Picture a piece of chipboard if you will, the space left surrounding the chipboard letter once you’ve removed it, is called negative space.
When you are thinking about adding negative space to your layout, it might be helpful to save this technique as your finishing touch to your layout because of the nature of taking away part of your layout. It is very difficult to undo your negative punch without losing all the work done in the previous steps to achieve it.
I will be using PSE 7.0, but this tutorial should work for all photoshop software.
Scrap your layout as you normally would. When you have made a final decision as to what you want to “punch” and where you want to place it, then you are ready to create your negative space punch by following along:
#1. Open a new document, no larger than 2500 x 2500 pixels, with a transparent background. I started with 450 x 450 pixels. Your size will vary with personal preference and the ending result you are looking for. If you choose a new document to create you punch that is larger than 2500 x 2500 pixels you will not be able to complete step #3.
#2. Choose your element or font if you are creating a word punch and type (or fill the layer) with pure black. (You can check your colors levels to ensure that they read R:0 G:0 B:0). If you created a new layer to fill the element with black merge all layers now, but do not flatten. You can see below, I selected Audrey Neal’s heart border and then filled it in with a solid layer of pure black.
#3. Select Edit> Define Brush. A box will open asking you to name your brush. I decided to call this “heart border”. Then click OK.
#4. Now select your eraser tool (a). Under the eraser options make sure “brush” is selected as your mode (b) and then in your brush palette scroll down to choose the brush you just created in your assorted brushes (c). You can see in my picture that my heart border brush is a little squished in the palette, but you can see in the dotted outline that it is a mirror image of Audrey’s element.
#5. Go to your layout, highlight the layer that you want to make your “punch” in and and place the punch on exactly where you want to punch and click. You now have your negative punch on your layout. This is a creative way to title or add interest to your layouts.
Here is an example with using text as a negative space punch:
I enjoy punching solid papers and placing fun patterned papers behind that layer, so they show through. Once you have tried this technique a few times many possibilities will open up as you experiment. You can punch papers, elements, brushes, add elegant punched corners to your photos, and…really there are limitless applications.
I hope this tutorial motivates you to think about using negative space in your next layout. Go on, make a punch of your own!