If there’s one thing all creative industries can agree on, it’s that black and white is a timeless duo.
But, despite this, for lots of designers, stripping your design’s palette back to just black and white might not seem like a viable option, or it might not even have crossed your mind.
Black and white can seem like a very inflexible palette, but believe me when I say, it’s actually quite the opposite. In fact, black and white is incredible versatile, easy to use, and effective as anything!
In this list we’ll look at 50 stunning monochromatic designs and hopefully you’ll quickly begin to notice how flexible this small palette really is, and just how easy it is for you to kickstart your own black and white designs. So, let’s get started.
01. Create Striking Custom Type
This movie poster by Kyle Kim blurs the line between illustrations and type by constructing a striking title out of sharp black bird silhouettes, which when contrasted against the white background form the title type. The use of clustered elements and the radial composition draws attention in toward the title and then out toward the exterior information, making this monochromatic design not only cool and clever, but functional too.
02. Generate Movement With Bold Lines
Describing a stationary object as having a lot of ‘movement’ can sound a little odd, but check out this design from Paperjam and note how it uses warped bold lines to create a sense of movement and depth. By overlapping the type with the graphic lines, this piece creates the illusion of the type being sucked into the design, giving the piece as a whole a very immersive effect.
03. Create Elegant Illustration-Based Patterns
We tend to think of patterns as colorful, geometric things, but check out this monochromatic design by Pharaoh that instead uses elegant and detailed illustrations to form a branded pattern. The combination of mysterious, beautifully drawn elements and the sharp black and white palette make this branding kit effective and striking.
04. Amp Up The Contrast
This 1993 poster by Armin Hofmann amps up the image contrast to bring out the lighter tones of the image, which helps to highlight the shapes and curves of the image. These highlighted curves are also contrasted with a sharp graphic that mimics the shape of the photograph and helps to both sharpen the image up and add a new layer of meaning.
05. Naturally Combine Imagery and Type
This poster design by Atelier Martino & Jaña combines type and imagery in a fluid, natural way, by working with the curves and contours of the image. By using custom hand type and elegant monochromatic watercolor effects to complement the focal image, this piece flows beautifully from one element into the next, creating a classy and sophisticated design.
06. Form A Sophisticated Website Layout
Want to build a clean, sophisticated website? Consider going back to basics and experimenting with a monochromatic design just as Adam Widmanski has done in this example. By limiting your interface and image color scheme to black and white and pairing it with a minimal, well-aligned layout, you can create a more clean, cohesive and united design.
07. Blend Traditional and Modern
Taking inspiration from traditional or vintage designs is always great, but how can we make our design appear modern and stylish while maintain that old world charm? Well, this website design for The Ordinary manages to do that by combining elegant vintage-inspired type, photography, and textures with a sleek monochromatic palette and clean navigable layout, keeping it charming and traditional, and not out of touch or outdated.
08. Use Bold Lines and Symmetry
Consider pairing your sharp monochromatic color scheme with some bold lines to create a unique and stylized effect. This beautifully balanced piece by MUTI does just that with its symmetrical wire-like design, built up of bold white lines that contrast sharply against the black background, creating a stylish and evenly balanced illustration, jam packed full of symbols, illustrations, and a whole lot of character.
09. Keep It Simple
Consider complimenting your super simple color palette with a super simple design. This monochromatic design by Cocorrina takes a walk on the mild side by pairing simple, elegant type with one simple graphic and just one focal image. By aligning these elements to the center of the page and upping the amount of white (or grey) space, this design remains stylish, beautiful, and simple. When in doubt, strip back your design and keep it simple.
10. Combine Geometric Patterns and Shapes
Why settle for just one geometric pattern when you can mix, match, and combine a few of them to create a striking effect. This poster design by Project 5 does just that by mish-mashing a handful of sharp black and white geometric patterns within a bold graphic. Monochromatic color schemes lend themselves to a lot of flexibility, so have a go at making the most of that flexibility by mixing and matching your elements.
11. Frame Your Image In Interesting Shapes
Who said frames have to always be square? And on that note, who said frames have to include the whole image? This design by Bili Cardona disregards these notions of frames by instead framing his focal image within a pattern of geometric shapes. These sharp shapes contrast neatly against the monochromatic image and bring a unique, modern flair to the design.
