Creating a Negative Space Layout

What is Negative Space?

Negative Space is also called 'white space', a term that does not necessarily refer to the white paper background that some people use, but more so to the lack of content in that area. Negative /white space can be any colour, it just doesn't have any content in it.

In scrapbooking terms a positive space contains something, it can be filled by items like images or other design elements. Negative space on the other hand can refer to either the layout background or to the empty space on the page. The arrangement of these positive and negative spaces are the main focus in creating a white space layout.

As a design factor Negative space is used to add symmetry to your scrapbook layout, to make it look clean and natural. Negative space should be used to align or balance elemental objects on a page to make it more visually appealing.

Like a lot of people, the design factor is not a conscious thought in my head when I scrap, I tend to use intuition and work on the principle of what 'feels good for me' when I am scrapping a page.

But when you become frustrated with trying to create a page that you have seen, and you can't replicate it, then it pays to give the inspirational page some thought and work out just what design factors did the person actually, perhaps inadvertently, use.

Let's take a look at a couple of sample pages that I have made, the one on the left I threw together haphazardly late last night, not thinking about it much at all. This this morning, I made another page, using the same items, but this time I played around with everything until it 'felt right' for me.


I think you will agree, that when it is compared to the one on the right, the overall feeling of the page on the left is disjointed and doesn't seem to have a focus point as the elements are arranged in such a way that nothing really stands out and the focus on the photo is lost.

Okay, let's pull it apart some more, what is actually wrong with the layout on the left, what design principles are lacking? In order to compare them I came up with the idea of just drawing out a background shape of where everything was situated, the black signifies the negative space, the grey and white areas represent the positive spaces, those spaces where I placed some content.

Over both of these I drew a grid to represent the rule of thirds.

Take a look now of what these pages looked like.


When the layouts are reduced to simple shapes, its easy to spot just where the problems are in the first page.

1. Rule of thirds - where is the focus? In the first layout the photo is not sitting on any of the 4 main focus areas, its kind of just sitting 'out there' while the photo on the right is sitting in the top left corner. Note that it also has been cropped, to bring the subject, in this case my grandaughter, in a bit closer.

2. Look at the ratio or 'shapes' of the negative space compared to the positive space on both pages - the one of the left isn't balanced and has far too much uneven positive spaces at the top and bottom of the layout and to either side. The layout on the right is more proportional, the shapes do not have to be exact, but they do need to be symmetrically balanced.

3. Now look at the content within the positive spaces - on the original page as I mentioned before, there is nothing to focus on, the photo does not stand out, and there a lot going on and the eye just doesn't know where to go to first. Take a closer look at the elements on the first page, look at the colours and the contrast. To ensure that the photo remains the main focus care needs to be taken with the elements that surround it, try resizing, changing the colour or desaturating them. It is sometimes all about trial and error and of course what feels right for YOU!

An easy exercise is to download a white space layout that is inspiring to you, open it in your graphics editor and create the three main shape layers:-

A. Fill one layer with black (that is your background), then on a new layer draw an area that covers the content and photo (this can be one or two layers but would be viewed as one positive space shape).

B. Draw a grid if you want to, I initially used the Grids within PSE and simply drew a line at the 4" and 8" mark, horizontally and vertically. To draw a straight line, select a hard thin pen setting, click at the beginning of the line, HOLD down the SHIFT key, lift your mouse, then click on the point where the line ends, release the SHIFT key. A perfect straight line!

Hint: Draw one in white, and one in black and save both as PNG files. They come in handy sometimes when you need a hand to place an object in the just the right spot!

Now use those two layers as your 'template', playing your content within this shape and of course pay attention to the colour and saturation of the elements you choose to use as well.

Play around and have some fun and finally, when you are uploading your newly created layout, make sure to credit the layout and the person that inspired you to create your page!

My page:


Credits: One of a Kind | My Wish For You: Kit | Making Marks 1 | Mulberry - Freebie


Now look at these fabulous pages from the Captivating Sistas:

Suzie: Two pages from Suzie, and her 'normal' way of scrapping is to scrap as normal, then highlight the lot and resize.


CreditsMish Mash Stamp Set 5 | Create, Captivate and Inspire | Deepest Darkest Ocean



Credits: Mish Mash Stamp Set 05 | Believe in Beautiful


Roxana: This is part of a double page where a white space page can be used beautifully.


Credits: Create, Captivate & INSPIRE: Kit | Making Marks 1 | A Gesso of a Mess 03 & 04 [Paint Stamps]


Credits: My Wish For You: Elements | My Wish For You: Backgrounds


As you can see, while using the same white space scrapping style, the Sistas were still able to create their own unique and creative layouts.

Hope this tutorial has given you some ideas!

till next time

Ona xxx