Adding depth with small adjustments in Photoshop

It’s easy to take a few elements together into an image and arrange it to look nice. Then to make it have depth and give it the eye candy effect so the image doesn’t just look good but also feels good, takes a bit more. It’s not something you need to really have a talent to do but more of  a knowledge of what it is that adds the “flavor” to the image and the technique for applying it. The techniques I talk about in this article can be applied to almost any design and it will add the awesomeness to the design that you will love, so grab a pencil and make notes.

In this business card design I created for my bookkeeping software business I did exactly that. I found a nice background image at and used it as the main background. Then I added some elements like the logo, some text and a color background block in the bottom section. It looks ok as it is at first but the design is dry, the text doesn’t pop, I just don’t feel it.

As a rule of thumb, the first thing I do to my designs is add depth, and this is done very simply with a gradient effect. Instead of using just one color to fill an area, I use a gradient of two colors, one just a shade lighter than the original and the second a shade darker. Just doing this will give the element almost a 3-D look or I like to call it depth.

I did this to the logo text first by double clicking the logo text layer and selecting the Gradient Overlay on the left and then clicked on the Gradient selector. There I chose the two colors for the gradient and clicked OK. As my logo consists of two colors, I did the same to the second section.

This small adjustment gave the logo the look I was looking for. A little darker green at the bottom of “cake” and a little gray at the in “io” makes the logo pop and stand out nicely.

Now I want to adjust the background mesh image as it is a bit too bright and too static. I want it to look like it’s more than just a mesh wall, want to give it some depth. To do this I will just use a black soft brush and will add some black around the edges.

I am using a black color Brush tool at size 500 and 100% opacity and flow. On a new layer just above the mesh image layer I trace the edges but I have to do this out side the image with only about 20% of the brush inside the image area as the 500px brush is very large and I only want the faded out edges of the brush to be inside. This will create a gradient look that goes from black at the edges to transparent in the middle.

To let off on the black a bit I adjusted the layer transparency to 75%. This gives the background a nice depth effect that I wanted, I can still see the mesh on the edges but it’s nicely darkened giving it almost a 3-D spherical look.

To finish this design off I will add a little bit of a gradient effect to the gray background in the bottom section by double-clicking the background layer and choosing the two gradient colors as I did in the first couple of steps for the logo.

This little enhancement completes the design, it takes the business card from a boring looking collage to a one sweet looking business card. I ordered the cards to be with rounded corners which will add to the design even more.

Once I receive my business cards I will post a scan of them so you can see the final product.

The bookkeeping software that I created called CakeIO is designed for small business owners and freelancers to save time on the dreaded task of bookkeeping. As a small business owner my self, I’ve struggled with this my self and have tried different solutions that are on the market but most of them are way to complicated for what I need it to do and so I’ve settled with the good ol’ Excel spreadsheet for years. At the end of 2010 I finally decided that I need to build something simple that small business owners can just dive right in and get things done quickly. That is how CakeIO was born. Check it out for free for 30 days, you might like it. Click here to find out more.  ;)

10 Simple Design Tweaks Make A Huge Impact


If I haven’t mentioned before, SmashingMagazine puts out some amazing content and everyone should be following them. Anyway, a few days ago they posted a list of 10 Simple and Impressive Design Techniques, where they talk about keeping in mind these small ideas and techniques that will make the design look so much more fuller and amazing.

The techniques as simple as utilizing gradients in the design, but keep in mind, “use gradients sparingly or subtly”, not to go overboard with them… I know how fun they can be. Another is letter spacing, it seems to be a small issue but spacing out letters correctly can make the design look appealing an spacious or cramped and stuffed which makes you want to go ahead and look at something else.

Great 3D Resource Website

I stumbled across this site while looking for good resources for three dimensional design. 3DTotal is an impressive site. They have tutorials, design tips and techniques, forums and some impressive galleries. They also have a good collection of interviews with leading CG artists and designers. If you are looking for inspiration in the 3D department…go visit their site. You’ll be impressed, inspired, and probably educated at the same time. Lots of good stuff there…