12. Divide Your Design With Sharp Lines
Got a lot of information to include on one page? Consider breaking that info up into separate blocks by using sharp, fine lines, just as this example by Amanda Jane Jones does. This piece divides the elegant monochromatic type and imagery into a modular grid which creates a strong structure and very neat composition.
13. Channel Film Noir
If you’re looking for a way to add a lot of cinematic drama to your design, check out this movie poster by Kate Marie Koyama Design. By pairing monochromatic photographs, bold, stacked sans serif type, and pronounced stripe cut outs, this design channels the dark tones and venetian blind shadows of film noir to create a mysterious, engrossing design.
14. Play Up the Negative Space
Negative space refers to the space around a design, and the shape that space makes. This design by Mieczysław Wasilewski uses negative space to create a strong graphic that visualizes the titular concept. Consider using your bold black and white palette to create a strong, clever negative-space inspired design that packs a punch.
15. Create Some Depth
This poster by Max Kuwertz foregoes the typical notions of cleanly set, linear poster type by instead crumpling and warping the bold type by using perspective to replicate a crumpled up piece of paper. This simple addition of the crumpled effect takes this design from ordinary and plain to unique, eye-catching, tangible, and memorable.
16. Create Stylish Branding
When it comes to branding, we often assume that a brand has to have a signature color, but as this branding kit by Miklós Kiss proves, a monochromatic palette can be just as effective as any signature color. By using sharp lines, an intricate logotype and bold graphic elements, this branding kit stays professional and clean while still effectively memorable.
17. Use Lines To Create Stunning Patterns
Lines are incredibly versatile graphic elements, and when paired with a stark black and white palette, there’s no stopping them from being really striking. This design by Demian Conrad makes the most of this device by using a mix of straight and curvy lines to frame and draw attention toward the title type.
Quick note: If you’re using busy monochromatic lines like this example, be sure to balance it out with blocks of white or black (again, as this example does) to prevent the design from becoming overwhelming.
18. Get Sophisticated and Stylish
They say black will never go out of style, so your secret weapon when it comes to creating a timeless and stylish design is to go monochromatic. This website design by Creative Riot does just that by using a light monochromatic palette, clean images, wide margins, and super simple type to stay fresh and very stylish.
19. Create a Bold Typographical Piece
Type is how we communicate ideas and thoughts, so make sure people pay attention to your type by embellishing it with a sharp black and white palette and stunning typographic composition, just as this design by Friends of Type has done. This beautiful (entirely hand crafted!) piece uses a mishmash of shapes, typographical styles and bold and thin lines to bring this Bueller quote to life.
20. Channel Optical Illusions
A lot of optical illusions play on black and white color schemes, so take a leaf from Chloe Galea‘s book and channel that into your design.
As designer Chloe Galea notes, this striking branding set “(Takes) inspiration from optical illusionary art, and the idea of makeup as a way of creating illusions, the packaging for the Classic Collection uses a series of monotone patterns to create a striking collection, bold enough to stand out from competition”.
21. Mix Up Your Patterns
When paired with a black and white palette, geometric patterns can be really striking, as you can see in this design by Demian Conrad. A really cool thing about this piece is how it explores the makeup of various patterns, and how by overlapping some of them, new patterns are formed. Have a play with layering and mixing up your pattern designs and see what you can come up with!
22. Adjust Your Perspective
This angular poster by LaGasulla reminds us that type doesn’t have to sit on a flat plane that extends from the left of the page to the right. In fact, as this piece shows us, sometimes by adjusting the perspective of your elements, you can create an intriguing appearance of dimension and depth.
23. Use Expressive Custom Type
Want to convey a particular emotion through your design without reaching for a vivid color? Have a go at using expressive type. This design by Sam Wood uses dramatic, hand painted type and a complementary lively and evocative image to channel excitement and drama. So, instead of using bold colors to communicate your message, try to use or create visual elements that pinpoint it in a unique way.
24. Experiment With Marble-Inspired Graphics
This beautiful branding kit by Demian Conrad uses a stunning black and white palette to give an organic marbling concept a sharp and professional execution. By creating organic, flowing, marble-like shapes and executing them in a sharp monochrome, this design remains sharp and professional, but with an organic, softer touch, creating an all-round memorable visual for the brand.
