Paper textures are extremely useful and versatile in web and graphic design. Whether it is brown paper, notebook paper, wrinkled paper, or something else, they are frequently used by designers.
In this post, we’ll feature some of the best free paper textures. Always be sure to check the license and terms before using. At the bottom of this post, we’ve got 2 sets of textures that were created just for our readers as well as how you can use paper texture in your UI design work.
For more textures please see:
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Free Paper Textures
The textures can be used in your own personal and commercial projects. Each textures is sized at 3600 pixels by 3600 pixels, 300 dpi.
Download the textures (16 MB zip file)
The textures are free for use on personal and commercial projects, no attribution needed. They cannot be given away or sold at any other website.
Download the Grunge Paper Textures (21 MB zip file)
Applying Paper Texture to UI Design Work
Many designers freely release their own paper texture resources to the design community. This allows anyone to craft interfaces with texture without having to scan or build your own patterns from scratch.
But just because you have the resources doesn’t mean execution always works as planned. So to help with creative ideas I’ve put together real-world examples of paper texture in UI design. If a layout follows a natural theme it’ll be much easier to add a paper texture organically into the design.
Custom UI Elements
Since photos of textures are often limited to certain dimensions, it may be easiest to apply them directly onto page elements.
Take for example the homepage of Church on the Rock. It has a featured slider with paper backgrounds meant to look like postcards and bits of lined paper.
The design itself uses beige colors and other natural textures like wood in the header. But this one area utilizes a few paper texture patterns to build a stunning content slider.
Similarly, the layout for Adventure Trekking uses paper textures fixed to more static page elements. The sidebar appears as one long strip of paper with a repeating BG texture. Also, each image is surrounded by a worn paper border, almost like a polaroid.
Again take note of how Adventure Trekking is meant to be a natural outdoorsy website. Paper texture works best in context when other elements on the page are relevant.
If you really want to go all-out with paper texture styles then consider creating a full layout based on this theme. Paper can often be edited in Photoshop to make repeating patterns that feel natural digitally on the web.
Dog House Cards relies on both wood and paper to design its layout. Each navigation link is a single strip of paper aligned at an angle. This gives a more real-world appearance since strips of paper almost never fall naturally in a straight line.
Beyond the links, you’ll notice that the website’s logo is also encapsulated within a paper frame. It’s even been curled in the corner to give the appearance of old, dated paper. This same effect is applied to the page body with a drop shadow falling on the wood.
Another great example of a fullpage layout is Team Fannypack. Their entire design rests on a long scrolling sheet of paper that contains all content for the site.
Fullpage paper textures are a lot more difficult to design because they require very high-quality resources. But if your site can mimic paper accurately then it may be worth going this route.
Paper Layout Styles
In some cases a designer might apply only a few paper elements to areas of the layout. These styles are not directly affecting a single element, nor do they apply to the whole page, but they’re still an aesthetic part of the design.
Take a peek at the 9Photoshop website to see a great example. Their header uses crunched cardboard that blends into a solid background color. This stays fixed in the header but does not affect any other area of the page.
Similarly the content container uses a paper curl effect in the top-right corner to reveal a search bar. This is a very creative approach to adding paper in a way that seems both digital and realistic. A similar effect can be found in the date field for each post which uses a block of lined notebook paper texture with a thumbtack.
Mobile App Design
Although flat design and material design have taken over the world of mobile apps, there are still some designers incorporating textures into mobile. Keep in mind that mobile webapps also have the ability to use textures if they can fit into an appropriate theme.
Many will argue against skeuomorphism and I can’t disagree that iOS 9 is holding steady with flat design. But there’s something to be said about a quality design that looks good even in the face of trends that say otherwise.
For a somewhat offbeat example consider this modal window created for the Getbelongings app.
The interface replicates a pad of paper with torn sheets at the top. Just like all other paper textures, this brings a real-world sensory idea to the digital screen. Also notice that the modal window’s background is textured with crumpled paper to appear more realistic.
While both of these examples pertain to mobile app design that is somewhat dated, you can still recreate these effects for a website or web application.
Paper texture is rare and should be used sparsely in the right conditions. When used properly it can really add new depth and life into a digital interface.
Paper textures are just one of many real photographic textures that can be used in web and mobile design. Paper tends to work best in websites with similar themes like notepads, cardboard, and a sense of natural realism. I hope these examples can offer guidance to anyone currently thirsting to build an interface with custom paper texture elements.
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