Negative Space- Why every Creative needs to know about it ! | Talking back To the World !’ | Skillshare

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Negative Space- Why every Creative needs to know about it !

teacher avatar Talking back To the World !’, The life of your ART is its READABILITY

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

9 Lessons (39m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Negative space - An Art Tool !

    • 3. Negative space - Characteristics

    • 4. Negative space - Of an Interaction.

    • 5. Negative space - In Film.

    • 6. Recap

    • 7. Bonus material: Negative space v/s Silhouette

    • 8. Project 01

    • 9. Project 02 & 03

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About This Class


This class is about ‘Negative Space’. The concept of Negative space is rarely discussed in-depth in Art course, although it is a very important aspect of Design. This short class aims to understand negative space as a Concept and then proceed to use it as a Tool to enhance the impact and ‘Readability’ of the Art we create.

Since this class is entirely a theoretical learning experience, the student isn’t required to have any prior  experience of drawing or any other Art form. The class explains the concept of Negative space, in the form of interesting and engaging Demos and explanations.
The aim of this class is to make the concept  easily understood and presented as a tool.

At the end of this class you will gain some crucial design skills to tackle design problems in a new perspective. And the student will understand negative space is an essential ‘Design tool’ whcih can be applied to any Art form , whether you plan to try Illustration or Sculpture , Graphic design , Photography or Fim making ! 

No knowledge of any digital software etc is needed to benefit from the content of this class, you only need an open and curious mind. 

Meet Your Teacher

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Talking back To the World !’

The life of your ART is its READABILITY


Hi I’m Jacob. Im a Storyboard illustrator. I've been doing Storyboards for TV Commercials and Feature films since 2005. I am happiest when I work fast and especially when my sketch-work involves lots of Action ,Acting and a whole lot of facial expressions.  

I started out as a Newspaper Cartoonist back in 1995, (while in final year College). Later worked as a Traditional 2D Animator. After 6 years of animating on paper , I migrated to 3D Animation , I was also developing story ideas for in-house films

And along the way.. developing ‘Story ideas’.I found my true calling as a Storyboard artist, 

Presently I work as a Freelance Storyboard illustrator. I’m based in Dubai.<... See full profile

