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The background you pick can provide the perfect canvas for the rest of your work, dramatically enhancing a design’s best qualities and making your graphics feel complete. Learn about the latest trends and styles in background design and use them to bring your work to life.
When it comes to Graphic Design for print and digital media, there’s no denying that background design is all-important.
A good background can surround, support, and emphasise the design’s other elements. It has the potential to set the mood, highlight important information, convey important aspects of your message and enable your colour palette to really pop.
On the other hand, a poorly chosen background can overwhelm the rest of the image, making the design in its entirety difficult to perceive, or even making the other elements seem unrelated.
Just because a background shouldn’t crowd out the design as a whole doesn’t mean it has to be bland or boring. Rich, vibrant colours and interesting textures can often make the best background designs – the human eye is naturally drawn to stimulating aesthetics. This can be used to your advantage!
There are a number of benefits that come with perfecting the background of your design. These include:
As you can tell, what appears in the background is the backbone of any good design. Starting with a blank canvas can be intimidating, so we’re going to walk you through some of the most popular creative choices when it comes to staging the perfect background for your designs.
Never underestimate the impact of a clean white background. If your design feels like it has too many elements or is getting a little jumbled, simplify it.
Think of a white background as a way of sharpening your viewer’s senses, allowing them to easily focus on important elements within your design.
As well as being on-trend these days, minimalist designs mean you really need to perfect the other features on your page.
The best way to ramp up the narrative of your design is to paint a picture. By including an image in your background, you’ll immediately command your audience’s full attention. The added pictorial features will also enhance your ability to convey a message visually.
Pro tip: When overlaying type and other visual elements, keep the detail of your image in mind. Images with pockets of clear space (also known as negative space) are a perfect location to place type.
Using a solid colour background is one of the oldest tricks in the book when it comes to creating simple, high-impact designs. The most important consideration to keep in mind when applying this technique is the mood you wish to create.
A bolder tonal combination of a very light and a very dark colour, or perhaps complementary colours from opposite sides of the colour wheel will generate impact. While a lighter, less starkly opposed combination will exude a softer, more calming mood.
The basic hack to using a textured background is ensuring your design has limited colours and a very simple composition. You don’t want to subtract too much attention from the overall design, so your texture should be relatively subtle.
Either use template textures or create your own with a drawing tool using light shapes and patterns. Textures can give the impression of paper or a high-quality image stock. It’s a particularly nice touch to add if you’re creating web content, giving your designs a tactile and personalised finish.
If you’re looking for a more subtle and sophisticated approach than a solid colour background, a gradient is a great alternative. Whether you apply a radial or linear gradient, you’ll achieve the effect of a background with a modern and stylish aesthetic.
The direction of the gradient will naturally shift your audience’s focus point, guiding their attention through the design and creating a sense of movement.
The biggest benefit of a gradient background is that you can combine almost any colours – the fade of the gradient will transition between them smoothly.
Want to create a more interactive and exciting experience for your viewer? An illustrated background is what you need. Similar to an image background, it allows you to provide additional context and generate a deeper sense of narrative. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words!
Great for younger viewers, illustrative backgrounds are playful, dynamic and less ambiguous than other techniques. However, illustration backgrounds can clutter the content of your design. Be sure to use the rule of thirds and a hierarchy when balancing the elements on the page.
Patterned backgrounds are a great way to eye-catching details to your design. But much like an illustration or image background, you have to be careful with how your pattern combines with other elements and ensure that the image doesn’t become too crowded.
A well-chosen pattern can complement other elements and bring a design to life, while a poorly-chosen pattern can drown out the whole page.
A pattern is also a way to define spaces for other elements. As an example, a geometric pattern can create strong lines, offering a grid on which you can overlay important text.
As is often the case with Graphic Design, sometimes the simplest technique is the most effective. If you’re using a pattern, image or illustration background and the page is looking a little busy, Increasing the transparency of your background will turn down the noise. Transparent backgrounds make the elements in the foreground much easier to read.
Pro tip: The most common mistake people make when using transparency is over-application. Increase the transparency of your background to an extent that it highlights the text, not to the point that your background image becomes thin, otherwise you’ll end up with a weak, washed-out looking design.
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