It’s Not Just Black And White: 5 Ways to Use Contrast in Social Media

Contrast is defined as “the difference in visual properties that makes an object distinguishable from other objects and the background.” Simply saying it makes things look different from one another. We, as human beings, are wired to notice difference and to us a layout where everything is of the same size, shape or color simply looks boring. We need something to draw the eye, create point on interest and add excitement to the design. The first contrast that often comes to the mind is the color (dark vs. light), but there are also contrasts of size, shape, font or style. They are all equally important in great design so follow us as we explain how to use them confidently while designing your next social media visual.

Contrast of Colors
The simplest example of the color contrast is definitely any black and white combination. For best effect apply dark text on a white background. But since you will be working with a much broader color palette you need to understand that proper contrast includes a combination of colors that do not clash in a way that is irritating to the eye. Look at the left half of our example where the colors are too similar and therefore hard to read and compare it with the right side where we have increased the contrast and made it more pleasing to the eye.

Best contrast combinations can be found in complementary, split-complementary, triadic and rectangular color schemes, so look at them for more inspiration. Remember that you don’t have to use the brightest form of desired color as it’s sometimes more practical to use its lighter, darker or simply muted variations. 

Contrast of Size
This contrast is very helpful if you have a limited color palette and cannot rely on color contrast, as it can be successfully applied to both text and image. In both cases it will add visual interest and focus the attention of viewers to a certain area in your design that is big and therefore more significant. Leave no room for misunderstandings and make sure that the size contrast is intentional. That means that you shouldn’t contrast 24 pixels text with 22 pixels text, as people probably will not notice the difference. And if they do your contrast will look more like a mistake than an intentional decision. So, think big!

Contrast of Shape
Another way to make things stand out is to create difference in shape. Shape contrast means making things stand out by their difference in physical shape compared to other things on the page. At its most basic level you can add round shaped fonts to rectangular shaped background (or vice versa like in our example), but more extreme contrast will naturally get you more attention. For example, if you have a layout where all elements are rectangles or triangles, add a circle in the middle and place your text within that circle. No matter how busy the background may be the audience will first looks at the circle because it’s different from the rest of the elements in the layout.

Contrast of Type
For more visual interest you should avoid using the same font for the entire layout. Even if you cannot use more than one you can always create variations with bold, light or regular weights of the same font. This will give you subtle contrast but keep design organized and unified. In case you are free to use more than one font make sure that your choices are sufficiently and visually contrasted. There is nothing worse than choosing two fonts that are too similar because they will end up looking like a mistake. For best balance go with serif/sans serif combination or look for an inspiration in our example below.

It will take some time before you get comfortable with font pairing but don’t be afraid to experiment and remember to take a note of combinations that work well for you.

Contrast of Style
If you have simple font you can still attract the attention and enhance your overall design by mixing it with complex graphic or floral background patterns. The end result will be more dramatic and eye-catching and you will master yet another way to make opposites compliment each other.

As you can see contrast goes much further than light vs. dark. But keep in mind that not everything needs a huge contrast because if everything tries to draw attention to itself, then nothing will stand out and you will end up with chaos and visual noise. With that being said go ahead, open your Content Creator app, apply one of these principles and start designing beautiful social media visuals. Good luck and let us know how it goes.