The most frequently asked question in the Teal & Lime inbox is “what do you use to create your mood boards?”  The answer lately is, “nothing special”.  Seriously, I have not found a one size fits all magic-mood-board-creator.  I used to have an iPad and I was pretty found of an app called MoodBoardPro.  I used it to make my dining room mood board, but the tool had some limitations (the horizontal orientation being one) and I had to turn my iPad back in at work.  I decided if I really wanted to make a mood board to my liking, I would just have to make it myself.  Of course I use a “tool”, but it only provides a canvas and editing features.

The tool I use today is Adobe Photoshop Elements 10.  It was under $80.  It is the software I use to edit all my photos and I also use it to create my mood boards.  I just open a blank canvas and create.  PhotoShop Elements lets me use layers, so I can easily move around and resize different images on my board.

I am not an expert, so I won’t even pretend I can give you a decent tutorial on using any photoshop-like programs.  Instead, I want to focus on sharing my process for building a mood board.  This process could be applied to your mood board tool of choice.  I am still working to refine my process.  I have not found the perfect one-size fits all standard mood board, but I am narrowing down what I like.  (Side note: My mood board making idol is Joni from Lay Baby Lay.  Her nursery boards are beautiful and it looks like she has nailed her ideal mood board format!)

The most recent mood board I created for my Modern Americana Family Room is my favorite.  I love the vertical orientation for the blog.  I also took some extra time designing the board title.  And I added color swatches at the bottom to highlight the color scheme.

Here is my process for building the mood board:

  1. Preparation: Before I even start I collect all my inspiration images.  Sometimes I save images to a folder on my computer and name them with the source of the image.  Other times I use Pinterest.  Other times I open extra tabs in my browser and navigate to the websites that show the pieces I want to use.  Once all my images are handy, I can begin.
  2. Background: I like to ground all my mood boards with either the wall color or a rug.   A mood board is supposed to help you visually evoke the feeling of the room.  I want the proportions to be appropriate to what the room would actually feel like.  Since the wall color or a rug are generally huge visual and color elements in the room, I prefer to use them as the background to the mood board.  For rugs in particular, I love having the rug pattern as the background like in the dining room mood board.  It gives you a feel for the effect the rug will have on the room.  For rooms without a rug, I use the wall color like in the laundry room mood board. Dining Room Mood Board
    Laundry Craft Room
  3. Order & Scale: I also prefer some life-like order to my mood boards.  By that I mean, I like the arrangement of the things on the mood board to be similar to the visual arrangement in real life.  Wall decor and art will generally appear higher on the board, as it would appear higher on the walls in real life.  Furniture is generally lower on the board.  Accessories might be sprinkled throughout.  Proportions are important to me here too.  I try to make sure all the elements are scaled proportionately to each other.  A small vase should not appear larger than a chair on a mood board.  It would skew the representation, because a vase in the real room would not have more visual weight than a chair.  The play room mood board has great order and scale. Playroom Mood Board
  4. Free Floating Objects: Whenever possible, I like to isolate objects from their background in the original image.  This allows me to float a piece on my mood board, instead of having a bunch of boxy images.  The family room accessories mood board is a good example of this.  To isolate an object and remove the background I use the Magic Extractor option in Photoshop Elements.  It works pretty well for me.  Sometimes, it is just too difficult to get rid of the background.  In that case, I try to crop the image as closely to the object as possible, so the background of the original images is not distracting. Vintage Eclectic Family Room Accessories
  5. Existing Elements: Sometimes it makes sense to mix in pictures of the existing space.  For example, I already painted the walls in my family room and added accessories which I planned to keep with the new design.  I added images of those elements to the mood board to show them along side the new elements for the room.
  6. Title: I title my mood boards.  I used to title them simply with the room name.  Well, that is a bit boring.  So I started naming the style I was creating for the room, hence the “Modern Americana” family room.  I also try to make the title visually appealing and consistent with the feeling I am trying to evoke for the rest of the mood board.  For Modern Americana I plucked the title colors right from other elements on the board.  I used a Helvetica for the word “modern” and American Typewriter for the word “Americana”.  The fonts aligned with the words and their juxtaposition was consistent with the same modern meets classic juxtaposition I was trying to create in the room.
  7. Color Swatches: I have always tried to incorporate color swatches into my room.  The color swatch feature on the iPad MoodBoard app was one of my favorite features used on my early mood boards, like the laundry room mood board.  For the Modern American mood board, I decided to create my own color swatch palette at the bottom of the board.  It is just a series of rectangles of varying sizes depending on the quantity of the color used in the room.  For instance, the red is only an accent color, so it has a smaller rectangle.  I used the eyedropper tool in PhotoShop Elements to select the colors from the other images on the board and then filled the rectangles with the selected color.
  8. Label-less: I am starting to prefer label-less, number-less mood boards.  I used to label each element on my mood boards and for some party inspiration boards I have been known to use numbers, but overall I think they are distracting.  I think a nice descriptive list of items on the board along with links to the source is sufficient.  For example, if I tell you the black metal end table on the family room mood board is from Target, you don’t need a label or number next to the end table to figure out what I am referring to.  It is the only black metal end table in the picture.
  9. Keep It Simple: Last but not least, sometimes simple is better.  Sometimes to achieve simple, you may need to use more than one mood board.  For the master bedroom, I have two mood boards.  One is very simple, almost minimal.  It only shows the sleeping area.  There are not a lot of elements to a bedroom sleeping area.  The second mood board focuses on the future sitting area.  It was nice to focus on this area separately to highlight the accent pieces and accessories better.  When you view the two mood boards together, you can get a sense of the entire room. Master Bedroom Mood Board
    Eclectic Romantic Master Bedroom

I hope my thought process around creating a mood board helps.  I don’t think the tool you use is nearly as important as your own creativity you invest in creating a mood board.  If you want to learn more details about how I crop, remove backgrounds, arrange pictures in PhotoShop Elements to actually build the mood board, please let me know in the comments.  If there is enough interest I would be happy to do a little mini-series.  Do you want to see more of the editing process?

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7 Responses to My Mood Board Process

  1. lesley says:

    Hey Jackie,
    I had written a post about how I create Moodboards and I had mentioned Joni from Lay Baby Lay as my mentor as well. She is awesome. There is a free online tool I’ve been using called called that your readers may be interested in. You can upload any of your own images and drag images off the internet. It’s also an online community. The other cool things is that you can compete in competitions with others, I actually won a $250 gift certificate. It’s a lot of fun. Hope you don’t mind me sharing. Lesley

  2. Great tutorial Jackie. Your mood boards are gorgeous!

  3. Jackie,
    Thank you for this post. I have used Olioboard to create a moodboard, but it seems limited to me. I like the idea of creating my own. I had a trial membership to Elements and loved it. Maybe I’ll have to bite the bullet and buy it. Your mood boards are visually interesting and easy to follow. Keep up the good work!!!

    • lesley says:

      I agree with you Jackie, I think unless you purchase their Pro package you don’t have access to all the other tools like Text and color swatches. It’s is a good free alternative. But I think that the program that Jackie uses gives a very tailored look. She does an excellent job.

  4. Kelly says:

    Great post! I had really only heard of Olio Board, so it’s neat to see what you’ve done with other options.

  5. Zabrina says:

    I have been doing free lance interior design for about a year and a half now but am thinking of moving in the direction of e-design so this post has helped me tremendously! I use Olioboard (the free version) and it’s helpful but I agree as well that you would have to purchase the pro version of it to have access to all the tools you need to do a great board for a client. I will look at Photoshop Elements to see if it’s what I need to get my e-design business going so thank you so much for the information here!

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