Layering colors for a Powerful Effect

Consider your color palette – you do this every day when you get dressed, you do it when your ponder how to decorate your home – and you do it for your graphic design. Often we don’t take into account the power of layering colors in graphic design – to do that, we have to get into a 3D mindset.

We hear a lot about a ‘pop’ of color. This is usually bright or contrasting color to create a focus to the design. But you don’t need bright colors to get your pop – depth is all about how colors ‘pop’ and layer and draw the eye.

White Flowers

Nature gives us a wonderful understanding of how to create layering and depth that gives us harmony and focal point. The more muted colors from this dogwood tree each give something to the whole picture. The green leaves give a deep and rich background, with the spines adding movement and moving our eye along. The shape of the petals reflect the shape of the leaves, while giving a pleasing and comforting roundness to our middle ground, above the slightly more streamlined leaf shape. The petals have a particular shade or white, a muted gray-white bone shade that harmonizes with the green of the leaves while standing out. Imagine if the petals were a brighter white – too stark! or a yellow white – too sallow! Shade of color is vital. The stamens and pistils at the center of the flower give fuzzy texture in a light browny beige. This is our pop in the foreground – the different texture and round shape anchor the whole effect.

As we create a graphic design, it helps to think of the color scheme as a landscape – we have our background, middle ground and foreground. Choosing our colors to layer and texture, to anchor and give focus, will create a riot of harmony. We can do this with any color scheme – monochrome, bright colors, a mix of bright and subdued colors – or muted colors as we did here. Let’s get our hands dirty and play around with different colors and shades, interpose them over each other, mess about with all sorts of shapes and watch as our own color palette takes shape.

Be Who You Are – Even If No One Else Agrees: The African Print Dress


How do you show who you are and what you stand for – whether it’s through your clothes, your wedding invitation, the visuals for your small business or your home’s decor? 18 year old Makalaya Zanders already has that down pat. The answer revolves around understanding your core values and what that says about you, then using it to say who you are visually – sometimes against the odds. Zanders was determined to show African style to its full, glorious advantage after being told an African print prom dress would be ‘tacky’.

Zanders has faced this attitude all her life, quotes from her about growing up point to a child being told not to be comfortable in her own skin. Her reaction was to figure out who was inside that skin and use her journey as an example for other young girls facing a similar situation.

Zanders is proud of her African heritage and teamed up with DeAndrĂ© Crenshaw Indelible DC to create a prom dress in blue Ankara material. It’s a romp of African print – regal and bold in its material and design. By underscoring the beauty and richness of African style and clothing it evokes exactly Zanders point.

The point being our narrowness of understanding. We all have areas of ignorance and we all have well worn paths of our own rituals. Proms – and weddings – are no exception. There are preconceptions about how a prom dress should look and that can be exactly the right style for some people. Zanders wanted to go outside of that traditional look and decided to create a prom dress from material in African print. The reaction was a knee jerk response – ‘tacky’ – presumably because an African print dress was outside their understanding and experience.

Not everyone wants to open eyes and be a trailblazer, as Zanders no-doubt will continue to do. But if we want to show who we are visually as effectively as Zanders, we need to understand who we are in the same way, we have to develop our own persona and personal style as Zanders did so successfully. Sometimes we need a partner to help – she had DeAndrĂ© Crenshaw working with her to transform her ideas – who she is – into a reality.

Do you have a graphic design project where you seek a partner to present who you are visually – perhaps a wedding invitation or images to evoke your business. Let us work together to showcase your style as effectively as Zanders showcased her own.