Tactile Imagery

Definition of Tactile Imagery

Tactile imagery appeals to the sense of touch. It is the most vibrant and spirited form of imagery. The writer discusses the feel of texture, temperature, and other somatic sensations. Tactile imagery helps to create a mental image that stimulates the reader’s sense of touch. Tactile imagery plays a vital role in painting the true picture that a writer wants the reader to feel. This imagery only deals with tangible or physical sensations, it has nothing to do with intangible and abstract nouns. In short tactile imagery helps the reader to visualize or perceive the things that he can feel with his skin.

Techniques To Create Tactile Imagery

Figurative Language helps the writer to create effective tactile images. These techniques are metaphors, similes, personification, and hyperbole. Adjectives and adverbs are very helpful while writing and understanding tactile imagery as well.

Tactile Imagery in Literature

Example #1

Macbeth by William Shakespeare

Whiles I threat, he lives:
Words to the heat of deeds too cold breath gives.

The tactile imagery here is a contrast, also known as juxtaposition. The “heat of deeds” with “cold breath” means trying to resolve the heat of the situation or speaking calming words instead of using violence, which is the deed. Thus it can prolong Duncan’s life.

Example #2

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

An instant before his foot hit the object on the floor he knew he would hit such an object. It was not unlike the feeling he had experienced before turning the corner and almost knocking the girl down. His foot, sending vibrations ahead, received back echoes of the small barrier across its path even as the foot swung. His foot kicked. The object gave a dull clink and slid off in darkness.

Here the author uses tactile imagery when Montag’s foot accidentally touches his wife’s sleep medicine in the middle of the night. It also combines auditory imagery to describe the object of the dark bedroom Montag had entered.

Example #3

The Great Gatsby

They were both in white, and their dresses were rippling and fluttering as if they had just been blown back in after a short flight around the house.

In the above example, the author has combined visual imagery with tactile imagery to describe the movement and touch of the dresses.

Tactile Imagery in Poetry

Example #1

Porphyria’s Lover  by Robert Browning

When glided in Porphyria; straight
She shut the cold out and the storm,
And kneeled and made the cheerless grate
Blaze up, and all the cottage warm

The above example uses tactile imagery to describe the touch of air and rain against the skin during a storm. The poet further expresses the sadness that the speaker experiences in that harsh weather while he still comfortably sitting in his cottage.

Example #2

After Apple Picking by Robert Frost

My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.

Robert Frost, one of the best poets is known for using inspiring themes and rich literary devices in his poems. Here, he is depicting his pleasure of touching apples during the picking season. The auditory imagery is combined with touch as well, and despite the tiredness of the speaker, he assures us that he had been careful with the apples and that the experience has made him happy.

Example #3

To Be Free by Reginald Shepherd

It’s winter in my body all year long, I wake up
with music pouring from my skin, morning
burning behind closed blinds. Dead
light, dead warmth on dead skin

cells, the sky is wrong
again. Hope clings to me like damp
sheets, lies to my skin. As if I were a coat
wearing my bare body out on loan,

The poem is an example of fine tactile imagery combined with a metaphor that describes the feeling of the cold weather. The speaker compares the experience to hope as music’s vibration touches his skin, and he feels warm. It means the music affects not only his soul but also his physical body.

Example #4

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

The cold sweat melted from their limbs,
Nor rot nor reek did they:
The look with which they looked on me
Had never passed away…
My lips were wet, my throat was cold,
My garments all were dank;
Sure I had drunken in my dreams,
And still my body drank.

Another famous poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, is well-known for writing poems with rich literary devices, especially imageries. Here, the words ‘cold’, ‘wet’, and ‘sweat melting’ are beautifully described as tactile imagery in the above lines. The poet describes the hardship of a man working on a ship in conditions that is not pleasant at all. He is tired, thirsty, and wet to the skin because of sweat, and yet there is no bad smell, just hard work.

A Few More Examples of Tactile Imagery in Regular Usage

  • Liam opened the window, and a gust of cold breeze blew over him, and the snow melted, leaving moist warm touch, making his body shiver.
  • Princess Aurora touched the needle and felt a prick on her finger.
  • Heidi moved her fingers on the soft rose petals as she tried to pluck the flower. “Ouch,’ she hissed as a sharp thorn stung her thumb.
  • The piercing cold winter made Johnny tremble as they traveled on the bus. Then his father covered him with his jacket.
  • Jenifer tried to grab the snake, but its slimy wet skin made it slip away.
  • Sinead massaged her chapped heels with lotion to get rid of the rough skin on cold icy nights.
  • As the little Joe licked the cotton candy, it melted on his moist tongue.
  • Marlin bit the cupcake, groaned at the soft buttery pieces, and enjoyed their sweetness.
  • The creamy, velvety texture made the chocolate more mouth-watering.
  • Damien woke up early to wash his car with soapy water. As spraying water and fell over his face, he tasted the salty metallic flavor of the soap.
  • The officer checked his reflection in the mirror, his muscular frame was now curved and no more mushy after months of workout.
  • Rebekah jumped onto her soft feathery mattress after returning from the double shift in the office and instantly fell asleep.
  • The cold wind blowing today was making the water wrinkled with rumbling waves.

Tactile Imagery in The Bible

  • “Or if a person touches any unclean thing, whether a carcass of an unclean beast or the carcass of unclean cattle or a carcass of unclean swarming things, though it is hidden from him and he is unclean, then he will be guilty. Or if he touches human uncleanness, of whatever sort his uncleanness may be with which he becomes unclean, and it is hidden from him, and then he comes to know it, he will be guilty”  – Leviticus 5:2-3
  • “Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near” – Matthew 24:32
  • “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth” – Revelation 3:15-16


No doubt, imagery enhances both literary works and poems. Tactile imagery further adds a sense of touch to writing, adding more descriptives. Through tactile imagery, readers can perceive or understand the setting of life that a writer wants them to feel. It is as important in poetry as in prose. However, it is used more widely in poetry as compared to other styles of writing. Tactile imagery is a powerful literary tool that can lift the reader beyond the screen or page and can be felt on the skin while reading any text. This is also perspective imagery in which the reader has to plunge into the character which the writers portray for them.