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Adding a textured background

From: Designing a Restaurant Menu

Video: Adding a textured background

So in this, my alternate version of the menu, I thought I'd try something else, and that is to add a textured background, just to give it a little something extra; a bit more personality. Now, I will say that if we want to add texture, then maybe applying a textured image to the background is not the best way to go, or is certainly not the only way to go. Another way would be to actually print on textured paper, and I'll be discussing paper options a bit later on. But here, I am working with a texture file. I have this on the background layer. You can see that I've screened it right back, so the text is still readable. It's that same texture we saw in an earlier movie, inspired by this image of the interior of the cafe, and using this texture file as the starting point. I've placed this on a separate layer in the InDesign document that we can turn on and off as required.

Adding a textured background

So in this, my alternate version of the menu, I thought I'd try something else, and that is to add a textured background, just to give it a little something extra; a bit more personality. Now, I will say that if we want to add texture, then maybe applying a textured image to the background is not the best way to go, or is certainly not the only way to go. Another way would be to actually print on textured paper, and I'll be discussing paper options a bit later on. But here, I am working with a texture file. I have this on the background layer. You can see that I've screened it right back, so the text is still readable. It's that same texture we saw in an earlier movie, inspired by this image of the interior of the cafe, and using this texture file as the starting point. I've placed this on a separate layer in the InDesign document that we can turn on and off as required.

So it's important that, number one, the texture not be too prominent, otherwise it's going to make the text unreadable, and number two, given the limitations of our printing with this particular version, we do not have the option of a bleed, or printing items to the edge of the page. We need to make sure that the texture has a generous inner margin, so that it doesn't go to the edge of the page, and that's going to be the tricky part of preparing this texture. So I'm now going to switch over to Photoshop. Our document is already sized correctly, so it's the right proportions, and the right resolution; we don't need to worry about that.

What I am going to do is I'm going to add a bit of extra canvas size, and I'm going to add 115% for the width, and the height, and it's going to make it look like that. I'm going to Command+click on the layer to load the selection of the texture, and then add that as a layer mask. Now what I want to do is I want to paint onto that layer mask some more, using my brush and I need to use a special type of brush: I'm going to use a spatter brush, so that we get a nice raggedy edge around it. How about that one: Spatter 59 pixels.

I'm actually going to increase the size of that way beyond 59 pixels; that's fine. Now, making sure that I'm on the mask, I'm just going to paint around the edge there, and I'm going to vary my opacity as I do. I think I'm going to start out with a 100%. If I go too far with any one brush stroke, I can press my X key to switch to white, and then paint those areas back in. And I am going to go around it a second time, this time with a reduced opacity, and maybe varying my size a bit. The next thing I want to do is really tone it down considerably, and I can do this in Photoshop, and of course, I also have the option of doing it more in InDesign, but I'm going to start out by changing the opacity of this layer to 30%.

It's a bit difficult to evaluate how successful that's going to be when we're looking at a checkerboard -- checkerboard indicating transparencies -- so I'm going to come and change my transparency settings, so that I've a Grid Size of None, and my texture now looks like this. Okay, I'm going to save that, I'm going to call it background_texture_1, and then in InDesign, I'm now going to create a whole new layer for this. We'll keep the other one around. I'll create a whole new layer, and I'll name that layer texture.

I'll turn off the original background layer. I'll lock the text layer, so that I can't interfere with that, and then I'm going to choose File > Place; Control+D or Command+D, and I'm going to place that on the page, like so. It's a little bit too strong. I'm also going to use this opportunity just to reposition it slightly, and I need to tone that down quite a lot I think.

So I'm going to do the rest of this in InDesign; just take down the opacity of it to about 50%. We've got the hint of what it is. We see enough of it to know that it's this Hessian texture, but we're not seeing so much of it that it makes our type unreadable. Having got it on one side, I'm then just going to duplicate it, holding down the Alt and the Shift key, and putting it onto the other side, like so. It's really competing, I think, with this rule that's going on down at the bottom.

So I think if we're going to use this, it might be in either, or proposition, but if we did want to have both, then I'm going to come and select this texture -- I should have done this before I copied it, really -- but I'm going to just resize it. And I know that I'm distorting it there, but it's okay, it's a texture; it can withstand a bit of distortion. I'll do the same right there. So there is an option for you to think about; whether or not you want to maybe incorporate a texture into the background. I'd say, if you do, I'm not entirely pleased with my result.

I don't think it really brings anything extra to the menu design. I think if I were to add a texture, as I mentioned earlier on, I would do that with a lighter touch by printing on a textured paper. But that's not to say that this approach couldn't work with a different image, with a slightly different treatment, in a different situation. It's always worth experimenting with these options, but I would say that if you are going to go down this route, then make sure that you screen your texture way back, and it's a question of finding that sweet spot where the texture is still readable for what it is, but your text is still legible.

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Designing a Restaurant Menu

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Nigel French
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