25. Contrast Bold and Light Lines
Contrast doesn’t just refer to light vs. dark, but also thick vs. thin, big vs. small, etc. so, consider experimenting with more than one form of contrast when building your design, just as Naranjo—Etxeberria does in this beautiful example. By contrasting not only light and dark tones, but also thick and thin lines within the graphics and type, this piece effectively amps up the contrast in more ways than one.
26. Compare and Contrast
The beauty of black and white color schemes is that you can take your design and simply invert the colors and you have a whole new (still functional and effective) design in your hands. This invitation design by Robot Food does just that by having half the invitation as white on black and the other half inverted as black on white, creating a bold contrast between the two designs.
27. Take Inspiration From Newspapers
What’s black and white and red all over? This newspaper-inspired branding package by Manitou Design, Shamil Karim and Kristina Udovichenko. This newspaper inspired design uses type, illustrated imagery and a very editorial black and white color scheme to channel Russian traditions.
As the designers note, “Traditional russian way of packaging is newspaper. So why not to follow traditions? We have collected in our newspaper some funny stories, statements and anecdotes for reading with a glass of beer”.
28. Create Clever Negative Space Illustrations
A great way to highlight the stark contrast between your black and white palette is to create a striking negative space inspired graphic like the one in this poster via Moodboard. By creating this negative space, ambigram-like design (meaning it can be ‘read’ upside down or rightside up) the contrast between the two colors is made much more apparent and sharp. Have a play with negative space, and if you’re a bit more daring, ambigrams, and see what clever things you can unlock!
29. Experiment With Framing
Want to add something unique to your design? Consider framing it in a mysterious or atypical way. This intriguing poster design by Przemek Bizoń takes a bit of a unique approach to framing by only revealing segments of the underlying monochromatic image, which adds interest and a unique touch to the design. Plus, these block-like frames help make aligning elements much easier and faster – two birds, one stone.
30. Scale It Up
Black and white color schemes are already pretty bold, so consider complementing that with an equally as bold design. This branding set by Studio—JQ and Matt Wilson uses scale to help the brand mark pack a punch and act as the main visual focal point.
31. Create Shadowy, Textured Type
Type in its most basic format is usually flat and linear, so why not spice it up by adding a little texture and effect to it like this poster by Ronan Kelly does. By using overlaid radial lines, shadowy edges, and warped letters, this design turns the type from flat and lifeless to dramatic and evocative.
32. Break Out the Watercolors
Another way to add texture to your design is by breaking out the watercolors and adding some soft watercolor effects to your elements, just as this save the date card by A Fabulous Fete does. By pairing this with the elegant, effortless script type, the clean white space and the simple body copy, this soft texturing can disrupt that clean, stark effect, and add a little organic touch.
33. Explore the World of Letterpressing
Like bread and butter, monochromatic palettes and letterpressing effects just naturally fit together. Don’t believe me? Check out this branding kit by Anastasia Yakovleva that uses a sharp letterpressing effect to bring depth and tactility to the bold black and white design.
For more letterpressing inspiration, be sure to check out these 50 stunning letterpressed business cards to help get you inspired.
34. Mix and Match Geometric Shapes
Why have just one business card design when you can have four? This design by Shutterfly via The Tomkat Studio plays up on the flexibility of black and white palettes by creating four different geometric pattern-based card designs. Consider mixing and matching your monochromatic patterns and designs to keep things fresh and new!
35. Get Experimental With Your Type
What fun is design if you can’t break the rules every now and then? This monochromatic design by Mash Creative bends a few traditional typographical rules by running the type off of the page at various points, and not aligning the entire title to one point. But, the effect of this is a really stunning, eye-catching and engaging poster.
36. Create an Engrossing Illusion
This design by Themes channels the op-art movement by creating a striking and engrossing illusion that requires you to literally take a step back to appreciate its true form. This design plays on the contrast between black and white to create this ‘hidden’ illustration, proving that not only is black and white a good looking duo, but a highly flexible one too!
37. Mash Up Your Images
This design by Helmo creates an engrossing effect by slicing and dicing each image and piecing them back together. The use of the sophisticated monochrome palette keeps this experimental design from becoming overwhelming, and the geometric shapes within the split images helps align the type and graphic elements in a neat, presentable way.
38. Go Big or Go Home
Want your design to really pack a punch? Scale it up! This editorial spread design by Purpose does just that by scaling up its typographical elements to create bold and daring spread designs. Plus, by scaling up (mostly) sans serif typefaces, this piece creates new shapes for other elements to align against, making this bold black and white layout very neat and organized too.
