Have you ever looked at a project someone else made and thought, “Why does theirs look so professional and pulled together while mine doesn’t?” Or have you ever liked all your pieces individually, but when you put them together they just don’t look right and you don’t know why? Today I’m sharing some tricks you can use to make a project with multiple parts look more like a cohesive design. I’m not an expert, but I do lots of research and make lots of mistakes. LOL!
I’m going to use some of my recent projects to help show you some of these techniques to making your parts looks like they belong together. I’ll show you the elements as examples of each tip, then the completed projects at the end.
Note: This post may contain affiliate links. That means if you click the link and purchase something, I may receive a small commission. You pay the same price. This helps me to be able to keep my business going and provide more tutorials.
Choose a theme
One trick is to pick a theme you stick with throughout. That will dictate your choices for materials, colors, patterns and textures you use.
One project I did recently was a “thank you” book for some friends who are moving. Because we live in Utah, I picked mountains as my theme. That idea made it easier to make the remainder of the choices. The sayings all have the word “mountain” in them, as do the designs. The colors are earthy.
Your theme can also reflect the recipients. The style and color of my book cover are reminiscent of the recipients, who like things clean and simple. Since they have young kids, I also chose to make the cover durable for little fingers by using HTV (the “Thank You”) and a vinyl masking stencil with stamping inks (the years).
I would obviously use different elements than I would if my theme were “Comics.” I’ll bet your mind switched to a completely different color palette when you read that. You probably even thought of a font or looks for the designs. That’s what I’m talking about.
Pick designs by a single designer
Using several designs by the same designer is another great trick, particularly designs they added to the Silhouette Design Store around the same time. They often repeat elements across multiple designs. Even if you can’t define what the similarities are, you brain can tell that the designs go together well. It’s like buying clothes by a certain designer or at a store where the colors all coordinate.
Here are the designs I used for the dividers of my book.
They are all by Sophie Gallo. Some other designs may have mountains, but I know these will go together because they were all created by the same person.
HINT: I’ve filled them all with the same color and changed the outline to clear. Even if I don’t intend to cut them from the same color, this helps me see how well they go together.
In this set, the flourishes are all similar.
And in this one, the tree topper mimics the shape of the ornament, and the flourish in the reindeer is the same one that’s in the tree base.
Utilize the same mix of fonts
Choosing a single font or set of fonts and using them on all the pages is another way to create a cohesive project. I like to choose 3 different fonts for my projects and use them over and over to tie the various parts together. Here are some sets I used on 2 of the projects I’m showing you here.
One great way to select fonts is, again, look for the same designer. To take the guesswork out of it, look for coordinating fonts that are sold together in families. Here are some examples:
For more tips on mixing fonts, see this post.
Use a similar design element in all the pieces
Another trick to make your various parts look more coherent is to use the same design element in each.
In the designs for the dividers of the “thank you” book, I used the Warp feature on some of the words in each.
Another recent project I did was an encouragement book for my daughter. I used a label shape on each page for the wording, which I sketched with the same pen color each time. I chose a few different flowers from various materials to scatter throughout, as well as some rhinestones.
The little book is a part of a box of gifts. I used a sketched label for tags for each gift, using a set of simple shapes this time but using that same set of fonts.
Select colors and patterns carefully
If your colors and patterns mix well, then your project looks more professional. One very simple way to do this is to buy a pack of coordinating papers. That way the work is done for you. On the gift tags and encouragement book for my daughter, I used a coordinating paper pack.
The color wheel
If you aren’t using a coordinated set of materials, you can use some standard principles of the color wheel to help you choose colors. Understanding those can help set the feeling for the project.
- Colors opposite one another on the wheel – complementary colors — always coordinate vibrantly. Red and green, the standard Christmas colors, are complementary.
- A triangle of colors around the wheel – called a triad – is bold but balanced. That’s any mix of 3 colors that each have 3 colors between them around the wheel.
- Colors next to one another – called analogous — give a more subtle, restful look.
