Designing Handmade Cards Using Contrast

There are 7 design principles to keep in mind when creating a card. One of these principles is Designing with Contrast in mind. Today we explore the Top 10 things to keep in mind regarding Contrast.

When we think of Contrast, we think of opposites. Let’s explore what that can look like in the world of handmade cards. I studied this article written for people who are designing for the web, and I adapted relevant parts for card-making.

The article does a great job explaining WHY we use contrast. I would summarize it simply by saying – where do your eyes go when we look at a card? If there is a clear focal point, if the eyes focus mainly on one main area before looking around to savor supporting details, then we’ve done our job as a card designer. If our eyes wander all over the place, and we have a feeling of chaos and we don’t know what to focus on, then we have overdone our job as a card designer.

It’s ok not to be perfect. It takes practice. One main take-away I got from the article was this simple idea, paraphrased. “What’s the secret to designing? There is no magic formula. We need to build our skills.”

You can build your design skills by focusing on these principles, watching my Serenity LIVE (Facebook LIVE), and by signing up for this month’s Card Club Class (before February 10, 2021) where you can play with Contrast using the ingredients and samples provided.

See my Serenity LIVE (Facebook LIVE) video where I talk through these tips and more.

Top 10 Tips for Including Contrast in Your Cards.

One final note before I share the tips and examples. The idea is to use just a few of these concepts at any one time, and not to try to include all of them every time!!

  • Use both dark and light

The first thing we probably think of when using contrast would be to use a color that is light and also a color that is dark. That can be done dramatically with Black and White, and it can be done in a more subtle way by using different shades of the same color. The Ombre look comes to mind, where one shade of a color goes from light to dark. See here two examples – one with a handmade Ombre card, and one using the Oh, So Ombre DSP from Stampin’ Up! (Free with minimum $50 purchase through the end of the month).

  • Use the Color Wheel

The traditional Color Wheel is a fabulous tool for so many reasons. We have probably all heard of Primary Colors (Red, Yellow and Blue). Pairing a Primary Color with its Complementary Color (Green, Purple, Orange) is a tried-and-true way to add contrast to your page.

  • Use different temperatures

You may have heard of “warm” colors (yellows and reds and pinks), and “cool” colors (blues and greens and purples). Add “neutrals” (black, white and some browns) to the mix, and you have the names for the three types of temperatures.

You can achieve contrast by using a combination of “cool” colors, as in the card below. You can achieve contrast by using a combination of “warms,” and you can achieve a very striking combination by mixing “cools” and “warms.”

  • Use color intensity

This card uses contrast a number of ways. For instance, it uses the technique mentioned about about mixing “warms” and “cools.” But the main way this card introduces contrast is by using a saturated color intensity. Our eyes go immediately to the vibrantly colored flower from Painted Poppies. This card is done in high saturation color intensity. The butterfly card is also done in high saturation.

Compare it with the Hey Girlfriend card below, which uses low saturation color intensity.

  • Use shape

One of the easiest ways to add contrast is to use a unique shape. You can use geometric shapes (rectangles, squares), or organic shapes (circles), or a combination. Immediately our eyes go straight to the hearts in this Darling Donkeys card below. Darling Donkeys and the Painted Blooms DSP are both available for free during Sale-a-Bration, with minimum purchase.

  • Use texture

Right out the gate we see that this card uses complementary colors (red and green). Even more striking, though, is the use of texture. The layered poinsettia with embossed veins, the pearls, the stitched frame, the luscious felted vellum, and even the split-panel card design all combine to bring a card rich in texture and visual delight.

  • Use scale and size

If all of the elements of a card are the same size, we get confused and we don’t know where to look. Here are two cards that use identical circles to create two very effective and very different looks. (Chick card design inspired by the Creating Success with Ronda Wade program.)

  • Use space, and white space

I used to be leery about using white space, and now I find it quite peaceful and roomy. Here are two cards that have plenty of space without detracting from the impact. Sometimes less is truly more. And, white space doesn’t have to be white. White space means that there are areas that don’t have anything going on – no texture, no dramatic color, no stamping. Just peaceful space. Those fun heart-flowers are from the Valentine Keepsakes stamp set. And the Sentiment is from the Hello Dear Friend kit. The butterfly is from A Touch of Ink, and the DSP is from the Starter Kit.

  • Use composition. Consider the Rule of Thirds.

I love this next card. It is a wedding card for a friend and I think it turned out looking quite elegant. The Rule of Thirds is a design principle where you don’t put your imagine square in the center. You divide your surface into a grid, and place the image in one of the grid corners. The sentiment is from the Hello Dear Friend kit. The DSP is True Love. The poppy dies are from the Poppy Moments dies.. And the fun-fold is a tri-fold-shutter card. The hen card also uses the Rule of Thirds.

  • Use repetition and patterns.

I love slimline cards because they are perfect for repetition and patterns. Here I used repetition of the same shape, and I laid the colors out in the color of a rainbow.

  • And a bonus tip: Use the element of surprise. Here we have a chick helping another chip escape over the fence in an act of teamwork

This fun card shows the ultimate in teamwork as the bottom hen is helping the top chicken to escape. The element of surprise is having one chicken stand on top of another. These chicks are SO MUCH FUN! You could use either Hey Chick and Hey Birthday Chick, or both.

The best way to learn how to design is to practice. Use my February Class Club kit to get the head start you need. Registrations due by February 10th. Click here to select from the Original Edition or Bonus edition version of class.

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