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1. Introduction : Hi and welcome. Hope you're doing great ! In this class, we will discuss an awesomely amazing design concept or design tool, which is used across the platform in all Art forms. Whether you're into ILLUSTRATION or PAINTING, or SCULPTURE, or GRAPHIC DESIGN or PHOTOGRAPHY, even FILM ! But before I get into more details, let me introduce myself to the class. My name is Jacob, and I'm a ‘Storyboard Artist’. My job is to visualize film ideas and stories for my clients. I do storyboards for television commercials and also occasionally for feature films, but I wasn't always a storyboard artist. I started my career as a Newspaper Cartoonist back in 1995, when I was in my final year in college, I worked with the newspaper till I graduated. My next job was a contract position as a digital illustrator with a company in Saudi Arabia. My job here was to create stand-alone visual assets for an interactive educational multimedia kiosk for kids. I would make quick sketches of visual assets like an Apple or a Ball or a Cat. And then scan and redraw and color than digitally on a software called Animator Pro, (which isn't around anymore, I think…) Next, I was selected to be trained as 2D traditional animation artist. This was my introduction to the Disney style of animation drawing. After the training, I was drawing frame by frame using a pencil on a bunch of A4 sheets of paper, which were pegged on a peg bar on a light box. And this was an amazing learning curve in my career as illustrator. It was great fun and a bit of struggle too .. I had to UNLEARN or give-up the style of drawing which I had developed as a cartoonist. I had to unlearn it to start to draw in the Disney style of animation drawing, which was all about drawing with correct structure and correct proportions. It was about creating two-dimensional drawings which had a three-dimensional shape and feeling of weight. in It, it was about drawings which had the illusion of life. And it was about an altogether different level of performance and productivity and creativity. Later I migrated to 3D animation and worked as a key animator on a software called Maya. This was with a smaller, but highly energetic, young and vibrant studio, which had lots of clients. And we will also making in-house films to pitch at film festivals. We had surplus of ideas and stories. And I was one of the animators given the job of creating storyboards for these stories by interacting directly with the people who had these ideas and stories. These were the happiest times in my life. I was having a lot of fun because this was the first time I was doing storyboards as part of my job in production, my productivity was high. And I was seriously wondering if storyboarding could be a full-time job. I looked around, I searched, and I found out that there were people around the world who were doing just storyboards and nothing else and making a living just doing that. And so in 2000, I took a leap of faith. I quit my job and I went full time into storyboarding as a freelancer.. This is not to be considered as an advice. Never quit your day job. I have shared a chronological history of the jobs have kept because I wanted to tell you that from the time that I started my career as a cartoonist, To the present times when I'm working as an independent storyboard artist. I have always used negative space as a tool to enhance the readability and the impact and presentation of each rough sketch and finished art that I've created. When I was a cartoonist with a newspaper, I was using negative space to solve my design and presentation issues. But I was doing it in a subconscious way without being fully aware of what I was doing. For every brief that I had, I would create six to seven rough options and move the content in the composition around , till I was sure that the message in the artwork was strong, readable, and clear. And then I would choose the best option out of that to finalize and render as my final cartoon. Again, when I was working as a digital illustrator, I was doing the same thing and making sure that each asset was positioned and posed for maximum impact and readability. It was later-on in my training program as a 2D animation artists that negative space was ‘introduced’ to me as a concept or a tool to enhance the readability of my artwork. This was a great revelation for me ! It was like , I had a bird's eye view of the entire landscape on which I was operating. After this, I started to use negative space consciously in my work. Now it's part of the initial stages of my workflow on every job. And presently when I decided to make a class on Skillshare, I knew what it was going to be about. Negative space is an awesome tool which needs to be in the workflow of every artist. My mission with this class is to present the concept of negative space as a usable design tool which you can employ each time you're out to create art. And it doesn't matter whether you want to create a painting or sculpture, or a film, or a creative photograph, or just a scribble or a thumbnail sketch. So let's begin and I'm so happy to welcome you on my first class on Skillshare. 2. Negative space - An Art Tool !: Hi and welcome back. I want to start this session by asking you to look closely at a few images, that I will share with you on the screen. You will notice a certain intelligence in the way these artworks have been put together all composed. What makes a piece of art more engaging than another piece of artwork? An artwork is about a ‘Message’ or a Feeling or an Ambience which the artist wants to share. It's a medium through which the artist speaks back to the world. A particular piece of art on a wall manages to engage you, because it can speak to you ,because it's readable ! And so the readability of an artwork is the reason why you're able to have a conversation with a particular piece of artwork and not another one. An artwork is about what is in the composition, the main subject or the main content of the composition. It's also about the rest of the space in the composition. Which compliments and highlights and underlines the main content or the subject of the composition. And that is the subject of this class. We will discuss the dynamics of this “Rest of the Space” ! We will discuss Negative Space. So every object exists, occupies some space. The space that Tom occupies in this frame is his positive space, because he is IN that space. The rest of the space is his negative space. It's that simple. So we are not looking at Tom. We're looking at Tom's negative space because Tom has been removed or negated from