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Posted by on Feb 18, 2013 in Bootcamp, Stars and Stamps | 14 comments

Get to the Point (Creating a Strong Focal Point)


Welcome to the February Bootcamp! This month we’re going to focus on how you can strengthen your design by making sure you’re intentionally creating a Focal Point.

One of the most important things you can do to improve your design is to be certain you have created a distinct and deliberate center of interest, otherwise known as a focal point. Technically it’s referred to as the design principle of ‘Emphasis’, a focal point is the part of the card that catches the viewer’s eye first. It’s the most important area compared to the rest of your composition. The stronger your focal point is the better your final card design will turn out, so planning ahead can have a big payoff.

A Focal Point…

  • Is typically the largest element on the card.
  • Can be placed in the center of the card, or offset to one side.
  • It is often an image, but it could also be a sentiment or even an embellishment.
  • Can consist of several smaller elements grouped together to create one focal point.
  • Is usually the area containing the most amount of detail.
  • Can also be a special element like a die-cut window in the card front.

Not sure your Focal Point is clear enough?
Try one or more of these suggestions…

  • Bring attention to your Focal Point by adding strong contrast near it.
  • Add a layer (simple or die-cut) to frame your Focal Point.
  • If your design contains several elements try bringing them together so that they form a single
    Focal Point. Group them closely together or even overlapping so they easily create a single unit.
  • When combining several elements into a single Focal Point try using uneven numbers,
    3 or 5 elements rather than 2 or 4.
  • Eliminate or remove other elements that compete with your chosen Focal Point.

These are just a few of the OWH sketches that would be a good guide for creating a design with a strong Focal Point. In each case the white area would represent the Focal Point placement.



Not only is reading craft blogs or searching Pinterest for ideas fun, studying the work of  other cardmakers whose cards or style you like can be a very valuable learning tool. Let’s look at some samples together with strong focal points. If we can figure out what they’ve done we can apply it to our own cards. 🙂


1 cindy (117)

Created by Cindy , this card is based on OWH Sketch #117 and using one of the State Digis created by Sandy. It’s an example of one element that contains both the sentiment and image combined as one strong Focal Point. The technique of using foam tape to ‘pop’ elements also adds to the strength of this Focal Point,  literally making it pop out at the viewer, making it the first thing you notice.


2 yolanda

This card by Yolanda is a great example of using one big, bold element as a Focal Point.  The placement of the bright colors in the flower against the high contrast black background only adds to its intensity. Placing it against a patterned paper would have diminished its impact. I also want to point out that as you might recall from last month’s class that Red & Green are Complementary Colors (directly opposite each other on the color wheel) which are the most dynamic and striking color combintaions.



Created by Julie this card is a great example of how a single Focal Point can be created by placing several elements together so the viewer takes them in as a single item. I can’t say with certainty whether  it was intentional or just Julie’s natural sense of design, but I want to point out that there are 5 (an odd number) elements — 1 umbrella, 2 clouds, 1 sun and  1 twine bow — in this Focal Point.


4lee mae (135)

This card by Lee Mae uses OWH Sketch #135 and is a nice example of a sentiment as a Focal Point. The detail of the piercing, black matting, white contrasting background and the placement of the sentiment all work to make it an obvious focal point in this layout.



Dixie’s card is a great example of a special element as a Focal Point. These darling flags in their colorful, coordinating patterns and strung on their cord have a lot of dimension and give the design a tactile quality that immediately grabs your attention. Using a solid color and a subtle tone-on-tome paper for the background provides excellent contrast that allows the flags to stand-out.



This pretty floral by Barb is a nice example of how adding a layer or frame to add contrast can really draw attention to your Focal Point. Picture it without the bold, pink frame… while its small golden border would give some contrast to separate it from the white background it wouldn’t be nearly as strong as it is here.



The Focal Point of Jan’s card is obviously the beautifully colored image, which is emphasized by the simple yet coordinated background pieces. Once you’ve decided what your focal point will be, the other elements in your design should be chosen to support it. The Oscars (or movies) are a good analogy … supporting actors are important but they are secondary to the star. When you sit down to create you need to start by deciding what will be the “star” of your card.



This card by Sandy  is a more complex design, but still has a deliberate Focal Point. The solid blue circle behind the rocket-ship die cut provides a framed area that combines the rocket and the stars into one unit (a single Focal Point created from multiple elements) and it provides the eye a visual separator from the background pattern. If you place a Focal Point against patterned paper without providing a layer to create this ‘resting area’ for the eyes you’ll end up with a chaotic design.


As you’re practicing creating strong Focal Points you can test how you’re doing by asking a couple of people what part of the card their eye is first drawn to. When you have a strong, planned out Focal Point, virtually every viewer will easily reply with the same answer. Of course it takes a bit of extra time to plan your designs and chose a Focal Point before you jump into creating, but with enough practice it will become almost second nature and the results will be well worth the effort.


Take what you’ve learned today about creating strong Focal Points, apply these tips to your card design and then share your work here. Though is should be obvious, be sure to tell us what your intended Focal Point is. The purpose of the Design Bootcamps is to help you improve your design skills and knowing if you have achieved your intended goal is an important part of the learning process.  You do not need to use the OWH sketches included in this post and you may link up more than once as long as the card relates directly to the lesson. Everyone who participates in this Design Bootcamp by linking up a card created for this class will receive a Class Summary in PDF format via email. 



  1. Love the Focal Point cards!
    Each is a great example with the bright colors!

  2. Wow, more great information on how to improve my card making skills, thank you Paula! I loved seeing all the different types of focal points on the inspiration cards. You’ll have me thinking about this again and again for the next month, lol! Thanks for sharing your gifts and talents with us here =)

  3. Paula,

    I’m LOVING these posts. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  4. Paula, this is terrific information and very helpful. Thank you!

  5. Paula, I can’t thank you enough for these wonderful posts. They are such a tremendous help.

  6. Paula,
    Thank you so very much for these great tutorials. The card samples are wonderful and really reinforces the points you are making. I’m learning a lot and am looking forward to the next lessons.

  7. Great article for us! I love reading hour comments on each card and how to change them to meet create focal points. Thanks.

  8. great tutorial!!! thanks so much!!!
    I also loved finding out about the state digis but the links are all broken! 🙁 I tried on multiple computers with multiple browsers.

    • Susan I am able to double-click on each digi image and download it. I just downloaded them all and sent them to you via email. Be sure to check your spam folder if you don’t see it soon. 🙂

  9. Thank you so much Paula!!!

  10. Thanks for the list of tutorials. I will review these an attempt a card from each. I did post a card tonight that I made today for the last Challenge of the VCMP. The cards you posted really help – I know practice will make us all perfect. 🙂

  11. Paula I can’t thank you enough for these Boot Camp lessons. I love this one on Focal Points. Sometimes I lose my focal point in extra foo-fa-la, so I’m glad there’s something like this to remind me to keep focused.

  12. Paula, these Bootcamp classes are so well written and easy to understand. I love all the samples that you provide to spark my creativity. Sometimes one sample doesn’t make the light bulb come on so these are a great help. Thank you also for the fabulous feedback!

  13. Wondering if the State Digis are still available. All links are broken.


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