How To Use Contrast To Make A Design More Interesting

How to be creative with contrast

Using contrast in creative design

When talking about contrast in creative designing, most people automatically assume that it’s just colour contrast that matters most.

Yes, colours do matter, but so does everything else. Size, colour, shape and typeface – it all matters!

Considering the emphasis that visual advertising has in our lives, ensuring we deliver a “look” is incredibly important.

Picture this – you’re scrolling through your favourite social media feed and an image catches your eye. Is it the use of colours, the lay-out, the ease that your eye follows from one part to the next that makes you stop to have a look?

What exactly was it that caught your eye?

Contrast in creative design is an effective way to attract the social media scroller’s attention. Focusing your elements in such a way to attract attention to the important parts.

That’s creative design for you.

That’s precisely the aim when I work on a design for you as well. I want the design to leap off the page and say: “Here I am, look at me!”

It’s also true that not all designs do that for all people. Different things attract us in different ways. We may even be put off by something.

Vocalizing why something looks good for you may be hard, you just know that it does.

A lot has been said and done about how easy Canva makes it to design a quick visual for that post you want to put on social.

But design isn’t as easy as throwing things together and hey presto! you’ve got a kick-ass visual.

There are various factors, principles if you wish, to take into consideration when “throwing things together”.

You’ve seen designers use colours, size, depth, typeface, etc. to make effects / elements stand out. What they’re doing is using contrast to effectively lead you.

Starting at a focal point leading your eye on a journey across a page or across a visual.

Jewellers use dark velvet to set off their pieces, pages on websites uses headings. Social media copy uses UPPERCASE to make text stand out. Designers use contrast in various ways.

So, let’s use size contrast in our creative design

Size adds variation and scale to the different elements on your design. It stands to reason that the bigger element will be the most important. This is the start of the eye’s journey.

You can use size in every element – text, shape, imagery – it’s entirely your choice.

Minimalist designs do really well with size contrast. You have no need for elements to direct the eye, simply use a BIGGER typeface to draw attention and from there take the reader’s eye on the predetermined journey.

Colour contrast is probably a designer’s favourite way of driving the eye

The brighter and bolder a colour the better it is to create a focal point.

But what if your brand has no overly bright or bold colours? Fear not! Even subdued colours can lead the viewer on a journey. Your use of the right colour combinations can create a pleasing contrast.

Colours that are close to one another on the colour wheel can be conflicting. If the combinations are too bright it puts a strain on the eye and will be rather off putting than attracting of attention.

Shapes are good for contrast

Shapes are categorised as either geometric or organic. Geometric shapes contrast very well with curving shapes.

Rounded shapes are often softer and more casual in appearance while the sharper images look more ordered and crisper.

If you’ve got a rectangular lay-out including a softer shape, like a circle (depending on the size) would be the first thing that draws the eye. This could then be the key element of your design.

Even when using several shapes in the background, as an example, the shape it the foreground will be the focal point and therefore where the important bits of information will be located.

Using fonts to add contrast in design

Bold or more decorated fonts grab attention a heck of a lot quicker than the sans serif font this blog is written in.

These types of fonts though should rather not be used for longer pieces of text.

Titles are better weighted (bold) to contrast well with the body of the text in a plainer font.

Using two types of script-like font in one design will look off and may appear cluttered. Either make them the same or use 2 different font types altogether.

What about conflict?

Remember I said at the start of that that “something” of the lay-out made you stop and take notice?

The same can’t be said for conflicting lay-out. Those are just scrolled over.

It’s like this green top and green leggings I own. Now, if you know me well enough, you’d know that green isn’t my colour at all. Back to clothing – both items are green, but they’re not the same. They just don’t go together.

We can also use contrast successfully with outlines of design areas and use a fill at the same time.

What we fill our shapes with could be gradients, imagery, patterns, or even solid colour. The outline – the border – could use various types of border like design / imagery.

Think of a gradient border with high contrasting colours and a solid colour (or even white) as the filled area.

And when you’re designing a series of images it would be cohesive to use the same fill for them all but outline it in various way. Yes?

Affinity is the opposite of contrast

The best way to describe it would be to explain it as a closeness to something. I want to call it an attraction and I suppose it is. Perhaps it’s what makes it attractive when used in conjunction with something else.

A good way to explain the use of affinity in design would be the subtle use of shadows or slight variations in colour – not enough to jar – but just enough to flow easily from one object to the next.

Affinity provides an overall pleasing appearing, but nothing particularly spectacular.

Formal documentation works well with affinity typeface, but if you want it to contrast well on social media visual, I’d suggest a good contrast rather.

Think bold and daring with dainty script-like. or the use of uppercase and lowercase.

So, do you still think contrast is just about black and white or brights and subdued colours?

It’s SO much more!

Canva makes it easy to play – play until you are able to go WOW with that design you’ve created.

If you need help to get your design to go WOW, book a power hour here. Not only do we address the not-wow factor of your design, but we look at various ways of making that same design wow in a different way.

Designing wow visuals, starts with conquering your fear.


These are just SOME of the ways we can add contrast to our designs, there are many more that we can explore together in a different post.

So, take your design for a spin and see how you can effectively incorporate these 4 types of contrast in it. Remember, it’s not only colour that adds contrast!

An effective combination of all these elements will make your creative design look appealing, or hey … even scroll-stopping and eye-catching!

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