Where there is black, there is white; the yin and the yang — blending together to create a perfect balance. It is not just the colors, but also the “white space” that can spell the difference between a good and bad design. This is what this article is all about.

What is white space?
In making a drawing, illustration, or any piece of art, there are three basic ingredients: frame, positive space, and negative space, which is also known as “white space.” The frame is basically the overall outline or boundary, while the positive space is the subject of the drawing itself. The negative or white space, on the other hand, refers to the empty space that surrounds the subject.

What is the purpose of white space?
The main purpose of adding white space into a drawing is to achieve balance. White space helps draw the onlooker’s attention to the subject, even though he or she may be unaware of it. Imagine watching a movie at the cinema. The film is composed with the wide screen format of the cinema in mind, which includes a balanced combination of the positive and negative space. When the movie is “cropped” into a smaller format for TV viewing, it loses some of this balance and although it may look “okay” — it is not as spectacular as when projected onto a wide screen.

Why use white space?
Contrary to what most people may think, negative or white space does not necessarily mean the absence of space. A more accurate definition would be that white space is that which defines the subject or positive space. It helps to provide balance, which leads to a more aesthetically pleasing and accurate illustration. Sketching a person’s hand, for example, does not just involve focusing on the details of the hand itself; it also means looking at the spaces between the fingers, and how the hand should fit into the frame of the drawing. Doing so would result into a more polished, accurate, and realistic sketch.

White space in web design
In designing a web page, white space refers to the spaces between text, images, and various objects on the page. This is important so as not to end up with a cluttered and crowded website. White space gives the readers visual “relief” as they look at the web page. Take note that white space does not have to be “white” — it can be any color that complements or enhances the positive space on the page.

Whether designing a web page, logo, and other visual materials, adding white space can help it to be more easy on the eye. Always remember that it is not just what people see, but also what they do “not see” that matters.