Grids are everywhere in design. Have a look at newspapers for example. The content is ordered in columns and rows so that the eye can easily scan the content. Mark Boulton has written a great series of articles on designing with grids. In it he shows how to use grids to organise information. Speak to any designer and they will tell you that Apple + R is a common shortcut in Photoshop. It brings up rulers which allows you to create your grid in your Photoshop document. You then use rulers as the backbone of the design. Indeed https://www.markboulton.co.uk is a great example of a clean design using a strong grid.
A strength and a weakness of using grids and rulers is that everything lines up. The eye can easily follow the grid and find a way to the content. Most designers will have come across a client who does not like neatness. Here you can have two reactions. The first is that grids are good and you should stand your ground. The second is to use effects to subtly break the hardness of the grid without losing the structure.
One approach is to grunge elements within your design. This basically means messing up the carefully styled hairstyle that a grid offers. There are a number of ways that you can add some edge to your designs and thankfully free resources are available. I’m going to be using a set of grunge and scratch brushes from Photoshop Brushes. I’m also going to be using a free grunge font NeoPrint. You can get a copy from here.
Custom brushes are a great way to break up a hard geometric shape. In this example I’m using a couple of brushes to break up a rounded rectangle. Once you have downloaded the brush set drop it into your brushes folder in Photoshop. You will find this in Presets / Brushes within the Photoshop file structure. To use the brush select the brushes tool and then click the brushes dropdown menu. You will see a flyout menu (see image below) where you can load brushes. Select the brush set you downloaded and you are good to go. Experiment with different brushes to get the desired effect.
Then use the brushes to start breaking up the shape both inside and outside of the curve. You will see that I have rotated the curved rectangle to move it off centre - again this is an attempt to break the rigidity of a grid.
As mentioned I’m using NeoPrint a great free font. It has a distressed feel to it that works with the scratches and grunge of the shape. With a bit of simple work the effect is done.
Breaking, or bending grids is simple. Don’t get rid of grids but don’t be constrained by them.
Have an update or suggestion for this article? You can edit it here and send me a pull request.