How to Use Padding and Margins on Your Graphic Designs (and Why It Matters)

by Alabaweh Baweh -
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Graphic design is a complex and detailed process. There are many layers to successful design. Does it pop from the page, does it move emotions, is it memorable; we judge graphic design on many things. But one thing we share with web designers is the need to control whitespace. The null-space between images is almost as important as the images themselves. This is especially true for logos and branding elements that need to stand out with distinction in every appearance.

The best way to do this is with padding and margins. Logos need room to breathe, and that room can be created with skillful use of padding and margins. Let's dive right in. 

What are Padding and Margins in Graphic Design?

Padding and margins are a key element of basic web visual design: CSS. They define the empty space created around each element. 

Margins are the whitespace outside the image frame. In other words, margin is the bumper that keeps other image elements away from your logo. Padding, on the other hand, is the whitespace inside the image border. It is the blank canvas that makes a central logo stand out.

Both are useful for helping your images 'pop' in graphic design, but they are also treated differently by digital platforms when rendering. Padding is treated more uniformly, in terms of pixels, while margins are sometimes ignored or altered by certain web browsers and apps.

Picture Frame Analogy

The easiest way to think about padding and margins is a wall of photos.

  • The wall is your website page.
  • Margin is the blank wall space between the photos.
  • The border is each picture frame.
  • Padding is the matting around each photo.
  • The logo is the photo.

Hold this image in your mind and it's easier to understand whether you need padding or margins. The most important thing to remember is that padding is affected by image editing and is saved as part of the file size, while margin is a metadata feature (or CSS code) that notates preferred spacing.

Always Pad Your Logos

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With the difference between padding and margins defined, it's always a good idea to pad your graphic design images. Especially for logos and other standalone branding elements. Padding is always respected when being rendered, where margins are not. Padding can also be edited along with any changes to the image file.

By building a padding layer into your images, you gain three distinct benefits when using these enhanced designs.

Prevent Crowding

Crowding can be a problem with dynamic website page rendering. Consider the mobile-friendly movement and how graphic designs can be moved around based on screen-size. Margins can be changed, but padding does not change. By creating whitespace inside the image borders surrounding an asset, you can be sure that the image will have 'room to breathe' and become visually distinct from a crowded interface.

Padding makes certain that your designs are always given a little room to stand out from the rest of the page's content.

Emphasize the Logo

Giving an asset space draws the eye to it. Whitespace immediately catches attention and emphasizes anything that is 'floating' in whitespace. Your padding creates the space to let your asset shine. Whitespace can denote something as important, meaningful, or powerful in the viewer's mind. Padding provides that space by drawing the eye into the center of the whitespace.

Brand Consistency

Padding also helps you maintain your brand image. Crowding and random resizing of a logo can actually dilute the brand. Padding creates a more uniform appearance of your logo and branding assets. People can remember whitespace as clearly as content, which is why bordered brand labels make shopping quick and easy. Use your whitespace to create a defined mental image and enforce brand consistency from logo to logo.

How to Design and Save Padded Logo Files

The only thing left is to add padding to your current log and branding files. This is much easier than it sounds, though the specific steps vary between editing software. So whether you're using Canva or PhotoShop, adding padding is not difficult.

Create Padding Inside the Image

The first step is to expand the image border around your image. By moving the border outward, you also expand the padding; the space between the content and border.

Most photo editing programs will allow you to expand the canvas. You can do this by pixel or percentage. There should now be more space inside the image border, around your graphic assets.

Edit Image Metadata

Another option is to manually add padding and margin through CSS metadata. Some image editing programs (not all) allow you to edit some CSS elements of the image. These are translated into metadata when the image is used in web designs and rendered in browsers. This is easy if you know the syntax. Simply add padding and margins to the style sheet and define them by a number of pixels from the center.

Save the Image File

You'll want to save your new file with the new margin. This is just like saving any other image file. Create a numbered version from the original so as not to overwrite your original. 

Test Before Uploading

Finally, be sure to test your image on multiple devices, screens, and apps before finalizing. Make sure the padding came out the way you'd hoped. See how your images pop and are never crowded by other website graphical assets.

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If you work in graphic design, padding and margins are going to come up more than a few times. Get to know the right scenarios for each and how to implement them. Whitespace is powerful, and by mastering margins and padding, you will be able to arrange your graphic designs both internally and relative to each other to create powerful whitespace. When it comes to logos, padding is definitely the way to go. For more great insights into graphic design and successful digital marketing, contact us today. Our team is always ready to consult with a new business or offer direction to a developing artist.