this frame. We're looking at the space around Tom and inside Tom. So in this case, in this image, it also includes the space within the bend of his arm. I have Tom’s, negative space here filled in white. What do you feel when you look at Tom’s negative space? Is it strong and readable? Tom’s Negative space is considered strong if it forms an artistically relevant or interesting shape or form. Let's look at another visual. This is a logo design. A logo design is usually an intelligent composition of a message or identity which is presented in a visually minimalistic fashion. If you look at a logo, it is about packing-in as much as visual information readability and minimally into a small space or shape. Here the negative space has been inverted in some places. But it is readable and therefore it speaks successfully to any audience. This kind of framing, of framing one negative space inside another negative space is impossible in the real world. But this intelligent rendering of inverted negative spaces within other negative spaces ‘Works’ as a carrier of message or as an ‘Identity sign’ in this creative effort. So you have the license to be creative and you can create anything you want, even if it doesn't exist in this world, if it's readable, and if it can communicate a message, it's good to go. Let's look at another image. In this image we can see two characters facing the camera. The undertone of the pose on the left is aggression, and the undertone of the pose on the right is more like submission. But the negative space of both these poses is very similar. In fact, they almost identical. There could have been more dynamism in this presentation. One way to add more value to the aggression in this pose would be to make the arms more readable in the negative space and come out of that overlap, which it has with the bulk of the body. On second thoughts left as it is, this framing might work as an intelligent logo by inverting the shapes of both the hands. Right now, they are overlapped by the bulk of the body. So as a logo, this overlap works to good advantage. So this is one of the ways, that those creative designers out there fully utilize artistic freedom to create readable art. Here's another example. In this, a guy is pulling the branch of a tree and also talking to somebody. On the phone. On the right side is a drawing of the same action drawn differently. The negative space of the interaction in the second pose is clearly readable. There's a lot of breathing space around all the acting elements. In this image. There's no breathing space around the acting elements. His facial expression is overlapped. By the phone and the negative space of his body language is drowned in a bunch of leaves moving towards us. This image gives the audience more scope, to read into the story here, the audience can make informed guesses about what this guy is feeling and also to anticipate the outcome or the progress of this event. Let's go back, once again to that pose of Tom in the Tom and Jerry clip.. I will try to redraw this pose in a different way, making sure that the story and the flow and the general ambiance of this shot isn't changed or affected. I will only change the way this pose of Tom has been drafted. You can clearly see that the negative space of my new drawing is not as strong and readable as the original sketch or pose in the film. 3. Negative space - Characteristics : Hi and welcome back. Negative space as a design tool is not tangible or real, like a paintbrush or the pencil that we draw it. It's a concept, it's a visual concept, a concept that you can perceive visually In an art installation or in the various things that you can see around you. You can also visualize it in an artwork that you want to create. And you can visualize or perceive negative space only in two dimensions. It has no depth. It's a two-dimensional form that you can visualize or notice in the things around you if you're looking at them creatively. And like all art forms that we know of, negative space also engages us on a ‘Visual level’. So it can greatly influence the narrative of any visual communication that we know off and use, as art. Negative space as a concept is used widely in all kinds of creative visual design, especially in proactively developing creative logos and symbols. The Internet is full of amazing examples of intelligent art created by the interplay of negative spaces. And probably the most famous example of negative space online is the Rubin’s Vase. In this image, two heads are pointed towards each other in such a way that the negative space of this interaction takes the shape or the form of a Vase.. The shape that this negative space takes-on is so interesting and artistically relevant to the form of a ‘Vase’ that this negative space almost becomes the central focus of this artwork. And the two heads need to be pointed out to become visible. Rubin’s Vase, is possibly the best example of the visual impact that negative space can have when it's employed and presented intelligently. A simple two-dimensional item like a shadow, if managed creatively and intelligently, can all by itself produce strong and readable, visual narrative with amazing power! I'm not a shadow art professional, but I'll try my best here.. I'm trying to do some simple shadow art here. As you watch this, you are fully aware that the shadows are created by my two arms. But you will notice that as you continue to watch the changing shapes in front of you, the relevance or even the presence of my two arms is quickly sidelined. And it's a very quick change in perception. These shadows are basically two-dimensional shapes and forms which are assuming strong identities on their own. Identities of different kinds of animals. As quickly as the shapes are changing. That is the power or influence which the ‘Suggestion’ of shapes and forms have on our minds. And it is on this same visual platform and principle that negative space also works. Negative space has a similar impact (on us), and it registers at a very basic and deep level. By projecting shapes. Our minds are highly perceptive to the language that shapes and forms convey. And this process of perceiving visual clues continues even at a subconscious level when we look around at things that surround us. But once we are aware of this process, there's a huge opportunity for us to use it intelligently and creatively to enhance the impact of the visual communication in art. And let's look at a few logos. This might help you with the project that I have shared with you later. The core strength of a logo is in being minimalistic visually. That's why you wouldn't find too