Lesson Three :

Introduction to Negative Space and White Space

Up to this point we've been developing artwork by drawing shapes. We've been focussing on the shape defined by pen or pencil, but what about the area that doesn't have any artwork on it? Do we need to consider it as important?

Definitely. It's a vital tool in a designer's toolbox.


Negative Space
You can utilise negative space to offer a further level of meaning or intrigue. This is where you can add some further "intelligence" to your design.

Negative space is often used in logos. Here are some particularly inventive neg-space logos...and here...and here

key with skyline cutouts for teethNegative space is often deployed in stencils and masks.


For more examples of negative space a simple online search yields more than enough; remember to click the "images" option to search for just images.



Whitespace, like negative space, is the area unoccupied by artwork but it's bigger than negative space and doesn't carry any further meaning. It's used to "rest your eyes" or focus your viewer's attention elsewhere in the layout. It also isn't necessarily white. It could be black. Or textured.

Whitespace is a highly-valued tool by designers.

Whitespace is expensive if you're a client who needs to cram detail in (shopping catalogues or newspapers/ websites) but if your client can be convinced and the message/budget suits this approach then do it.

dukes of windsor sauce mag advertThe advert opposite (Sauce Mag, a Tasmanian-based Gig guide) could have been designed to fit a bastard-half (what on earth is a bastard half?...PDF) but the designer convinced the client to pay extra for the whitespace. Do you think it was worth it?

3 magazine spreads

Learning Task: Identifying Negative Space (3 -5 hrs)

This activity requires you to identify where negative space has been used.
Find one example of negative space for each of the following formats:

  • logo
  • built environment
  • natural environment (trees, rocks, waves, clouds, rivers etc.)
  • human anatomy
  • your choice


For each, take a photo or screenshot (Greenshot is the recommended option for taking screenshots on PC, macOSX has a very good one built-in).

Ensure your work is either Creative Commons (CC), original or doesn't infringe on copyright. For more info on copyright see the General Information Forum on http://ddmstudy.com

Archive your five images and publish each to your blog together with a brief caption; where it was taken and how it uses negative space.

Submit your blog's URL via email for feedback.


Chris Adams 2017

Learning Task: Whitespace (3 hrs)

Find five examples where whitespace has been used effectively in:

  1. Print-publishing (magazines / newspapers)
  2. Street advertising (billboards/ shop-frontage)
  3. Billboard
  4. A Website
  5. Your choice

Take a photo or screenshot of each. Pick one example and caption it indicating where you think the whitespace is and publish to your blog.

Submit your blog's URL via email for feedback.


Chris Adams 2017


This lesson gave you a chance to explore examples of how the absence of artwork can also convey meaning. It's a very effective way to portray logos (neg space), give your user's eyes a break and focus user's attention on specific parts of the layout (whitespace) and in the case of masks or stencils, an inventive way of representing artwork or photos.

For the ambitious student with a copy of Photoshop, here's a quick tutorial on using type to mask artwork to give you the stencil effect. This is another quite popular example of negaative space.