Working with Textures in Adobe Illustrator

texture art by Bob Ostrom

Hamburger illustration showing texturesMost people point their cameras up when there taking photos. Lately I’ve been pointing mine down. I find the best textures live on or near the ground. I’m sure my neighbors think I’ve lost it when they see me taking pictures of my driveway but I don’t care because I know it’s going to make an excellent texture for my next piece of art.

There are lots of different ways to add visual interest to a digital file.  I’ve been inspired by the some of the unique art I’ve been seeing on Instagram lately. Lots of textures and lots of originality. It seems as though the pendulum has begun to swing in the direction of a more organic look these days. Adding texture is a great way to great way to add visual interest and create a unique signature.  The trick is figuring out how some of it is done and that’s the focus right now.

I’ve worked with adding simple textures in the past but I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface when I look at some of the artists I’ve been following. This month I plan to dig in a little deeper and see if I can come up with some solutions of my own. At the same time I’ll be attempting to solve some of the problems I ran into earlier with my textures. I noticed some of the blending modes I used earlier made my art skew a little darker than I would have liked. I’d also like to see if I can find a way to add more vibrant colors to my textures at the same time.

My early attempts focused mainly on Photoshop but now I’m looking into Illustrator. The technique is slightly more complicated with Illustrator because, as you know, Photoshop offers the ease of using clipping masks where Illustrator does not. The art shown here involves two different textures placed on top of the original art using different blending mode for each. I’m pretty happy with whats going on in this illustration but for my next attempt I’d like to try and push the envelope a little further. Stay tuned for more updates.


chameleon texture art by bob ostrom
This art was created in Adobe Illustrator using two different texture placed on top of the original image each with a different blending mode.





Cartooning Tutorial – Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop.

This is a little cartooning tutorial I wrote a few years back about creating an illustration using Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. You’ll notice I begin my drawing in pencil, then move to illustrator for line work and finally Photoshop for color. Although the tutorial is a little old and the programs have advanced since then it’s still pretty useful and works just as well now as when I wrote it (assuming the you’re familiar with the basic functions of both programs). For more advanced students you may want to try adding actions to speed things up a bit.

If this tutorial is beyond your skill level take heart I’m working on a new series that will delve a little deeper focusing on individual tools, how they work and more importantly how to get them to work for you. Many of my first time students are tentative about using these programs to their full potential because they sometimes feel overwhelmed. My advice is always the same. Don’t let your inexperience dictate the scope of your project. Try things that are slightly out of reach and a little ABOVE your skill level. Step outside of your comfort zone and allow yourself to learn some of the tools you’ve been avoiding. If you get stuck don’t panic there are tons of resources available everywhere. The best places I’ve found for quick easy answers (in no particular order) are:

Using the help button built into the program
Posting a question on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn
Adobe website (if you have an account)

On the other hand if you’re just not the adventurous type and you really want to learn the program once and for all consider taking a course. It will cut your learning time in half. There are few substitutes for having a knowledgable instructor to help you gain a clear understanding and get you through those areas you don’t understand.

Bob Ostrom is a children’s book illustrator and instructor of Adobe Illustrator, InDesign and Photoshop at Wake Tech Community College and the State Personnel Development Center in Raleigh NC.

Adobe Photoshop Tip – Working with Smart Objects in Photoshop and Illustrator.

Working With Smart Objects

image right clicking smart objects

I’m not going to go into all kinds of details about Smart Objects this is just a quick tip I hope some of you will find useful. Recently I was working on some files for a client. It was a sizable project with lots of little moving pieces. Somewhere along the way I lost a couple of Illustrator files that went with the project. Because of a tight deadline I didn’t have time to track down the missing .ai files. As luck would have it I did however have them placed in a Photoshop file as Smart Objects.

Here’s the really great thing about Smart Objects, by right clicking the layer in Photoshop you can edit and save them in Illustrator.

Here’s how it works:

• Open your Photoshop document.

• Find the layer with the Smart Object you want to convert.

• Right click the layer.

• Select Edit Contents from the sub-menu.

• The Smart Object will be opened in illustrator.

• Make corrections to the vector art if you have any

• Save the illustrator file someplace you won’t lose it next time

• High five yourself for saving tons of time and being super tech savvy.



*Special thanks to my buddy George Coghill for his excellent advice.


To Learn more about Photoshop, Illustrator or InDesign come see me at:

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