Sharing some illustrations from Handsomefrank agency. If you see them, all have dotted / grainy colors.

enter image description here enter image description here

I've highlighted the thing I want to ask about by yellow color.

It's not limited to one artist. For example, you can see this artist's work also, where in some illustration you would find similar grains or grainy gradient but non-uniform.

Now, I know similar effect can be done using Illustrator Filter > Artistic > Grain or similar filter. I've done the same in one of illustration done by me below (in the main background):

enter image description here

But there's slight difference in between mine and the ones shared above (first 2, done by agency). If you observe them: 1) The grains are non-uniform. Looks like the designer used more effect where he wanted more and less where less needed. 2) He even has used in form of gradient also.

In my case, I can do both things like I've done in Teddy, but the grains are too large, uniform (see pink background) and are not subtle. While in the agency's, they feel different than mine, looks like sand particles spread over layers by hand. And is non-uniform also at some places. I think I like mix of both effects, so I want to learn this techniques also.

So is it possible and convenient to do this in Illustrator? Or you would recommend Photoshop (where there are lot of free brushes available)?

Also I don't want to limit myself to grains only. I want to know about it and learn this technique so that I can try other similar types of grains/effects also.


1 Answer 1


Building textures in vector is not easy. Especially if you want the effect to actually be a vector, rather than a pixel effect inside of Illustrator.

A good trick that I use these days is to start in Photoshop and then vectorise in Illustrator.

  1. Create a mid to high resolution image in Photoshop that has the texture you want. You can create this from scratch using filters and brushes, but you can also take a photographic image and use that as a base.
  2. Turn the contrast up to eleven. Ideally, all the highest highlights are stark white and the deepest blacks are midnight black.
  3. Flatten your image, or create a new layer with everything flattened in it, and Edit > Copy the contents.
  4. Paste in Illustrator.
  5. Use Image Trace in the 'Black and White' setting to convert your texture to a vector. Tweak the tracing results using the Window > Image Trace palette to fine-tune the results before you...
  6. Expand the result (Object > Expand).
  7. Recolor the resulting texture and use clipping masks to apply it to specific shapes.
  8. Vary opacity and blending mode of your texture to tweak the effects to your liking.

I was taught this technique in a LinkedIn learning course by Von Glitschka, and I want to credit him here.

  • Sorry, don't have time today to make this a full tutorial with screengrabs. Hope I can do that later on.
    – Vincent
    Feb 11, 2021 at 13:26
  • 2
    Glitschka rocks!
    – Scott
    Feb 11, 2021 at 19:21
  • I just found out that you can answer a question twice 😮 graphicdesign.stackexchange.com/questions/9481/…
    – Vikas
    Feb 12, 2021 at 8:07

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