The pure colors around the color wheel are called hues. The pure hues get different looks with the addition of white only, black only or black and white together.
- White creates a tint, like a pastel.
- Black creates a shade, like how a color looks different under the shade of a tree or in lower light.
- A mix of black and white creates a tone, or grayed version of the original.
It’s easiest to mix colors that are, for example, all tints.
Another great place to look for color inspiration is in nature. Think about flowers or landscapes you love to figure out which colors attract you and go well together.
For the “thank you” book, I used grays and blacks for the cover and vinyl on the dividers to pairs with the theme and the kraft-paper pocket pages. Using only variations of the same color is called monochromatic — literally “one color.”
You also want to look at the undertones of the colors. When you look at a color alone, you see the main, or mass, color first. But it will also have more subtle colors under it — hence the name undertone. Undertones can be warm (orange, yellow, red) or cool (blue, green, purple).
Even colors we call neutrals have undertones. If you’ve ever tried to pick out a “white” paint color, you know there are millions of them! That’s because all those “whites” will have some undertones. In general, beige often has undertones of yellow, green, pink/red or orange, whereas the undertones in grays are usually blue, green or purple.
Often you don’t see the undertones until you put a piece of material next to something else. Here are some things to try.
- Compare it to another piece of material in the same general color family. So you take a blue and hold it next to another blue. By looking at them side by side, it’s easier to tell if one has more green in it than the other.
- However, they might BOTH have green undertones. Holding them next to the pure hue is the easiest way to detect that.
- Putting anything next to a pure white helps you see the undertones more easily as well.
- For neutrals, take turns holding it next to all the pure hues. If that neutral has a green undertone, you’ll see that more clearly when you hold it next to red, the complementary color of green.
I have a light on my craft table that helps me see the colors more accurately, which I find invaluable.
Connect the elements
If you want your project to have a completed look, then you need to think of it as a single piece rather than a collection of pieces. You want to find a way to connect the various elements.
One way is to partially layer your pieces. What I mean by that is to have an upper piece half on, half off a lower piece. That’s what I’ve done with the flowers and turtle here. That helps connect those pieces to the labels better than if they sat only on the background.
On this scrapbook page, the photo of the boys partially covers the trees, which are layered over the mat. On the mat for the pic of the girls, a leaf cut from wood paper also lies on the photo. The cork arrows tie the words to the photos.
HINT: If you’re using something like vinyl, or layering a textured HTV, your pieces need to fit together like a puzzle. With vinyl, you’ll see the line of the lower piece on the upper if you to the partial layering. And you can’t layer on top of textured HTV.
It’s even acceptable to overlap wording as long as you can still read everything.
Elements that bridge a gap
Look again at the scrapbook page. There are cork arrows that bridge the gap between the phrases “Have Kids”/”It’ll Be Fun” and the photos. That connects the words with the photo.
Another way is to have a background piece that other pieces sit on. The background piece acts as the anchor. Compare these:
Overlapping blank spaces
Look at this design. The graphic (the mountains, trees and word “mountains”) have an overall diamond shape. If I just look at the bounding box, there’s blank space at each corner. The phrases “though the” and “may crumble” have blank space on the lower right and upper left of their bounding boxes, respectively.
HINT: By using a left justification for the upper phrase and a right justification for the lower, I achieve a nice balance.
If I put position the bounding boxes of the phrases outside the bounding box for the graphic, then they look disconnected and too far away.
Let’s say instead I overlap the blank areas. So that blank portion at the lower right of the top phrase overlaps the blank upper left region of the graphic.
Now the parts seem more like a single design.
HINT: I also aligned the outside edges of each phrase with the outside edge of the graphic.
The completed projects
Here are some photos of my completed projects. (The book dividers are gray vinyl on clear plastic. They are sitting in front of pocket pages made from kraft paper).
There you go! 6 ways to make your project look more cohesive. (Now if only I could do the same in my wardrobe!) Pick just 1 to try on your next project. Do you have other ideas for a cohesive design? Let me know in the comments.