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Whether you are creating a logo, a new marketing campaign, or a fresh update to your company’s website, you can increase the appeal and impact of your graphics by incorporating a design background. Using an image or pattern in a background, or employing different colors and effects, can lead to creative and unique graphics. Read on to discover more about the power of a well-designed background.

Solid Color

Image by Zubdash.

If you want maximum impact in a minimalist design, using a solid color background is the way to go. Light text on a dark background makes a bold statement. If you prefer a softer color in the background, make sure your text is still readable by choosing a color such as dark brown or gray, which complement pastels better than a rich color such as black. Creating a background with a combination of lighter colors or two different shades of the same color can help you differentiate between sections of your graphic while maintaining overall cohesiveness. For the most dramatic look, use a light and a dark color from separate sides of the color wheel.

Solid Color/High Contrast

Take the solid color technique to the next level by incorporating highly contrasting colors. This “flat design” technique revolves around choosing colors that strongly offset each other. A black background with neon text is one example of this type of design. Here is another. The dark background draws attention to the lighter text, making this technique a good option for links or icons on a webpage.

Alternately, you can embrace a modern trend of choosing two bright colors that contrast with each other. The largest contrast comes from colors on opposite sides of the color wheel, such as red and blue. Less is more in this technique; you will get the most impact from limiting yourself to two colors, rather than muddying the design with several colors and shades.

Texture

Image by AXA.

Want to create a nostalgic or classical feeling with your design? Textured backgrounds can give the feeling of parchment or other types of paper, helping to provide a three-dimensional effect that makes your text pop. Make sure your texture doesn’t overwhelm your design, and choose a texture that matches the tone of your graphic. For example, a natural texture similar to that of old-fashioned paper works well for a personalized invitation to a formal event. Linen-texture backgrounds are quite popular as well. You can continue the theme by choosing a font in the same vein, such as calligraphy or brush styles.

Gradient

Though solid color backgrounds and the flat design technique have dominated the industry in recent years, it looks like gradient backgrounds are making a comeback. Gradient backgrounds may gradually fade the background to a lighter or darker shade, or move from one color to another, blending in the middle. Whether you choose vivid colors, such as red and purple, or a subtle option, such as blue that lightens into white, you can make a very unique statement with this type of design background.

Gradients work well in logos, headers, and footers, and some designers are embracing the trend for entire website backgrounds. Make your design one-of-a-kind by choosing different colors or shades, picking a linear or radial fade, and matching the boldness of the design to your subject.

Image/Photograph

Image by Maxim Larin.

Make your design clear and focused by using an image or photo in the backgrounds. The right picture translates your message to the viewer before he or she even reads the text. When you’re looking for the best background image, don’t just consider the picture’s subject; choosing an image with the right composition is essential as well. You don’t want a photo that is crowded or confused, and you need to leave negative space for your text. Cropping tools make it easy to modify the photo to position your text where you want it. If you can shape your overall text block in a way that fits around elements of the image, you increase the visual appeal even more.

Shapes

If you do end up choosing a detailed or crowded image for your design background, you can use shapes to draw attention to your text and prevent it from becoming lost or muddled. Think about adding shapes (simple rectangles or squares) around your text to draw it out of the background and refocus the viewer’s eye on what you have to say.

Remember the solid color principles discussed earlier when choosing the colors for your shapes and text. Ideally, you should choose a text color that contrasts with the color of your shape to make reading easy. Also, try to choose tones that offset the background image to improve the composition of the final graphic.

Transparency

An even simpler option to address an overly detailed background image is to increase the transparency. Fading the background image reduces the overall detail and automatically draws the text to the foreground. Balance is the key to using transparency effectively. Too little transparency causes the background to compete with the text, making the graphic confusing and hard to read. Too much transparency destroys all the integrity of the background image, making the graphic look weak.

Using Blur

Image by Maxim Larin.

