Visual weight refers to how strongly each element of a design captures the attention of your viewer. Elements that are “heavier” attract the eye more strongly. Visual weight is a technique that controls where the eye of your viewer first falls and how they move across the design.
Understanding how heavy and light elements in visual weight interact with one another is a powerful tool to pull your viewers attention in and around your work. For example, take your website design – utilizing visual weight effectively is one method to make a website a pleasant experience for users.
Mastering visual weight allows you to ensure your work is balanced and pleasing to the eye. Alternatively, you can also use visual weight to create a visually-interesting, unbalanced image intentionally. Creating an unbalanced image can be a commanding skill in capturing the curiosity of your audience.
It’s easier than ever to capture attention with thoughtful design. Today, graphic design software like CorelDRAW allows you to create original, one-of-a-kind designs. But first let’s understand the different elements that create weight within design. Keep in mind that all the elements work together and some can distract and even disarm. For example, while larger size is considered a heavy element, we are naturally drawn to subjects like people, even if they are small and off in the distance as seen in this photo:
It’s important to play around with these different elements to see which demands attention most and which assist your desired effect.
Naturally, we are drawn to other people and you can use this concept to easily distract from other elements as we saw in the photo above. Faces and elements of the human body such as eyes can be used to attract interest.
Language is how we often try to make sense of an image. Using words in your design will immediately capture focus.
In general, larger objects will have more weight than smaller objects.
4. Dark Colors
Which part of this image feels heavier? Dark colors always add weight to a design – use them thoughtfully.
High contrast grabs your eyes more readily and increases the weight overall.
6. Warm vs Cool Hues
Warm colors such reds, oranges, and yellows have more pull than cool colors like grays and light blues.
7. Position and the Rule of Thirds
Images in the outer edges or corners of your design area will gain more attention and have more weight.
8. Negative Space
Negative space is the area that surrounds your subject and lends itself to the weight of your subject. The more negative space you have in your design, the heavier it will be overall.
9. Personal Interest
Objects that people are interested in are going to carry more weight. These can include sports, nature, animals, and cars. The interesting thing about using objects of personal interest is that they differ for everyone, so be sure to design with a specific audience in mind.
10. Complexity vs Simplicity
The Gestalt theory is commonly referred to in design because it refers to the natural human tendency to make sense of the chaos around us. Specifically, in design it can be observed in how we complete images or patterns. This makes complex patterns feel heavier to the viewer.
If your subject is diagonal on the canvas it will be heaviest. Similarly, vertical subjects are heavier than horizontal ones.
As a general guideline, here’s a chart of elements divided by weight:
There you have them. 11 ways to use visual weight in your design. How do you use these or other ideas in your design? Let us know in the comments below.
Author bio: Sobia Hameed
I enjoy surfing, travelling and reading fiction novels in that order. Pragmatic Marketing Certified Product Manager of 6 years, experience in managing consumer and business to business products. Product Manager of CorelDRAW a complete suite of creative tools for graphics artists since 1989.