many multi-colored logos. And the simplest ones are the most successful because they are easily registered in the mind. Here's a simple logo design. This could easily symbolize any animal farm or a poultry farm. In fact, it needs no text to support it. It would easily carry any name and easily register itself in the customer's mind. That's a successful design for a logo. The boundary logo by Stephen Boak, shows the logo sketched out with a prominent red line, Like a twisting boundary line. You will notice that no alphabet is rendered in the typical way. The forms and shapes strongly suggest the alphabets and thus the word itself becomes Readable. This is the yoga Australia logo by Roy Smith. You will notice that the negative space of the yoga pose ,actually highlights the map of Australia. It's symbolic of both yoga and also Australia. Simple and brilliant. The surf index, the bigger part of this logo is the wave lines.. symbolizing the thumbprint of the index finger on which rides a surfer. And very simple, strong, easily readable and unforgettable visual symbolism. The logo of city direct.. the big C on the left and a big D on the right come together to magically create a negative space of an aircraft. Yes, the flight of birds does symbolize freedom. And a small slice of the last alphabet in this word creates both the text and the visual in one piece for this awesome logo. Here, the negative space of the dog highlights the form of the letter N. ‘FIAT’ has a series of these intelligent symbolic designs. Plane Fetch. Do you see the negative space of an aircraft inverted within the negative space of a palm ? Hotel chain, it's easy to see that the simplified design of the chain is actually the negative space of the letter H, The airborne letter A with its tilt and its extended lines does look like a vintage aircraft coming straight at the camera. The three-dimensional shape of a staircase highlights the essence of the word ‘UP’. 24/ 7. The negative space of the number 2 and 7 beautifully highlight the number 4. This logo is a bit strange because it has certain elements in it. That are inverted yet all the information is still presented strongly. This artwork is highly intelligent. We can see that the scenery is composed to take the form of a horse's head. 4. Negative space - Of an Interaction.: Welcome back, and I will continue the previous discussion on a different track If you look online for videos on negative space, we find several videos of people drawing negative space of single objects like a chair or a plant or a shoe. And you can't help but feel that negative space is somehow about a black and white sketch or drawing which is still, STILL.. and very inactive. But it's NOT that way. It should be dynamic. And it is always dynamic. If you look at it closely. When we create art, it's about the message in your art. It's a conversation that you're having with the world. And for that, there needs to be an interaction happening within the composition of your art. If there isn't a readable interaction happening, then the artwork is mute and it can't engage anyone. It as good as a blank wall.. A blank wall can create some anticipation, but not really launch a conversation or even continue it. So can you highlight an interaction in your artwork using negative space? Can you visualize the negative space of an interaction or an emotion, or a feeling or an action ? This is the rough sketch which depicts an argument in progress. And for the finalized artwork of this rough to clearly depict the essense or feeling of an argument, the negative space of this interaction needs to be readable and strong in its rough stage. You'll notice that while looking at the negative space, we have actually canceled the people. And along with that, we have canceled some very crucial acting elements like the facial expressions of these people .. so, in this bare form as a rough sketch, if this interaction or the composition of this interaction can present the essense of a heated argument, then you can be sure to have a hard-hitting and highly engaging visual. When you have the final look of the artwork. In the final render, elements like the facial expression and the other props which are lying around on the table, will come in and completely engage the audience. That would be a very engaging artwork. A certain dynamism comes into play when we start to think of negative space as an interaction. Now, we're talking! this rough sketch is about a feeling of proximity, of togetherness. And if the negative space of this interaction is readable and has the feeling or essence of togetherness, then the final art will also exude that feeling strongly and readability. This rough sketch is trying to convey a strong feeling of weight. And the negative space here is about the interaction between the lifter and the heavyweights that he's holding up. Is he winning or is he about a give inunder the weight? How visible and readable is that story? There are some crucial acting elements here, like the bar bending ,because of the slabs of weight and the bending elbow, Knee and the body language of the weightlifter seem to suggest that he will lift it all the way up ! This is the rough sketch of an explosion. This negative space here is an interaction which shows, impact ! it's the interaction between the explosion and the elements in the premises which are impacted by the explosion. This rough sketch, again, is about a feeling of menace or fear. And the interaction here is readable and clear. It could be an interaction between a feeling of submission and a feeling of dominance. And the interaction needs to be readable and clear. 5. Negative space - In Film.: Welcome back. We have so far discussed a few still images as examples for negative space and hopefully had a good idea about negative space as an Art Tool In this session, I want to share with you a clip from retro Western film, which was noted in its time for it's awesome cinematography and its graphic visual presentation in each shot in the film. As you watch this clip, try to freeze frame some of the shots which appeal to you. And try to make some quick black and white sketches to see if that feeling of Vast open plains or the tension of gun battle comes through into your drawings quickly . Sketching up something that you're observing is a good way to critically examine what's going on, on the screen. This way you get to take stock of more than what you would observe in a casual and a quick glance. I will join you in this sketching sessions. So have fun and happy watching. so that's the end of this session. And in the next session, we'll have a quick recap of what