Yet another way to include an image as the background of your graphic without worrying about the detail overwhelming the text is to employ blur. Blurring your background naturally draws attention to the text overlay and helps viewers automatically see the image as the context, rather than the focus, of the graphic. As with transparency, blur requires a subtle hand to achieve the best effect. Blur enough that the background image stops looking cluttered and instead transforms into interesting shapes, patterns, and colors. Don’t blur so much that the background image loses its unique appearance. Ideally, your viewer should still see the connection between the blurred image and the subject of the text.

Color Overlay

If blur doesn’t seem like the right technique for your graphic, try a color overlay instead. This option is another way to help your text stand out while still retaining the integrity of the background photo. Before you think about applying an overlay, make sure your image has a good amount of tonal nuance so it can stand up to the overlay. If you want a traditional look, use a black or white overlay with some level of transparency. Choose a color overlay for a more modern look, or as a subtle way to integrate your brand colors into the image. You’ll likely need to crop your image to make sure the text is readable. Aim for maximum contrast: light text over a dark part of the background, or vice versa.

Copy Space

Image by 279photo Studio.

This one is all about a graphic design fundamental: image composition. While it sounds technical, all it means is there is a relationship between the placement of objects in your image and the way the audience interprets it. One element of the overall image composition is the “copy space,” otherwise known as negative space. In this image, it’s the blank area on the left side. This is the blank space in an image, and it’s the ideal location to place your text for several reasons:

  • Readability
  • Text doesn’t compete with image details
  • Overall composition draws attention to the text
  • Background image elements surround the text, adding depth to the message

As in other cases where the text sits on a colored background, make sure you choose a text color that contrasts well with the colors of the negative space for maximum impact.

Pattern

Image by Plasteed

Using a pattern in the background is playful and fun, and can be a great way to add color to your graphic or website. Restraint is important when using patterns; you don’t want to choose a busy design that distracts from your text or overall message. On the other hand, you can use patterns to actually enhance your text. Typeface overlays well on top of geometric patterns with strong lines. Other ways to maximize a patterned background include using symmetry, choosing simple colors, and drawing elements from your brand or website.

Illustration

Image by Tithi Luadthong.

Illustration is another design option that exudes playfulness. This type of design background is extremely customizable and you can use it to draw a strong link to your brand or industry. Illustrations are especially popular in graphics designed for a young target audience. Illustrations, like detailed images or busy patterns, can potentially overwhelm your final design, so you must use them cautiously. When placing illustrated elements, try to stick to the rule of thirds, placing important elements on the lines and at the intersections of a 3×3 grid.

White Space

When you’re struggling with an image looking overloaded or confusing, fall back to your white space. In many graphics, simplicity is key, and leaving white space open rather than filling it with design elements can create a powerful effect. Rather than viewing white space as a negative, or a place that needs to be covered, think of it instead as a focusing element. Blank space draws the eye toward the other elements of the design, allowing you to make a strong impact with the surrounding text or graphics. Minimalism is a popular design trend, and embracing it can help your brand seem modern. However, it only works well if the other elements in your graphic are aesthetically pleasing and placed with care. White space enhances beautiful design elements, but it can also illuminate weak or sloppy areas.

Using a Grid

Image by Betelgejze

If your message relies on several distinct aspects, consider visually dividing your content into sections to reinforce this idea. When you break content up using a grid, your viewer automatically understands the separate nature of each section as well as how the sections combine to form the whole. You may want to use different images in each section, or alternate images with text. Sticking within a specific color palette helps the overall image feel cohesive. Focus on your composition when using a grid, making sure there is a good balance of text and images, and ensuring the individual images sync well with the surrounding elements in the grid.

Next time you sit down to create, think about adding a background to your design. The right image, pattern, or color draws attention to your text while improving the overall beauty of the graphic. Backgrounds can help reinforce your brand by playing off photos, illustrations, or colors related to your industry. In Shutterstock Editor you can employ powerful tools to full effect, such as transparency, blur, or color overlay.

Top Image by KucherAV