One of the principles of design, contrast occurs when two parts of a design or page layout are different. The greater the difference, the greater the contrast.
Contrast is one way of emphasizing parts of a layout or guiding the readers' eye to specific areas of the page.
Examples of Contrast in Desktop Publishing
- In this poster, the big headline which is also not perfectly centered, contrasts with the much smaller, centered text in the rest of the poster. The contrast in size makes the headline more than just the title of the poem, it's big and demanding attention all by itself.
- Although the two halves of this spread have a lot of similarity, contrast emphasizes the differences in the formality and creates tension with differing styles of fonts that also are in contrast to the meaning of the words written in each font.
- Center of Visual Impact is a page layout concept that may use a single, especially strong image that is much larger than anything else on the page creating a great deal of contrast in size.
- Because we are accustomed to reading dark text on a light background, reversed type creates a contrast especially when small bits of reversed type are used in the same layout with more common dark on light text.
Creating Contrast in Desktop Publishing Documents
For contrast to be effective, it needs to be obvious that the elements are intentionally different. Two separate serif fonts are different but unless set in dramatically different sizes or colors they may not be different enough to provide good contrast.
"The key to working with contrast is to make sure the differences are obvious. Four common methods of creating contrast are by using differences in size, value, color, and type." — Create Contrast By Creating Obvious Differences
When a word or phrase is set in a different font style, such as bold type, from the surrounding text it creates contrast. Italics create a subtle contrast. Condensed or expanded type styles can create varying amounts of contrast.
"Create contrast for headlines and subheadings. There are many ways to create contrast between body copy and headlines. Use font size (larger) with bold type (darker) to set apart headlines from the rest of the text." — Use Bold Type in Desktop Publishing
The elements of design create contrast when there are obvious differences such as thick and thin lines, round and square shapes, large and small pictures, rough and smooth textures (such as applying a spot varnish on portions of a piece of paper), or light and dark colors.
Contrast works with other principles of design, such as changing the alignment of part of a layout to make it stand out or surrounding a small image with a sea of white space to give it more emphasis.