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If you look around, you can see contrast in many forms around you. The music you listen to, the lines painted on the road, or letters typed on a menu. Your eyes can see better forms, light, shadow, and light. This same principle carries over to a digital sign as well. It’s easy to just put up any image, and add text on top, but you may not be able to read it. Contrast is also key to have an effective digital sign message.  

One example of contrast in design is that of complexity and simplicity. Think of a blank page, simple and clean. and then the letters and glyphs on the page. They pop! Imagine letters on a page full of letters. It would be difficult to read! This is the fundamental idea behind a message with visible contrast. Beyond the text and the background, you can also add contrast enhancers like a drop-shadow and stroke, and a background overlay. 

Simple and Complex 

Take a moment and think about text. It’s a jumble of lines and shapes that we parse for meaning. The easier we can see the shapes the easier it is to read. This means if you put a dense, complex pattern behind what is already dense, text will be difficult to distinguish. So busy backgrounds with text can get messy. This group photo is a fun example and relates to the message, but once text is put on top, neither is effective. 

Group photos demonstrate this concept well. They are often busy with detail, and varying brightness levels. About as complex as it gets. Now let’s add a simple “Fall Fest” message for this event. Even with the brightest and darkest text options there’s too much going on in the background to easily read the text. 


Not much contrast. A shadow or stroke can help, but the busy background photo is the main problem.

Let’s move on how you can use to increase contrast between text and the background using Presto. 

Contrast Enhancing Tools 

Drop Shadow 

  1. Add or select a text layer. 
  2. Expand the “Drop Shadow” section. 
  3. Choose a color darker than your text. 
  4. Use the 2 values to increase the distance of the shadow


  1. Add or select a text layer 
  2. Expand the “Stroke” Section 
  3. Choose a color darker than your text 
  4. Increase the “Stroke Width” value


This effect creates a border around text. This is especially helpful if you have a sign with a low resolution (80 high pixels or lower).

Color Overlay 

  1. Add a shape layer: “+” > Shape > Rectangle. 
  2. Expand layer to cover the project: Positioning > Size > Fit to Full Screen. 
  3. Move the layer down in the stack to be just above the background. 
  4. Select a color 
  5. Optional: Adjust the opacity of the shape color to change the intensity of the effect. 
  6. Optional: Adjust the blend mode under the effects section. This example used “Multiply.’

Things To Keep In Mind: 

  • You can also adjust the background with another layer. This can be used to decrease the contrast of the background allowing text to stand out. This often works best when done subtly. Otherwise, you may end up completely covering up the background.
  • Keep contrast in mind when creating messages for your board and use Drop-shadows, strokes, and color overlays to help when you need text to stand out.