Diagram tips: Setting a background image

By Carole Snitzer on Oct 09, 2012 in Tips and Tricks, diagram

Some of the best diagrams we’ve seen don’t stop at placement, text, and connectors. In fact, they don’t even stop with the diagram. That’s because great diagram designers add a little something that’s worth considering: they add a background image. And here’s how it works!

Using a Gliffy shape as a background image
The simplest way to add a little depth to your diagrams is to use one of Gliffy’s existing symbols as a background image (rectangle or round rectangle from Gliffy’s Basic Shapes library are probably the best options).

It’s easiest to add a background as a last step. Once you’ve completed the rest of your diagram, follow these steps to add a background:

  1. Drag a new rectangle, rounded rectangle, or other shape onto the canvas.
  2. Pick a subtle color, preferably something light, that complements your diagram, and set both the shape and the shape line to that color.
  3. Stretch the background shape out so that it covers your diagram completely. (Zoom out can be helpful here, if your diagram is otherwise too large to fit on the screen at once.)
  4. With the background shape selected, either click the Send to back button in the toolbar or right-click to open the contextual menu and send the shape to the back.
  5. Make any final adjustments for size and placement.
  6. Once it’s in just the right place, open up the style menu and check the Lock icon — now you can keep editing the diagram without disturbing the background image!

Making a background out of multiple shapes
Sometimes you have one diagram with multiple sections. For example, maybe part of your process applies to internal resources and another part applies to your customers. In that case, repeat the steps above twice, using two different colors for the shapes. Here’s an example of what that might look like:

double-background Image

Extra credit: Importing your own background
Want to go even farther? You can always upload a background image that you created in another program. If you already have a simple texture or gradient, upload your image, drag it onto the canvas, and follow the rest of the steps as described above. It’s that simple!

Here is a basic glowing background for you to download and play with.

Now go try it out on your own diagrams!

EDIT 10/10/12: Updated with an improved Lady GaGa diagram, courtesy of May Woo.