Overlays and Backgrounds as Design Elements: What You Need to Know

by Verblio Optimize -

If you are a photographer or a graphic designer, a big part of your work involves combining art and technology to communicate ideas through images and the layout of printed pages and web screens. You may use a variety of design elements to attain decorative or artistic effects. Backgrounds and overlays are some of those design elements.

This article explains the difference between backgrounds and overlays, the different types of backgrounds and overlays, and in which scenarios it is best to use each.

What is a Background?

In photography and graphic design, the background is that part of the picture or overall scene that forms a setting for, or sits behind, the main objects or figures in a photograph, painting, etc. Backgrounds are the 'ground' in the behind or in the distance as opposed to the foreground.

Although a picture's background is normally considered secondary to the main subject, it is still an essential part of the main picture. It is what sets the stage for the entire composition. 

An effective background adds to the story, offers helpful information about the setting, and significantly enhances your images. Therefore, you should focus on the background as much as you do on the main subject. 

6 Types of Backgrounds to Explore

When it comes to selecting a portrait background, the possibilities are seemingly endless. Here are the six simple, common backgrounds you can use in photography or in your graphic design projects:

1. Solid color background

This is a type of background that utilizes a neutral background color. This is an ideal option if you are looking to create a classic look for simple portraits like family photographs, etc.

2. Textured background

This is a type of background that consists of a repeating pattern, color, or image that adds the element of depth to the photograph. A texture is often depicted as rough or smooth, hard or soft, fine or coarse, glossy or matte, etc. Textured backgrounds are perfect for historical photos as they tend to create a vintage aesthetic.

3. Blurred background

These types of backgrounds are blurred, distorted, or out of focus. Blurred backgrounds are used so that the viewer can focus on the main subject in the foreground. You can achieve a shallow background effect by using a shallow depth of field. Blurred backgrounds are ideal for close-up, emotive, and moody portraits.

4. Detailed background

Unlike blurred backgrounds, detailed backgrounds consist of many elements that could take away the viewer's attention from the main subject. Detailed backgrounds are ideal for amateur photography.

5. White seamless background

This is a type of background that is purely white. Having more light on a white background than on the main subject is the key to making a pure white background. This is an ideal option for headshots, product photos, and stock photos.

6. Black/dark background

 This is a type of background that places the main subject in front of a dark background. Like a white background, a black background can help highlight the main subject and catch the viewer's attention. Black backgrounds are a popular choice for everything from portrait photography to product photography. 

The background plays a crucial role in graphic design and photography. It can highlight the main subject and, if not considered suitably, can also make the main subject less prominent. In other words, the background can make or break a picture. 

What is an Overlay?

In photography and graphic design, an overlay is essentially a texture or image that's added as an extra layer to a photograph. Overlays are usually added using an editing program such as Photoshop. When added to photographs, they add texture or create an additional dimension. 


You can also use overlays to add special effects to your photos, turning them into works of art. By adding layers and textures, you can easily enhance monotonous pictures and transform them into captivating ones.  

Common Types of Overlays Used in Photography

There are different types of overlays that provide photographers and graphic designers with numerous ways to enhance their images with ease. They include:

1. Bokeh overlays

These are beautiful effects attained by having lights in the foreground or background of an image being blurred to the extent of obtaining just soft circles of color. These types of overlays are a perfect way to add a stylized look to portraits. 

2. Color-filled overlays

These types of overlays are all about colors. There are multiple ways to add color to your photographs, from darts of glitter to brilliant puffs of colorful smoke. Adding color-filled overlays is very simple. All you need to do is create a new layer, fill it with a color of your choice, and position it on a suitable area of your photograph. Color-filled overlays are ideal for dull photos to make them pop out.

3. Light overlays

If you'd like to add a touch of light to your photographs, light overlays should be an ideal choice. These types of overlays resemble sunlight or sun rays. Using Photoshop, you can easily create magical lighting effects and add them to your photographs. Light overlays are an ideal choice for outdoor photography.

4. Nature-filled overlays

These are types of overlays that add natural elements of weather and nature to photographs. You can use nature-filled overlays to bring hits of nature to your images in several ways. From rainy clouds and stormy skies to a flock of birds and butterflies, there are many nature-filled elements that you can use to enhance the feel and mode of your photographs. 

Wrapping Up Backgrounds and Overlays

If you are a photographer, you already know that it takes only a couple of photoshoots to realize that there are things that are just out of your control. That's why having a rock-solid arsenal of backgrounds and overlays in your toolkit can be a real game-changer. Luckily, you don't have to create your own effects as they are easily available online. 

Want to add quick, amazing effects to your photos? Look for the best deals on backgrounds and overlays at MyDesignDeals today.