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I've never been really good at clustering elements. Y'all make it look so easy, but this took me two hours and it's still just "meh." Tips on clustering for us non-creative types?

I'm not necessarily the greatest at it, but I'd say what you want to do is have a range of item sizes within the cluster, for visual interest, as well as good contrast in the colors.

Pick a focal item for the cluster and make sure that's the most prominent part of it, as well as probably the largest item. Then place a few other, smaller items (resize as needed) around it to accentuate the item without drawing attention away from it.

For colors, you can check by briefly turning the cluster greyscale to check its contrast. If it's a muddy grey mess and difficult to make out items when you do so, then you probably need to switch up your colors a bit to improve the visual contrast so it's more interesting and less "flat."

With the cluster you've got on your page there, the three flowers and the two ends of the key are competing with each other for the focal point. I'd either make the key and two of the flowers smaller so one flower can be the focus, or make the three flowers smaller and move them off-center of the key a bit so the key can take more focus. The ribbons and other elements are largely okay. It's mostly the flowers and key fighting over the focal point.

@Amanda Good tips! Thank you so much!

I think you did a great job! I'm going to follow here, because my layouts are very minimal in terms of clustering.

Tracy I think that you are too hard on yourself. Your cluster is lovely. When I make clusters, I design on a 12X12 paper, with a white background. Then I use a basic formula of flowers, leaves, ribbon or bow, perhaps a background mat, and then some paper item, such as a label, ticket, or journal block. Maybe even a Polaroid photo frame. Match those items to your color palette and theme. I usually save my work then come back to it later, and look at it with fresh eyes. Sometimes I make adjustments and sometimes I don't. The more you make clusters, the more you find your groove. Keep up the great work!

I love clusters ~ I think a variety of different sizes give life to a cluster ~
try place 2-3 leaves / foliage - then ad a few bigger flowers - a new leaf - an element like your key just smaller - top the cluster with some flowers in different sizes and a beautiful curly ribbon / bow
at last but maybe the most important is the shadows ~ if new to adding shadows then try out Sheila's awesome Shadow Styles
Elif have some awesome shadow styles, too - Realistic Shadow Styles and Style No.8: Realistic Shadows

one of my layouts ~

Ah, yes, definitely make sure the shadows are there and work. They will give depth to your cluster, so it doesn't look too flat, and help the individual elements stand out from each other better.

Beautiful clusters, @Chili. I love the colors, as well. I also use the shadow styles by the designers here at Pixelscrapper.

I agree with Chili.... Elif has some awesome shadows styles I use them in most of my designs besides the default shadow

Amanda gave some wonderful advice Tracy .. I kinda do the same thing have one focal element that is larger & personally I like to have the focal element in black and white and make the other elements smaller and in color and different colors ..

I use allot of different shapes to I like black and white allot in papers and elements I am kind of a odd ball and like the most unusual stuff and designs

I would love to see a complete tutorial on how to create clusters.

I second the comments about shadowing.

I love creating clusters. It took me a long time to figure out how to do it and to create something I loved on my pages. I'm not going to lie, sometimes they take me longer than they should, but it's all down to trial and error. Sometimes I build a cluster and then delete it because it's not quite working for me.

Here's a look at a page I've done with clusters, some of them are tightly packed and others aren't. I do try to use the same elements from a cluster on multiple places on my page to give it a cohesive look. Looking at the pocket on this page - I shadowed as I went, so I could see how everything laid as I placed it and moved and rearranged stuff until I was happy with it.

A good way to start learning to cluster would be to use a template that has a cluster premade for you. Then you can switch out items for each layer on the template. You don't have to put a flower if there is one marked, but it would give you an idea of element placement.

You could try one of these to just play with the different layers and placements:

From Elif:

From Marissa:

What exactly are you wanting to know about clustering? Are you wanting to see someone create a cluster?

@Kate that is a great idea, I'm not great at clusters wither but I adore them. I love yours and the cluster with sticker styles and not stickers looks amazing. Chili I love yours. Ladies thank you for the inspiration!

I like what you did with this cluster.

This is probably completely cheesy, but I did this video for an Adobe Animate class that I took a while ago. Though most probably won't apply, the rule of thirds or the visual triangle concepts may at least help with placement of clusters.

The main way I learned how to put together clusters, was by looking at layouts I loved. Then from there I experimented a TON!