How To

How To: 7 tips for overlaying text on imagery

Incorporating text with imagery is a literal balancing act. To create something professional, effective and aesthetically pleasing all of the elements have to fit – otherwise it can look haphazard. Here are a few guidelines to stick to for a foolproof design.

1. Pay attention to color contrast and brightness

The text color should always have a strong contrast against the background image — otherwise your text won’t be legible. Using lighter text over a darker image, or vice versa, is one of the more common strategies. For a more unexpected touch, try using complementary colors, like blue and orange. Not only will the text effectively stand out, but it will infuse some extra color into the design.

Dark text over a lighter image

Light text over a darker image

Try complimentary colors for a high-contrast solution

2. Blurring Imagery

Try using a blurring effect to tone down a busy image. Instead of being a focal point, the image becomes an element that can enhance and contribute to the atmosphere of the overall design. It also provides a cleaner slate to place the text over.

Blurring a section or all of your image provides a clean slate for text

3. Weigh your text

While big, heavy text will definitely get people’s attention, it is not always the best route to go. Try playing around with the text weight to balance out your image. If the image is heavy and bold, a lighter, more delicate text can provide a nice contrast. Using a thinner weight can be just as eye catching as thicker text since more of the image is visible.

A thin weight can offer an understated and eye-catching solution

4. Put thought into your image

The image you select will have as big a role in communicating your message as the text — so you want the two elements to work in tandem. Make sure the image evokes the same emotion and context as the text you are putting over it. For example, placing the sentence “fresh, gourmet food” over a generic, processed-looking sandwich on a white background isn’t going to conjure the same feeling as placing it over an image of someone cooking a meal with fresh ingredients.

5. Utilize an image’s perspective

You can play with the perspective of your image simply by changing the size of your text. Larger text creates the illusion that it’s closer to the reader, while smaller text looks like it’s sinking into the distance.

Larger text creates the illusion that it’s closer to the reader

6. Place text strategically

While it may be your first inclination to place text in the center of an image, it might not always be the most effective spot. You have to take the entire image into account, otherwise the text placement can look sloppy or cover up an important aspect. A good strategy is to look at the visual flow of the image; do your eyes gravitate to a certain area? Is the subject of the photo looking in a certain direction? These can be great places to put text as they are a natural focal point.

Look at the visual flow of the image. Is the subject of the photo looking in a certain direction?

7. Frame your text

Surrounding text with a frame helps create a clear focal point. Use a shape or even graphic elements, such as lines, dots and arrows to encase the text and draw the eye. If the frame has a colored background, try adding a bit of transparency. This allows you to see the background image through the frame and pull the entire piece together.

Surrounding text with a frame helps create a clear focal point.

About author
An experienced writer, Alli studied journalism in college and has created content for several print and digital publications – including Getty Images and iStock by Getty Images, where she works on the content marketing team. When she’s not writing about photography, Alli loves to travel and is on a constant hunt for her next favorite restaurant.