Photoshop Tutorials Original Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign Tutorials

Get Your FREE Photoshop Course!

Receive my Photoshop Mastery online course for FREE as a thank you for subscribing to occasional updates on design inspiration and new awesome design courses.

Need more information before enrolling? Learn more about this opportunity to master Photoshop and to get a special discount for a graphic designer course with over 18 hours of content!

Photoshop Tutorials and Tips features original tutorials in video and text/photo format on Adobe Photoshop as well as InDesign, Illustrator, Dreamweaver, and photography.

Learn the industry-standard portrait photo retouching techniques in my new Photoshop course! Discount coupon for Photoshop Tutorials and Tips readers!
  • Mar

    Five Design No No’s and Five Better Alternatives


    by Chad Neuman

    While teaching layout and design, magazine design and production, and web design at the university level, I’ve noticed a few common mistakes students make while creating designs in either Adobe InDesign or Adobe Photoshop. Here are five prominent bad examples with five corrections for making better publication designs. I’ll provide better alternatives to make various designs more professional. Check these out to avoid those design faux pas, and in the process we’ll learn the design principles of repetition, contrast, alignment, and proximity.

    Design No-No 1: The Careless Drop Shadow

    There are not many more things that say, “Hello, I’m an amateur designer,” than the poorly-employed drop shadow. I’m not saying to never use the drop shadow. But don’t use it just for the fun of it, rather than because it enhances the aesthetics of the design. In other words, don’t do it for any reason. Here are a few examples of what I mean:


    I applied this drop shadow in InDesign, by going to Object>Effects>Drop Shadow, with a Distance of 0p2 and a Size of 0p2 and the settings seen here:


    In Photoshop, you go to Layer>Layer Style>Drop Shadow with the text layer selected. With a higher pica size, the effect can be made to create a hazy look for certain text effects. A subtle drop shadow can also work, but it is a difficult effect to master in order to make it look professional. Instead, try a stroke around the edges of the text.

    Better Alternative 1: The Carefully Done Stroke

    This look is more professional. In InDesign, go to Object>Effects>Clear Effects to get rid of the drop shadow. Highlight the text with the Text tool, and then double-click on the Stroke on the bottom of the Tools palette. For my example, I changed the font to Impact, and added a 2-point stroke. Go to Window>Stroke to adjust the thickness of the stroke. (In Photoshop, go to Layer>Layer Style>Stroke.)


    Design No-No 2: Inconsistent Photo/Visual Element Size
    Good design incorporates a balance between repetition and contrast. When placing images in a layout, be sure to incorporate repetition of some elements. Contrast font style, size, and colors in various parts of the layout (such as different font sizes for subheads, titles, and body copy), but without some consistency/repetition, it would look like chaos. One of the times to repeat aspects of a design element is the placing of photos in a grid. In this example, we can see the photos are not a consistent size.


    Better Alternative 2: Consistent Photo/Visual Element Size
    To maintain a correct size, try using the Crop tool in Photoshop and setting the preset crop size to whatever size the photos should be, before placing into InDesign. Of course we can also resize after placing the photos in InDesign, using Cmd (PC: Ctrl) and clicking-and-dragging the corner of the photos (holding Shift to maintain proportion), but if the proportion is not the same across all three photos, they will end up being different sizes unless we crop part of the photos out by clicking-and-dragging on a edge without holding any keys.


    Maintaining consistency is also important whether it’s photos or shapes, such as this pull quote (the Latin is randomly generated). Not how having a repeated visual element size adds appeal to the design. This is often utilized while working with a design “grid” of three or four columns.


    Strokes often work better not just on text but on photos and shapes as well. Consider the difference between the drop shadow on the left and the stroke on the right, which looks much better, in this example.


    Design No-No 3: Unaligned Text
    Two other design principles besides repetition and contrast are alignment and proximity. Text looks better if it’s aligned. Notice how the three columns below are not aligned; you can tell by clicking-and-dragging a ruler guide from the top ruler and drag it to the bottom of the first line, in InDesign or Photoshop.


    Better Alternative 3: Aligned Text
    Clicking-and-dragging either the top bounding box or moving the text box allows us to align the columns with each other. I like to draw a ruler guide below the first line and then align the columns along it. Of course in InDesign we can also go to the Paragraph palette (Windows>Type and Tables>Paragraph) and click the Align to Baseline Grid option as well.


    Design No-No 4: Uncoordinated Colors
    When designing for print, broadcast, or new media, it’s important to coordinate colors. This example below shows how uncoordinated colors can clash in a design.


    Better Alternative 4: Coordinated Colors
    Use a color wheel to find complementary or analogous colors. Complementary colors are opposite on the color wheel, such as in this example (not that the colors do not have to be exactly across, but close matches do look good):


    In this example, the colors coordinate because they are analogous, as opposed to complementary. They are analogous because they are next to each other on the color wheel, not on the opposite side.


    Design No-No 5: Bad Proximity (Inconsistent, Too Close, or Too Far Away)
    Finally, proximity is also a good design principle to learn. Proximity is the space between elements on a design. Notice in this example that the spacing, or proximity, between the left and center photos is different from the space between the center and right photo. Also the text is too close to the photos, since it is not intentionally flushed but is a separate elements which needs to be at least 1 pica away from the photos.


    Better Alternative 5: Good Proximity (Consistent and the Correct Distance Apart)

    In this example, the space between all three photos is consistent and the text has some “breathing room” apart from the photos.


    These rules may seem subtle, but trust me, they add a lot of aesthetic value and professionalism to designs, whether it is for a print advertisement, publication, or web site design.

    1 Comment

One Response to “Five Design No No’s and Five Better Alternatives”

  1. […]… | Tags: Chad Neuman « Discovery: Take-Away Shows […]

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.