we've covered so far. 6. Recap: Welcome back, and let's have a quick recap of what we have covered so far. So negative space of a subject in a composition is the space around or inside the subject, which isnt occupied by that subject. And the negative space of a subject is considered strong if it forms an artistically relevant or interesting shape. Next, we covered negative space as an interaction, within the artwork. Let's once again look at that image of the argument. So more often than not, the negative space of an interaction is more important than individual negative spaces of characters or props in a composition. When you do that.. you are looking at ,depicting the negative space of ‘essential character’ of the interaction. And that's the most important aspect of any artwork. It's rather interesting to take on something like this, which we usually do in a subconscious way. The drama or the intensity in your artwork can be studied in its barest form by looking at the individual negative spaces of the content in your interaction and how they play-out against each other. That's the way to make a composition. Carry the narrative in the most impactful way ! While doing the rough sketches for your composition, It's a good idea to also observe closely the negative space of the backdrop of your composition so that besides establishing the premises, the background also enhances the readability of the main interaction. It's a good idea to make a quick check to see if the negative space projected by any of the elements in the backdrop are overlapping or fusing-in with the main acting elements in the foreground or the main composition. It's easy to understand that when a form in the background is positioned in such a way that it overlaps with an acting element in the foreground where the main focus is, then the forms of both these elements look like they are fused together. This mutation of form is registered in a subconscious way by the viewer. Once you give the necessary breathing space to each acting element, then, you are actually helping to give more clarity to the message in the drawing. Especially if your composition is cramped-in with a lot of stuff. pitching-in too much visual information can work against you. You want to present only what makes the message standout .. 7. Bonus material: Negative space v/s Silhouette: I often get this question about what is the between negative space and silhouette. And if both are the same, is silhouette or outline the same as negative space? No, it's not. Negative space is different from silhouette. Silhouette is about the visual form of ..a solid object, which is due to the ‘presence’ of that object. But negative space, on the other hand, is about the ‘absence’ or the ‘negation’ of that object. And it's the area around the object which the object hasn't occupied. The area around the object or within the object. Which this object hasn't occupied. Negative space is not tangible and real. It's a tool. It's a tool that you need to perceive an interesting shapes around you or visualize to add value to your Art. And it's flat and it's two-dimensional, it has no depth. It becomes a visual thing when we exert the will to visualize it. Otherwise, it's not a tangible item. A silhouette, which is a real outline formed by a real and tangible object which is out there.. 8. Project 01: Hi and welcome to some fun projects. I have ..just three projects and I hope that you will have fun doing them. And I would love to see your ideas and work, Each one of us has a favorite movie. It's a favorite for one reason or another. Some great films and used the idea of negative space, intelligently for dramatic, cinematographic, and entertained the audiences with amazing new expressions of storytelling. Some shots in a film can give you a feeling of action happening in last open spaces.. And in other shots, it could be about a feeling of being in a cramped place where there isn't space, even to move or breathe ! Shots which have dramatic profiling of characters on the screen.. Shots , which have grand visual staging and graphic angles which amplify the emotion and acting on the screen. While all this is happening, the size of your television screen hasn't changed. It's the same. It's just the way the cinematograph or the director has composed each shot or frame, which makes all the difference, in how the storytelling happens. Visually. I want you to watch your favorite movies and freeze frame seven to eight shots that you think are really cool. So sit back on your sofa and make a rough sketch of each of these shots. After you freeze-frame that shot. Remember, it's a rough sketch. You don't have to bother too much about the quality of your drawing.. Just make sure that you look closely and appreciate ,the magic of how each chart has been composed by the camera guy or the film director. 9. Project 02 & 03: I want you to take a look online at some logos which had been created using the idea of negative space. You could do a search on Google and the your title of your search could be , ‘intelligent logos made using negative space.’ Collect your favorite 10 logos and write a single sentence for each logo about why you think they are. They are so engaging and cool. If possible, take a snapshot of each of these 10 logos and then inspired by these 10 logos, you must create a design for a logo, for yourself. Maybe as you're online avatar, or maybe as a logo for a company that you plan to start sometime soon. It should be special and it should be totally you. It should totally be about you. And if someone looks at it, they should know that it's you, it's about you. The third project is really easy. Collect an image or a snap of an example of sculpture art, which you think is the best you've seen so far In terms of the use of negative space in it, you can go a step further and take a printout of that image and pin it up on your study where you can look at it often. Now, here's the project that you have to do. Try to analyze the image of that sculpture art by ‘speaking’ to it. Speak to that are aloud about why you think it's so cool and why it impacted you so much. You'll observe that each time you speak to that art, you'll find new reasons. To appreciate it better, and understand it better. And probably sometime in the future, you'll use that technique in the same awesome way and amaze someone, with your art. With that, we've come to the end of this short class. And I'm looking forward to seeing your work. Take care, be safe, and never miss an opportunity to appreciate the world around you and record it all in your sketchbook. So bye for now till we meet again in another class.