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Why It’s Important to “Paint With Light”

Why It’s Important to “Paint with Light”

The lightness of the colors you use in your presentation visuals is really important in getting your message across.

screen1webTake a look at this screen on the left. Where does your eye go? Most people would say … to the brightest part of the background. That’s the back of that lady’s head. In other words, the lightest object on the screen grabs your attention.

I learned this fact in television. “Lightness” is a really important element of shot composition.

I spent ten years of my life writing, producing, and directing television. The bulk of the commercials I produced promoted one product or another. I learned early on that if you don’t light the product properly, you’ll lose sales.

In fact, if the product isn’t the lightest element in the screen, it won’t be the center of attention.

My lesson came a number of years ago after I completed a fur commercial for Canada’s largest department store chain. We had hired three beautiful models to wear the furs in a festively decorated hotel lobby area. We spent a full day lighting these dark furs and getting the very best shots on film.

I called the advertising manager two weeks later to see how the campaign had gone – the commercials had just finished running. “Well,” he said, “I sure wish we had that clock in stock!”

I didn’t know what on earth he meant until I took another look at the commercial. We’d shot the furs in the exquisitely decorated lobby with a gold plated grandmother clock in the background. It wasn’t particularly well lit, but it was so beautifully polished that it shone and became the center of attention! Not what we had wanted at all. 

Black text on a lighter background makes the text harder to concentrate on.

Our eyes are attracted by light, so we light the things on stage that we want to direct your attention to. Lighting is also critical in theatre.

screen2webHow does this relate to your presentation? You need to think about light when you design your slides. Our eyes are naturally attracted to the lightest area of the slide.  It should hold the most important information.  

To the left is the slide above revised. Actually, it’s just inverted. I think you’ll find the text much easier to read, and the background isn’t fighting for you attention.

Black text on a lighter background makes the text harder to concentrate on. Your eyes are actually being distracted away from the important information. So, make sure text is much lighter than the background. It’s the same with pictures. Lighter pictures will attract more attention.

Final Tip:

In the western world, we read left to right. We start at the top and work our way down.

If you’re building text or graphics, always build down or to the right. So, when you’re designing slides, you’re the director … paint with light … direct the eyes … and make your point in a simple, yet powerful manner.

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