How to Create Image Captions that People Can Actually Read

People often pick the wrong font-color when creating image captions, or when pairing the color of a text with the color of its background in general. Doing this can make your text almost completely illegible. At the very least, this means people will struggle to read what you wrote and become annoyed. More likely, they will just decide to not read it.

Fortunately, this issue is something which is easy to fix. The following examples will show you which common mistakes to avoid, and which guidelines you should follow in order to make your texts and image captions readable and aesthetically pleasing.


What NOT to do

Avoid placing light-colored text on a light background:


Similarly, avoid placing dark-colored text on a dark background:


Avoid relying only on color contrasts between the text and the background to ensure readability:


Doing this generally leads to text which is annoying to read, and which can be illegible to color blind people in some cases. It can work sometimes if you know what you’re doing, but you’re almost always better off not relying on it.


What you SHOULD do

Rely primarily on a light-dark contrast. For example, you can pair a dark-colored text with a light background:


You can also pair a light-colored text with a dark background:


If readability is your main concern, or if the background color is not consistent throughout, use a white text with a black outline, which can be easily read on any background:


Summary and conclusions

  • Create a contrast in brightness between the text and the background; avoid light texts on a light background, or dark texts on a dark background.
  • Don’t rely only on color contrasts between the text and the background to achieve readability.
  • If readability is your main concern, the best option is to use white text with a black outline, as it is legible on all backgrounds.


Fold Paper Towels to Save Time, Money, and the Environment

Folding paper towels makes them more effective at absorbing liquids, which can help you save a bit of time and money, while also reducing your ecological footprint. This obviously has only a small impact on things, but considering it’s something you just learned in about 10 seconds and can easily implement, it’s definitely a useful thing to know. If you’re curious why folding your paper towels is beneficial, read on.


Why folding is better

Folding your paper towel makes it a more effective cleaning tool for two primary reasons:

  1. Increased absorption rate- this occurs due to laminar flow channels between the between the folded parts, which reduce the viscous flow resistance.[1,2] All this increases the rate at which the towel is able to absorb water through capillary action.
  2. Greater absorption capacity- a folded towel can hold more water than an unfolded towel of the same size, because water is stored between the folds of the towel. (A TEDx talk on the topic refers to this as “interstitial suspension”).[1,3,4]

There are two other advantages to folding. First, folding the towel means that it is able to absorb more liquid at each pass (even without interstitial suspension), so using it will require less time and effort on your part. Second, a folded towel is going to be smaller, so a greater portion of its area will come into direct contact with the liquid, leaving less unused (and therefore wasted) edges.

Aside from saving you time and money, saving paper towels through folding is also good for the environment: millions of tons of paper towels are currently used annually around the globe, and the North American market has the highest rate of consumption per capita.[5]


Picture of the trees you're supposed to save.


In terms of folding it in half or in thirds: it appears that a tri-fold is generally more effective than a bi-fold.[4] Based on this, it’s reasonable to assume that folding more is better, but there is likely to be an upper limit where you’ll start running into absorption issues. It’s up to you to decide how many times to fold it, based on what works and on what’s most convenient; this would obviously depends on the size and type of the paper towel.


Saving paper when washing hands

Since we’re already talking about helping the environment, another thing you can do is shake your hands over the sink a few times before wiping them with a (folded) paper towel. This helps reduce the amount of paper towels you need in order to dry your hands. In terms of time, there is no noticeable impact, since the time shaking your hands balances out with the time wiping them with the extra towels. (This method is originally referenced by this TEDx talk as the “shake and fold”).


Summary and conclusions

  • Folding paper towels increases their absorption rate and capacity.
  • Folding your paper towels before using them can help you save time and money, while also helping the environment.
  • After washing your hands, shaking them before wiping can also help reduce the amount of paper towels you need.