Abstract We propose a novel technique that allows producing dense smooth visualization of unsteady vector fields. The suggested algorithm is texture-based: the field, which may depend on various quantities, such as time, determines how a chosen basic pattern of a texture has to be transformed and adapted to locally represent the features and variation of the field. Texture synthesis methods that aim at generating globally smooth textures yield dense visualizations of the vector field. Extending this synthesis in time leads to texture-based animations with frame-to-frame coherence. This approach is general and produces unsteady field visualizations in an intuitive and straightforward way. Additional degrees of freedom offer ways for user intervention (e.g. filtering and blending) or taking into consideration perception issues. This also makes this methodology useful and adaptable for a broad range of applications.