I'm trying to add text to a photo of a city but the colors in the background make it difficult to read light and dark text. I've tried several light and dark colors but they all looked overpowered by the colors in the image. What colors could I use or what can I do to the text to make it show but also make it so you can still see the background?

Here is the image I'm trying to use: http://getwallpapers.com/wallpaper/full/3/e/b/151308.jpg

  • 2
    I think we need more parameters. Like what is the output size of the image and where is it going to be used? Like is it on a computer screen, printed magazine, a poster? ...how much text and what size should it be and why? Like for example... If the image is the main point, the text should probably not cover like 60% of it and If it's going to be read from a distance, then the text can't be super small either. If the text can't be big, you can't use that as a solution to make it more readable, for instance. This article brings up some decent points: designmodo.com/design-type-photo
    – Joonas
    Commented Apr 19, 2018 at 8:10
  • Can you show what you have tried, and what you consider a failure. The obvious thing to try might be to outline the text in a contrasting colour. Have you tried that?
    – Billy Kerr
    Commented Apr 19, 2018 at 9:12

4 Answers 4


This depends on the amount of text you plan to use, but here's a couple of things to try:

  • make it short. longer text will probably not work here
  • darken one side of the image or overlay a square box to add text over
  • use very bold, sans serif, white type
  • try to use an outline only type with thick strokes

The image is very nice, so let's play a bit. I am using two font sizes because we do not really know what is the size or the extension of the text.

The image a bit dark, it is at dusk, so let's use a white color. It does not matter that the text is perfect. You can read it.

enter image description here

But we can add extra contrast using a subtle gradient. It does not need to be black. I extended it a bit to the right so you can see it.

enter image description here

But we can make "local contrast" by using an outline.

enter image description here

This outline can be harsh as the previous one or soft.

enter image description here

Or you can drop a shadow, to increase this local contrast a bit.

enter image description here

You can inverse the colors to a light glow... But probably in this case does not work as nice as the previous.

enter image description here

You can also add a semi-transparent block behind the text.

enter image description here

But all depends on the size of the text, if it is big enough you can even make it transparent. The bigger the text the less contrast you need.

enter image description here

You can also just leave the image alone...

enter image description here

Now go and play with it. This was fun, enjoy your experimentation.


This method allows large letters without pushing them to the front, the image is still the thing noticed first.

Let your text have only narrow stroke. It doesn't look out overpowered. Unfortunately the impact of the text suffers probably too much, some fill is needed. But the fill can be the underlying image with different colors. An Example:

enter image description here

The text is here as a layer, where it has only a white stroke. The same text is in another layer as a layer mask for Hue/Saturation layer which causes color shift.

Having the same text in 2 places isn't good, if one is enough. You can try as well some blending mode for the color shift. Here the text is colored with a Hue/Saturation layer in "the next layer only" switch=ON. The text has got white stroke and blending mode = Color:

enter image description here

Removing the color is also possible with this layering:

enter image description here

NOTE: Without the stroke these are unreadable.


What you can do really depends on what photo editor you use. If you use Photoshop, then there really is a lot that you can do.

First off, you'll need an area that you can darken to place light / white text over it. The bottom half looks quite decent, so if you duplicate the photo as layer, set the blend mode to multiply, and the apply a black and white gradient to the layer mask, you'll get a nice darker area, ready for text. Exhibit A: enter image description here

Still, the text is not that easy to read and half the photo is unusable, plus the viewer's eye get's drawn by the light area in the upper half.

So, here's exhibit B: enter image description here

Here, we blurred the background, applied an orange color overlay, and sharpened the text layer and applied a blue color overlay. Next we applied some layer styles to further contrast the two areas: background and text.

So in a nutshell: attention is drawn by light areas, then detailed areas. To focus attention, darken (burn) or blur other areas.

So go ahead, experiment and have fun.

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