Capture Texture and Give Depth to Your Vector Art

Transform your work by adding an analog feel to your illustrations.

Image by James Burke.

One of the more frustrating aspects of using textures is the uncertainty of taking your own source material and later finding out the pattern or the desired effect wasn’t sufficient, and the lighting or location is no longer available to you. What I really enjoy about Adobe Capture is the ability to see how things look in the moment — so when you take a walk after banging your head on a design problem, you can catch some granularity in nature and instantly find out if it serves your needs.

Adobe Capture is really versatile at editing live images and specifically useful for textures that can really help take a piece to another dimension. Texture adds a sense of grit and realism, and vector textures give you the precision to make a piece feel fanciful and majestic. I love using concrete and splattered paint to create all sorts of effects, from aging to adding depth. Adobe Capture makes this process much quicker, and, as many of you know, making something quicker means it’ll show up in your workflow more often.

Many of my pieces take advantage of opacities and the interplay between multiple layers of screens to give a desired color wash or effect. I’m going to show you how to use the shapes grabbed from Adobe Capture to create some texture in the smoke of this illustration of the launch of Apollo 11.

Step 1: Open Capture in the “Shapes” module. Choose an image from your photo library or use the camera in the app. You can also import images from your Creative Cloud Libraries, Adobe Stock, or your Lightroom catalog. Some good texture subjects are asphalt, concrete, and tree bark, but almost every surface offers possibilities. Once you have your image, use the main slider to select how much texture is captured.

Step 2: The first icon in the navigation bar inverts the capture, while the second icon will “clean up” the image. Once you have your texture, select the check button to go to Edit mode.

Step 3: In Edit mode you can erase or add to your image, and crop the area you want to save. For better detail, smooth the shape. This will reduce the points, giving it a more stylized feel.

Step 4: Once you get the look you want, you can save the texture. It will save in your CC Libraries as an SVG, a vector graphic that will smoothly resize depending on your needs. The real fancy part here is the ability to save it to your CC Library, and immediately open it in Adobe Illustrator directly from Capture.

Step 5: Open the CC Libraries panel and select your shape, if you did not open it directly from Capture. Drag and drop the selected shape onto your workspace. Use repeating layers of the shape to build a more complex texture. Scale, rotate, and adjust as you add layers to give a more randomized feel to the final look.

Step 6: Once you have the texture you like, add another layer on top with the shape you want to add texture to. Make a clipping mask by choosing Object > Clipping Mask > Make. Apply a gradient to the clipped texture so there is brighter detail at the top while it fades to a lower opacity on the bottom, and set the opacity to screen. Drop the finished shape into your artwork on top of the layer you want to texturize.

As you can see, the final look does a great job in conveying dimension and adds detail that can be scaled to any size you want. The nice thing about doing this with Capture and Illustrator is the versatility of the image. Capture allows you to quickly and easily create resizable graphic assets to use however you’d like. Since this is entirely in vector, I can now have this printed at any size or dpi I want.

For the 50th anniversary of the Apollo program, I wanted to do a piece in honor of one of the greatest achievements in history: landing 12 astronauts on the moon from 1969-1972. The Saturn V, easily one of the most impressive pieces of engineering in modern history, was an incredible inspiration growing up.

Ever since I was a child I was a fan of NASA. Every book I read about space, every photo of the moon landings I was transfixed with pure awe at what was possible. In many ways, realizing that humanity could do more and aspire to achieve something profound and wonderful has been a guiding force in my creative work.

You can follow my work on Instagram at @oaklandoc, where I post illustrations, photography, and other art stuff.