can be visually restful. The use of both can give a sense of personality to a design, or utilized to create emphasis, rhythm, contrast, etc.
Visual texture is the illusion of having physical texture. Every material and every support surface has its own visual texture and needs to be taken into consideration before creating a composition. As such, materials such as canvas and watercolour paper are considerably rougher than, for example, photo-quality computer paper and may not be best suited to creating a flat, smooth texture. Photography, drawings and paintings use visual texture both to portray their subject matter realistically and with interpretation. Texture in these media are generally created by the repetition of shape and line.