Negative space: top tips and brilliant examples

A clever use of negative space by Shigeo Fukuda
(Image credit: Shigeo Fukuda)

Negative space provides opportunities for designers of all kinds to create strong symbolism and pack hidden surprises into their work to create a lasting impression. While positive space in an image is its main focus – the object itself – negative space is just as important, and clever use of it, be that within and surrounding an object, can be hugely effective.

Sharing edges with the positive space, negative space defines the outline of the object and creates proportion. As we know from the famous yin and yang symbol, both forces need to be present. We can't have positive space without negative space and vice versa. But negative space can also be used to, for example, form the shape of another image or symbol. Designers can also use positive space that carves out shapes in the negative space to create a kind of interlocking puzzle. The results can be stunning and can be particularly memorable for logo design and illustrations for posters and book covers, as we'll see below. 

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Timothy is an independent artist showing and selling his work at various conventions across the United States.