Graphic Design Quick Tip: Balancing graphic effects

by / Tuesday, 30 July 2013 / Published in Quick Graphic Design Tips

I’m not much for overdoing effects and filters in a layout, but there are times when a drop-shadow or an emboss help to lift an element, or elements, off the page. It’s a good practice to make sure you balance your effects if they apply to more than one element on your page.

Here’s an example of 3 graphics, different sizes, with the same filter set over top. This is not for layout, obviously – these effects look a bit cheesy, but I wanted to make the appearance obvious for the point of discussion. There’s an outer-emboss with an inner glow and drop-shadow:


Notice that the effects are equal, but not relative. Meaning, the thickness of the emboss, the depth of the inner glow and the distance of the drop-shadow on each element are equal, regardless the size of the element. Here’s another example of the same graphics and effects:


Notice that the effects have been scaled down relative to the image size. Smaller object, smaller effects, so they are relatively equal, not mathematically equal.

Neither is right or wrong, but they’re different, and you will want to be aware of the difference. You may find your preference changes depending the style of graphic. As a rule, I use relative effects – so, in other words, I scale them as in example 2. That’s not to say I always do and would never treat them equally. In a simple icon application like example 1, I don’t mind it. However, if these were photos or more complex graphic shapes, I tend to find the relative approach more pleasant and maintains the distinctiveness of the elements at a smaller scale.

Both are good – just keep this difference in mind and design accordingly.

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