How to Fix Your Layout or Card Using Seven Principles of Design

Author: Susan Luke

The Principles of Design have to do with basic assumptions that guide you to arrange elements within your layout. They have to do with pleasing the eye and making things look 'right'. Often we seem to know what these things are without necessarily being able to name or describe them. I find it helps to have the principles spelled out for me. Then I can think more deliberately about them when a page or a card stumps me. Maybe it will work for you too.

The Seven Principles of Design I am talking about are these:

  1. Balance
  2. Gradation
  3. Repetition
  4. Contrast
  5. Harmony
  6. Dominance
  7. Unity

Let's look at each of the above principles as it applies to scrapbooking or card making (NOTE: you may find more principles of design mentioned elsewhere. These should get you started though):

1. Balance.

When you were a child and played on the see saw, you were using the principle or balance. When the weight or force was greater on one side of the see saw than it was on the other, that side of the plank was grounded (not balanced). When the weight or force was equal on both ends of the plank (the heavier child may have to shinny towards the centre of the see saw to help this to happen) you could get the teeter totter to balance perfectly.

In scrapbooking or card making, using a large object close to the centre of the page (such as your main photo) can be balanced by placing some smaller objects (or just one smaller object) close to the other edge of the page. Try it and see how your eye responds

Think in triangles too. Using three elements in a triangle create balance for the viewer.

Another item to consider is the tone of your shapes. The darker a thing is shaded, the more 'weight' it will have. Lighter tones seem less weighty to the eye so may need to be balanced with darker shapes.

2. Gradation

The shades of color and toning you use in your layout (the gradations) can help lead the eye along a certain path. If you have a 'static' gradation, that means the tone or hue you are using is all one color or shade. The eye will tend to stop still on that place.

If you want movement, or dynamic gradients, use warm colors blending out to cooler colors. The eye will travel from the warm to the cool colors. When using shades of grey or black and white, the eye will travel along darker to lighter shadings (gradients). You can add interest and movement to your layouts with the use of gradients.

3. Repetition

Repeating a variation of a shape can add interest to a page. If you use all the same shapes or shapes of the same size, your viewer may be bored with your page or card. Vary the size or color or shape of repeated elements to add interest to your project, similar to this idea:

Or use several different sized circles to add an element to your page - smaller 'bubbles' can rise to the top, bigger 'bubbles' may collect closer to the bottom of your page. This will lead the eye upwards and downwards and create more interest than if the circles were all the same size.

Using the same sized circles as background shapes for letters may work. The letters themselves will vary, thus adding interest and variety even though the circles may all stay the same size.

4. Contrast

Contrast happens when you place two opposing elements next to or across each other, like the letter 'X'.

Do you have a color wheel? The colors on opposite sides of the wheel will contrast with each other. Red and green contrast with each other, as do blue and orange, and yellow and purple.

Light and dark contrast with each other.

Horizontal and vertical lines contrast with each other.

Unless you want to create an impression of chaos or confusion, make your contrasts close to the centre of interest on your layout or card. This will create a more unified feeling and make it easier for people to study your design with interest.

It is worth thinking about where you want the eye to rest on a page or card and make that your area of the most contrast. The ultimate example of this is a layout using lots of white space (or undecorated, plain background).

Chaos and confusion can reign if you place contrasting elements all over the page! Sometimes you may want to create such a mood, depending on your subject. If you had photos of an exciting sporting event with lots of action they could be displayed with lots of contrast, for example.

5. Harmony This is the principle of creating satisfaction for the viewer by using similar and/or related elements on your layout. This is where you would use the colors that are next to each other on the color wheel, or you would use similar shapes or patterns.

Wavy lines can create a feeling of harmony and calm especially if they are long wavy lines.

6. Dominance

This is what you do to give a layout interest - you make one shape or the direction of lines dominant. If every element is the same shape or size, then the effect may be monotonous, like this :

Lots of scattered lines can cause the viewer to be confused, for example. If all the lines go in one general direction, this is making a direction dominant.

If all of your elements are the same size, this can create monotony. Make one of the elements noticeably bigger than its fellows and you have created a dominant shape.

If you use two shapes in equal proportions, this can create monotony. Allow one shape to dominate over the other to avoid this.

7. Unity

This is where you relate the subject of your page to the type of elements you are using on it. For example, if you have a picture of a baby sleeping, to create unity on your page you would use soft, pastel colors, smooth lines, and maybe velvety or lacy textures.

Imagine this technique working with an aggressive subject such as a picture of a boxing match! There you would want primary or darker colors, rough textures and angular lines to create unity.

The subject needs to be enhanced by the elements you use on your page, in other words, for unity to happen.

Visually linking your elements together also causes unity. Adding a trail of dots to link up circles on a page may invoke a feeling of unity, for example.

If you have a dominant picture and a smaller picture on a page, try linking them together with a curved or straight line or other shapes so the eye does not have to make uncomfortable jumps between them. It's about relationship. Create a link between your subjects to unify your page.

I trust this discussion of the Principles of Design has helped you to think about scrap booking layouts and cards in a new or different way. If you would like more information about the elements themselves, you can read about them on under Scrapbooking Tips.

Happy Paper Crafting!

About the Author:

Susan Luke loves paper crafting. Her website PaperCraftCentral contains a wealth of FREE information about scrapbooking, cardmaking, 3-d papercrafts and more. Subscribe to Paper Twists, her FREE publication delivering exclusive templates, projects, tips, hints and special offers to your inbox today!

Article Source: - How to Fix Your Layout or Card Using Seven Principles of Design

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