How to create textures from scratch and use them in Affinity

In this article, we’re going to look at some fun and interesting ways you can make your own textures to add vintage-looking, worn elements to your artwork in Affinity Designer or Photo.

Step 1: Gather your materials and tools

The first thing we need to do is gather our materials and tools to get creative with! I’ve made this handy list of things you could use but the options really are endless.

Paints, brushes (old and new for different textures), pencils, pens, crayons, sponges, pieces of card, clear Sellotape, textured paper, paint rollers, spray paint, pastels, chalk, markers, palette knife, drawing ink, calligraphy pens, varnish, Tipp-Ex.

Don’t feel that you have to stick to standard art materials; household items such as cleaning sponges, old cloths or rags and bubble wrap are also great for applying paints and inks in different ways to make interesting marks and textures.

Step 2: Create your textures

Now we have our materials gathered together let’s start to have some fun with them. First thing you should do is make sure you put down some newspaper or something to protect the surface you’re working on. It might get quite messy with these next steps so it’s really important to avoid any accidental damage to furniture or your recently established ‘WFH’ spaces!

The key thing to remember while we’re making these textures is that we’re going to digitise them afterwards to use in our design work, so they need to be as highly contrasting as possible. This way, when it comes to removing the textures from our paper or background area we can do it quickly and easily without having to spend a lot of time editing afterwards.

Some of my favourite textures are often made using unconventional methods, so here are some examples of the different lines and shapes I created with all of the things I collected.

Experimentation is key

It’s important to remember that there is no wrong way to do this. Sometimes the best results happen when you least expect it or out of the smallest little section you didn’t necessarily plan to make, so just go for it. Experiment with different ways of making marks using your chosen materials and see what you come up with.

Step 3: Digitise your work

Now we’ve made our marks and textures it’s time to get them into our chosen Affinity app. If you’ve got access to a scanner that would be best way to get a high-quality image of your texture (although make sure everything has properly dried so none of the ink or paints leave a mark on your scanner glass!).

In this case, I’m just using my smart phone but a digital camera would also be great. The most important things to consider when using a camera instead of a scanner are; making sure you get enough light into your image, if you get too close to your paper you’re likely to get shadows or other unwanted elements interfering and by capturing your image head on it will help to avoid any changes to perspective.

The next part is pretty simple. We now just need to drag the scanned image or photo straight into Affinity (this works great with either Designer or Photo, but in this case I’m going to use Designer to show you how simple it is).

Once we have our image in the app we just need to make some very simple adjustments before we can start to integrate it with our designs.

The first thing we need to do is go over to our Layers Panel, click on the Adjustments icon and add a Brightness/Contrast Adjustment to our layer. We can also do this by going to Layer > New Adjustment > Brightness/Contrast.

Now by adjusting both the sliders we can make sure our image is nice and bright and our textures and marks are clearly separated from our paper background.

An alternative option to this is to apply a Threshold Adjustment as this will boost the image levels in a similar way, however, sometimes I find this can make the image look a little harsh and might result in some of the finer detail being lost. But if you want something with a DIY, heavily contrasted look this could be a better option.

Now we just need to separate our textured area from the background section in our image. To do this, choose which section of your texture you want to use, then create a new Pixel Layer and go over to the Flood Fill Tool.

If you’re using Designer, you’ll need to switch to the Pixel Persona to do this but in Photo this can be done with the default tool selection.

Now, this is a hugely important step. We need to change the Source of the Flood Fill Tool. This will determine where the paint fill will go. So, in this instance Layers Beneath is the option we want to go with. Tolerance is also a setting worth experimenting with, but for most of my examples 20-30% worked perfectly. For this technique to work we need to have Contiguous switched off too. This means that instead of filling tiny areas at a time, we’ll be able to instantly fill the areas we need in one simple click.

Step 4: Applying the textures to a design

Now we have our settings loaded up and our Pixel Layer is above our actual textured image layer, we need to set our colour to Black via the Colour Panel and ensure we still have the new Pixel Layer we created, selected in the Layers Panel.

Next we need to zoom in to our texture and simply click on any of the darker areas of the design and the Flood Fill Tool will automatically replicate it into our new layer.

We now need to turn off our original layer and use this new Filled Texture layer to start adding some grit and grain to our design. In this tutorial, I’m just using some previously created designs to show you how easy it is to use this effect and to showcase how flexible it can be too.

The before and after image above shows one easy way you could add a vintage feel to your design using texture. The key thing here is you can easily change the colour of your new textured areas by adding a Colour Overlay via the app’s Layer Effects, which is located to the right of the Adjustments icon at the bottom of the Layers Panel. This is an efficient way to quickly change the whole colour of your layer without having to use the Flood Fill Tool each time and also allows you to revert to your original colour in a matter of seconds too.

Using objects for textures

Another effective way to create your own textures is to create them from random objects and items from around the house! In this example, I’ve taken two separate photos of my acoustic guitar and turned them into separate texture layers using the same process that we’ve just used for our other textures.

One thing that works particularly well here though is utilising the Threshold Adjustment we looked at earlier.

This is a great way to help make the lighter and darker sections of your photo stand out from each other, especially if (like in my photos) you don’t have the benefit of having a completely white background.

Further examples

There are so many ways you can use this technique. Here are two other examples where I’ve applied textured elements a little more boldly.

This skull image was made up primarily of layered crayon lines for the base, and then spray paint textures for the edges of the image. Because I wanted to keep the black spray painted sections quite bold and realistic I actually just used the original image without using the Flood Fill technique I would normally use. By changing the layer blend mode from Normal to Multiply it allowed the pink background to show through instead of the white paper you would normally be able to see.

While creating this last example I combined all of the previous techniques and methods covered. I also used some of my lines to more effectively erase some of the pen lines in the sunflower, this time, by changing my layer blend mode to Erase.

This is a great way to delete areas of your design non-destructively so you can continue to tweak and adjust the elements you want to remove, without having to make duplicates of your design or go back to previous versions if you change your mind!

I hope you we’re able to pick up some useful tips and tricks from this tutorial and most importantly I hope this inspires you to have fun experimenting with the different marks and textures you can make using various things you might have lying around your home!

I’ve always been a huge fan of the vintage/worn look so I love trying out new methods of incorporating texture into my work. If you decide to have a go at these technique yourself, make sure you tag us on social media using the hashtag #madeinaffinity as we would love to see the designs you come up with. Don’t forget to follow our official Instagram page @affintybyserif for more inspiration too.