Use Your Inspiration - Five Simple Steps to Designing a Mood Board (and a Free Template!)

If you are in the beginning stages of planning any creative project, whether it’s a shoot, an event, interior design, etc. you may have a load of ideas going around your head and overwhelm may be setting in. Before you make any design decisions, you’ll need a thoughtful plan, and I highly recommend using a mood board as the foundation. Here I walk you through what a mood board is, why it’s an excellent idea to use one, and simple steps to efficiently gather and organize your inspiration.

Don’t feel like reading? (Click here for the full guide, including a free editable template and link to additional resources, and you are good to go!)

WHAT IS A MOOD BOARD

A mood board is a one-page visual representation of the spirit and vision of your design. Style is not just about the way that something looks, but also about the way that it makes you feel. And your mood board should do just that. Not only should it communicate specific visual concepts, details and ideas but it should also encapsulate the mood and the atmosphere that you want to create.

A mood board is your best resource for concisely and clearly communicating your vision to the team who will bring it to life, and a great tool for staying on track. Once you have established a cohesive visual direction it will be much easier to say ‘no’ to new ideas and inspiration that will continue to crop up and attempt to seduce you.

The simple five step approach below will help you curate a beautiful and cohesive story while ensuring you are pulling from the top inspiration resources and maximizing your time.

STEP 1 - IDENTIFY GUIDE WORDS

Before you jump into images, you’ll want to decide on a series of words, phrases, emotions and ideas that all help to describe the mood and the look that you want to achieve.

First, identify words to describe the feelings you want to evoke. Examples include: Intimate, Nostalgic, Cheerful, Laid-Back, Romantic, Wild, Warm, Dramatic.

Next, choose a word that helps you craft that feeling into a look. Examples include: Elegant, Feminine, Moody, Bohemian, Ethereal, Modern, Colorful, Lush, Vintage, Glamorous.

Additional words provide context for the look and feel. Examples include the season or location (venue, region, landscape, etc.) and how these will be brought into the design

You’ll end up with descriptions like Intimate Lush Garden Party, Wild Bohemian Woodsy, Relaxed Colorful Vintage, etc. Once you have landed on the words that feel right, keep these in mind during each of the steps that follow. All of this work up front helps you decipher between pictures you’re drawn to because they’re pretty and pictures you’re drawn to because they align with the story you want to tell.

STEP 2 - FOCUS ON KEY ELEMENTS

Venue – A photo of your venue or landscape. This will have a major impact on the direction of your design.

Texture – This is a good indicator of visual feeling. What kinds of materials or fabrics represent the feeling you want to create? Cool metal, distressed wood, airy linen, plush velvet, a textured ceramic surface?

Major Décor Items – Any physically large or repeating elements such as a tablescape you love, installations, wedding ceremony arch, textiles, etc.

Plants/Flowers – Choose an image that represents the types of flowers/ foliage you love, the colors you want, and the feeling that you crave (bright cheery blooms, greenery, loose vs a tight ball, foraged/wild, etc.)

Color Inspiration – Anything in the world that accurately depicts the color palette you want – seaglass for tones of light blues and greens, a bowl of candy for a joyful bright spring event, dramatic agate for jewel tones, etc.

Color Chips – Solid colored squares that represent your color palette. I recommend up to seven, but no less than four. These can be shades of the same color. This will ensure you have enough options to create a layered and interesting palette.

Fashion – For shoots, include an image that give the general vibe and look for the models for hair, makeup and clothing.

Lighting – What lighting best sets the mood? Is it afternoon daylight, sunset, string lighting, candlelight?

Once you’ve thought about these key elements, you’re ready to begin hunting images. Remember a mood board is a bridge between vision and execution, not a place to house every last detail. Keep it high level.

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STEP 3 - COMPILE YOUR IMAGERY (PINTEREST TIPS)

For the sake of this guide, we’re focusing on a digital mood board, and Pinterest is a great place to start. Not only as a source of inspiration, but most of all as a location to compile all your imagery in one place. Shoot for around 20 images in your Pinterest board.

Some tips as you pin:

Search boards instead of pins - When you use the search bar on your Pinterest homepage you can then choose to search pins or boards. Typically, there are other people who have already curated boards dedicated to the type of image you are looking for, and a lot of the legwork is already done for you.

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Pin from big accounts - Instead of searching on the main page, which will turn up a lot of distracting stuff, begin with some of the big design, fashion and party styling accounts. The boards on these accounts are filled with beautiful, professionally shot images that will give you excellent inspiration.

Some of my favorites are: DesignLoveFest, Oh Joy, Funnel: Eric Kass, Design*Sponge, Lauren Santo Domingo, Dawn Guarriello, Homey Oh My and Beijos Events

Use the More Like This feature - Click on a pin you like so it pops up. Now scroll down. You will see a section called More Like This. There you will find a ton of beautiful inspiration images that are similar to the one you chose. This is a great technique when you find something close to what you’re looking for, but it isn’t exactly right. The “more like this” feature often leads to the perfect image.

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STEP 4 - REVIEW AND REFINE

You’ve done some pinning and should have compiled a reasonable number of images for your mood board. Now it is time to take a step back and to look at them as a whole. Is there consistency? Do they feel like they accurately represent your vision and the story you want to convey? Think about the mood, style and colors.

If some of your images are using cheery bright color tones and others are mostly dusty shades, then you are not going to end up with a very consistent looking mood board. Remember, for your actual mood board you will only want to include a small selection of images. Hopefully your concept is starting to feel visually aligned and you are now able to highlight the ones that flow.

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STEP 5 - ARRANGE YOUR IMAGES

To translate your image gallery into a mood board there are a number of great programs out there. My personal recommendation is Canva. It’s free, flexible and very easy to use. I’ve created an editable Canva template for you.

For the a link to the template and instructions on how to use it, click here to download the guide.

Please also check out my Mood Boards Pinterest Board for several examples of mood boards that I have created, all using Canva.


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THANKS FOR HANGING OUT! I hope these tips will keep you inspired! Next time you’re planning a design project, I encourage you to think about these steps so you can quickly pull inspiration, organize it and edit it. I’d love for you to share your mood boards and tag me @graysagedesign so I can see all the amazing concepts you design!

Much love,

ANGELA