Realistic paper-textures! They look so cool in the background of sophisticated website designs, mobile-applications, desktops, in brochures and print-production design, and for interesting user-interface design. Better than using just a plain white background, or a background with black-to-white gradients that often remind me of retro-1980s design. I prefer realistic-looking paper that is subtle, and use it with sensitivity to draw a viewer’s attention to the content.
GIMP is a free and powerful alternative to Photoshop software. When I say ‘free’, I mean muft and mukt. GIMP is available for Windows, Macintosh, Linux, from http://www.gimp.org/downloads/ so get your copy and let’s get started.
Step 1: Launch GIMP, and select File-menu > New. Choose the height and width of your paper in pixels, and press ‘OK’.
Step 2: Select Filters-menu > Noise… and choose ‘RGB Noise’. Apart from ‘Preview’ make sure all other check-boxes are unchecked.
Step 3: Do you want your paper to be smooth, or would you like to have a texture that’s tad stronger? Take your pick as you slide the tab on ‘Red’ ‘Green’ or ‘Blue’ between 0.20 to 0.69. Do notice how all three values move in tandem. Check out the preview which may show granular dots increase or decrease in density. I prefer values between 0.20 to 0.32. Once you find a pattern to your taste, click ‘OK’.
Step 4: Go to Image-menu > Mode > Grayscale. This one step will make the dots appear more textured, and shrink your file to one-third its size in kilobytes or megabytes, which is a good thing.
Step 5: Go to Filters-menu > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Choose a value between 3 and 9 on the slider below. Check out the ‘Preview’ to see what suits your taste, and click ‘OK. You’re done. If required, you may re-apply Gaussian Blur with a different value, for an even smoother finish.
Save your file in the format of your choice, and you’re done.
Use the Color-menu > Brightness-Contrast slider to set the tonality of your paper.
I use the muft and mukt illustration-design software, Inkscape, for authoring user-interface designs. You may find it for free download and use for your platform here: http://inkscape.org/
Import your paper-texture into Inkscape, then draw your interface elements over it using Inkscape’s tools.
Hope you find this quick tutorial useful. It’s a Christmas gift for a client.