39. Create Structure With Fine Lines
Taking inspiration from anywhere and everywhere is often the best way to unlock a simple and clever idea. For example, this poster design via Fumettologicamente for an architecture conference takes inspiration from blueprint design by using fine lines to create a structure around the focal graphic element. This simple concept is complemented by a simple design and palette to make it a smart and powerful piece.
40. Detailed Illustrations vs. Sharp Graphics
This design by My Little Fabric pairs an elegant and detailed illustration with a crisp white transparent frame and elegant type to create a super simple, classic design. The contrast of the sharp graphic against the traditional serifs and illustrations keeps this design fresh and modern, while still retaining that vintage-inspired charm.
41. Don’t Forget the White (or Black) Space
White space is a magical tool in the world of design, but it’s important to remember that it doesn’t always have to be white. In the case of this design by Philippe Apeloig, the white space is black, but it acts just like any other piece white space out there would – it frames, declutters, simplifies and lets the design ‘breathe’, putting the focus back on the important elements, like that clever dimensional typographical title.
42. Experiment With Texture
Contrasting organic textures with sharper graphics is a great way to keep your design modern and sharp, just as this design by Sara Westermann is kept. By creating a frame for the focal image from a mix of a handpainted texture and a sharp, angular graphic, this design has the personal, organic feel of a painted texture, but the modern and sleek appearance of a sharp graphic.
43. Layer Your Image and Type
A great way to let your type and imagery interact in an interesting way is to let them layer, just as this beautiful monochromatic example by Jordan Hu does. By layering letters, words, and little chunks of type over the image in a way that highlights the image’s shapes and dimensions, this piece creates a delicate and natural effect where no one element overpowers the next.
44. Get Geometric
This branding design by Bureau Hofmann goes geometric by pairing a sharp flat black and white color palette with bold, heavy, shape-based letterforms. Heavily geometric branding can very easily look playful and quirky if a vibrant color scheme is used, but by using the simple black and white palette in this example, this design is kept strong, professional and punchy.
45. Use Monochromatic Textures
Textures are one of the most ubiquitous design elements around, and you can easily (and effectively) adjust them to fit within your new monochromatic palette. This design by Axel Lokrantz Månson uses a monochromatic marbling texture to add a simple, unique effect to what is otherwise an extremely simple design.
46. Use Type as a Visual Element
Type is something that is always effective when executed in black and white, so why not scale it up and make it a focal point? This design by Pedro Arbeláez does just that by mish-mashing scaled-up and scaled-down type, creating a very effective design that blurs the line between body copy and titular type, transforming the type into the main visual element of this design.
47. Make It Dramatic
This design by Metric72 brings a whole lot of drama to the table. This poster manages to pack a real punch by using a perfect combo of a striking black and white palette, a powerfully constructed image, bold leading lines, and an atypical diagonal alignment in place of the typical horizontal/vertical alignment.
48. Bold Lines, Bold Stripes
We’ve had a look at a few examples of how effective black and white lines can be, and this example by Mário Rodrigues is no exception. In this case, the use of bold stripes acts as a focal point of the design as it perfectly complements the bold, line-based logo, making it a natural choice for this branding kit.
49. Keep It Minimal
Black and white palettes really lend themselves to minimalism, so why not experiment with that? This design by Márton Jancsó channels minimalism by using one photographic/typographic focal point, very little and very simply set type, and a whole lot of white space. Use minimalism to help you redirect focus to your design’s most important focal point.
50. Frame It Up
This design by Jean-Michel Verbeeck is very simple, right from the color palette down to the composition which only consists of title type, body copy, an image and a frame. The simple addition of the frame to this design not only draws attention into the content, but highlights the stark difference between the main two tones.
Over to You – Get Started With Your Own Black and White Palettes!
A black and white palette is a classic for a reason, you can work it to become just about anything you want it to be – classic, sharp, modern, or traditional. All it takes is the right application, the right intent, and you’re ready to go.
So, next time you’re sitting down and getting ready to design a poster, invitation, or brand kit, just take time to consider cutting your color palette right down to just black and white. It might be a bit of a challenge at first, but trust that the end result can really pack a punch.
Have you ever encountered a black and white design that captured your attention? Or do you have some tips up your sleeve about mastering the monochrome? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!