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How to Use Color to Improve Your Photo Book Design

Various color powder explodes on black background to inspire better photo book design.

Reading Time: 4 minutes read

Few will argue the beauty and power of a black-and-white photo book. That stark contrast is nostalgic and emotional. Yet the proper use of color in photo book design can achieve the same results. Color has its own level of influence. Learning how to tastefully tie it into your photo book design is key.  

Why Color Matters in Photo Book Design

It supports your vision –  Consider the wall colors in a bedroom versus those in a powder room. One is calm and soothing, while the other is quirky and cute. It’s the power of color. Color influences emotions. Different tones can evoke happiness or sadness. It can energize a mood, put people at ease, or even elicit feelings of hunger. For photo book pages design, this can be very useful. Images set the overall tone and tell the story. A careful selection of background colors supports that theme. They ensure the intended emotions come through on the page.  

A series of smiley face icons on white are examples of color’s influence on emotions.

It creates consistency – In addition to swaying emotions, color can also control memory. It’s an essential component of branding. Companies use color – along with shapes and symbols – to mark their spot in the human psyche. The McDonald’s golden arches and Twitter’s bright baby blue bird are great examples. Color is a crucial design element and photo books are no exception. It creates a subconscious pattern. This consistency solidifies a photo book design. It makes it feel cohesive and masterful.

It brings photos to life – Interior designers add pops of color to a room for a reason. It brightens the space and prevents washout. Neutral color palettes are beautiful, but they need strategic spots of color to more clearly define the subdued palette. By adding color, the softer neutrals actually stand out more. The same applies for using color in a custom photo book. The contrasting saturation helps photos pop off the page. Eyes immediately focus on what’s most important – the memories.

Beach photos float above empty photo book design, ready to be laid out with color.

3 Ways to Use Color in Your Photo Book Design

1.   Use complementary colors.

Sift through a collection of photos. What recurring hues are most prominent? Those colors set the foundation. For example, a Caribbean honeymoon photo book will likely feature shades of blue, green, and white. Play off those exact tones or use other colors that complement.  For additional ideas, consult the color wheel. The colors directly opposite one-another are complementary. That’s why a sea of blue is well balanced with shades of orange.

2.   Create a gradient.

Color gradients look like a professional technique. They’re actually much simpler to execute than they appear. Fade into or out of one color throughout the photo book. Meaning the background color either becomes more saturated or less saturated from start to finish. Challenge yourself by transitioning through a rainbow of colors. Work from red to violet, adding light and dark shades of each color, as needed. The gradient doesn’t have to be made with solid backgrounds. Try colorful polka dots or a combination of color and shapes that gradually get more pronounced as the pages turn.

Couple on couch goes through wedding album photo book design with picture printouts on carpet.

3.   Remain neutral.

When in doubt, remain neutral. Sometimes a quiet background is the right fit for a photo book’s theme. Wedding albums are a perfect example. They’re meant to evoke romance and reassert the idea of eternal love. The mood says “life is pure and new beginnings are underway.” For that, soft neutral tones are the best color choice. Alternatively, use neutral colors as a grounding element. For instance, a photo book display of children’s artwork is naturally full of color. To add more would be distracting and take away from the purpose of the book. Remember, neutral means more than just white or beige. Shades of gray, black, and brown are eligible undertones that won’t overpower the photos.

Show Off These New Photo Book Design Skills

Color means nothing without a canvas. Give it the chance to shine by creating a memorable photo book design. You have the knowledge, we have the tools. That’s where Motif can assist. The Motif Photos app does most of the work for you. It integrates with Apple Photos to magically flow your best images into your photo book. It offers a variety of design options and themes to help keep your color-rich theme on track from beginning to end.

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