Button Art

Fun artwork is perfect for buttons.

So, you want to showcase your artwork, huh? Buttons are a great way to accomplish that, but there are some things you should bear in mind before embarking on this epic journey.

Buttons are a special kind, you know? Some of the basic design principles you've likely picked up in Art School also apply here (let's not get too heavy into academics), but what you're going to find is that you'll probably have to simplify your ideas and learn how to give attention to two or three elements instead of the whole kit and kaboodle. It's simple math. Less space means less room for wild abstractions.

A good artist knows how to work with lots of space, but a great artist knows how to - furiously throw paint at a canvas - I mean, work with a little bit of space too. Like showing one planet in the solar system instead of the entire Milky Way. Get it? Space? Haha.

So let's get down to business. Here's what you need to keep lodged in your right-brain oriented… brain.

Bear in Mind the Shape

First, think about the shape of the button before you finalize a design. Are you going to whip up artwork for a round button, a square button or a rectangular button? Depending on the shape of the button you go with, you may want to approach the design process a little differently.  Different methods for different madness, so to speak.

It's like fish, only less slimy. To catch a trout, you might use a fly. To catch a pike, you might use a spoon. Or anything that moves. Those suckers chase anything.

The thing is, if you just pull up a new document in Photoshop, it's going to be square or rectangular, right? That's great if that's what you're going for, but you might have a harder time getting into the mind of circles in that environment.  Yes, they are self-aware. What?

With round buttons, you might use curved text and designs to compliment the roundness that epitomizes its circular magnificence. On the other hand, you might use square or angle-like designs to bring out the contrast. Either way, get a handle on what you're going for.

If you're drawing your design on a piece of paper, you might find it helpful to cut it into a circle or use a compass to draw a circle in the middle of the sheet.

A square or rectangular button might be better if you're planning on using more text. Just don’t get mad at people when they stare at your chest. Reading small print isn't always easy, you know?

Bear in Mind the Size

Look, buttons are usually about 1" to 3.5", okay? Your cross-hatched, detail-rich drawings could get a little lost in translation unless you're particularly careful. Sometimes this can work, but if you plan on using your meticulous and awe-inspiring pen art, you'll probably want to narrow your focus on a single object. Otherwise, just focus on the line art.

Then, careful not to throw so much splatter on your design (we know you like to throw paint) that it becomes unrecognizable. People can't focus on a million elements on a single button. Make one, two or maybe three primary components the center of attention.

It's like music. If you have a band made up of a guitarist, bassist, drummer and a keyboardist, you can cover the sound spectrums pretty well and hear each instrument clearly. If you've got 12 drummers, five guitarists, 15 bassists and 20 keyboardists, you've got some kind of ultramodern Dub-Funk-Punk junk.

Same goes for color. If you use too many, nobody is going to be able to recognize that psychedelic gobbledygook you've got pinned to your shirt (unless that's what you're going for, Hippie). You can have a few colors, but it's best to stick to a small number. Like glue.

Bear in Mind the Message

It's like I already said, your button should have some kind of central focus, whether that's a cute kitten or a shaded T-Rex head-banging to some good tunes on a boom-box. Too many peripheral elements could crowd out what you're trying to put the spotlight on. You don't want to confuse people, if possible.

If you're going to use text, make sure it's readable. Some fonts are clear and easy to read, others aren't. Test out a bunch of them and see what works. Create some contrast between the background color and the text color too. That should help your spectacled friends.

Obscure references might be cool to you, but if you want your artwork to appeal to more people, keep the message short and simple. Too many words can be hard to read. A message is clearer when it's shorter.

Bear in Mind the Format

If that's not cutting the mustard, you're only a Google search away from stealing… ahem… looking over some great button designs. Ask yourself: what do they have in common? What makes for an eye-catching design? How is the subject matter presented? You should come away with a lot of ideas if you take the time to study various designs.

Buttons are meant to be fun. Add some humor to your design if you can. See if you can play tricks on people's eyes so they'll have to stop and look at your creation.

Be witty.

Have fun with it!

Image: Jelene Morris