Texturize your vectors
Take a vector image from glum to glam by learning how to add a texture in Illustrator. Adding a texture to a flat image in Photoshop is super easy — but what if you have a vector logo or illustration that you don't want to rasterize, but still want to give that "I'm a master of Photoshop" feel?
Knowing how to add a texture to a logo or illustration in Adobe Illustrator is the best way to take your work up a level and set it apart — especially if you’re working on a project that calls for a vintage, faded feel to it.
If I want to go full-out original when I’m texturizing, I like to create my own out of free stock photos I find online. Of course, if I’m in a pinch for time, there’s plenty of resources out there that allow me to drag and drop perfectly crafted pre-made textures.
Let’s go over both options. First, I want to share a couple of my favorite preset texture packs. Then, I’ll show you how I make my own.
Texture packs are awesome because they look professional and are super easy to use. For a vintage effect, I’d recommend one of two options that we offer right here at Medialoot. Both of them work wonders in taking old-school style designs up a notch, and they’re affordable enough for illustrators at any level to reap their benefits.
First up is a vector halftone texture. Halftones are ideal for that vintage screen printed style. They’re traditionally how designers with a very limited amount of available colors (like screen printers) create a gradient effect, and over the years they’ve become synonymous with that distinct screen printed aesthetic that we all know and love.
Halftones are also prevalent in comic book and pop art, so if you’re going for something like that, they’re going to be your best friend. Check out the halftone illustration board on Pinterest for some ideas and inspiration on how to apply them effectively!
The second effect is our dust and noise texture pack. Like its title suggests, it’ll add a perfect amount of dusty, noisy grit to your vector illustrations, and really give it an authentic vintage feel.
If you truly want to go full DIY in applying vintage vector textures to your illustrations or logos, there’s a few techniques you can use to make your own. I’m going to show you one that works well for me. In this example, I’ll create a mock coffee roaster logo and apply the texture to that. Let’s get started.
First let’s find a good base photo out of which we’ll make the texture. I think closeups of concrete lend themselves nicely to the vintage grain effect we’re going for. I found this one we can use for now. Download it, and drag it into Illustrator.
I made a logo for a “coffee roaster” company I made up. I’m calling it “Industria Coffee Roasters” (that’s latin for energy, so I figured it was a fitting name). You can name your company whatever you like, or follow along using mine.
To create a quick logo to follow along with, you can use Gilded Hand for the word “Industria,” and Viro for the words “coffee roasters.” Copy and paste the concrete image into the logo project. Set it off to the side of the canvas, and hold shift while you drag it down to a size that’s significantly smaller than the logo itself. Something that looks like the above is fine.
You can really do this with any Logotype, so if you have one you want to use, feel free!
Select the concrete image and navigate to Window -> Image Trace. Check the “Preview” box, and hit the “Advanced” dropdown to show all available options. Hit “Ignore White.” The image will now look like this, and will be vectorized and fully scalable once you expand it.
It’s getting there, but not quite where we want it. Play with the sliders until it looks somewhat more like a grainy, gritty texture. I ended up with the following settings:
Noise: 9 px
This is what it should look like now:
Hit the “Expand” box on the top bar to solidify your work. Select the image you just created and ungroup it (Object -> Ungroup).
We only want to work with the smaller, grainier bits, and none of those large chunks, so let’s delete the biggest pieces. Take a few minutes selecting the large blobs and get them out of the way! I’m only going to delete the chunks in the bottom left corner area, because that’s the only section I’m ultimately going to use. Above is a highlighted image of the area in which I removed big chunks.
Select the pixels around that area and group them together using Object -> Group. Pull the group away from the rest of the image.
You can delete everything that you didn’t work with. We won’t be needing it anymore. Now take your remaining grain texture and switch it from black to white. Duplicate it a few times by selecting it, and hold the option key while you drag it away.
Create three to five copies of the texture and drag them over the logo on the canvas so they cover the whole thing. Try not to overlap them too much, or space them apart too much. It took me about 5 copies of the original grain to cover the whole logo.
We’re almost there. Last thing we need to do is group all the instances of that grain together and merge them with the logo. Highlight all the grain at the same time, but make sure your logo is not selected, then group them by selecting Object -> Group.
Once they’re grouped, hit control/command and “X” to delete the grain and copy it to the clipboard. Don’t worry, it’s not gone forever. We’re going to set the texture directly to the logo using an opacity mask (this is similar to a Photoshop layer mask, but it functions a bit differently).
Select the logo and open the Transparency window (Window -> Transparency). Click “Make Mask” and uncheck the box that says “Clip.” You should see two boxes in the window—on either side of a little chain icon. The one on the left should be highlighted. Click the other box, the one on the right (that’s your mask). Once it’s highlighted, hit command/control “V” to paste the texture into that area. You may need to move it so it’s set over the logo entirely. Click “Invert Mask,” and then select back out of the “mask” box and click the box containing the picture of the main image again. You’re all set. You should be able to move the text around to your heart’s content, and the texture will remain on top of it.
Congratulations, you just made your own gritty texture from scratch. The good thing is, it’s fully vectorized so you can set it to whatever size you want or need. The downside, however is, creating a vector texture like this can lead to large file sizes that slow down your computer.
There is a way to achieve a similar (but non-vectorized) end result using Photoshop brushes, but that’s a different tutorial. Until then, get cracking on taking your logos up a notch with original, homemade vector textures!