Large regions of many images are filled with visual texture, in which a viewer is not concerned with the exact pixel values. In image coding, it is advantageous to describe such regions in terms of their boundaries and textural properties. A textural description can be much more compact than a precise description of pixel values. For a coding system to work, it is necessary to have an automated method for generating compact texture descriptions; the synthesized textures must appear satisfying to the human viewer. We have adapted the Heeger and Bergen algorithms to the coding problem. The algorithm decomposes an image into subbands with a steerable pyramid, and characterizes the texture in terms of the subband histograms and the pixel histogram. Since the subband histograms all have a similar form, we can describe each one with a low-order parametric model. The resulting textural descriptor is quite compact. We show examples with both still images and video sequences.