Background images can help attract, engage, and inform visitors on your website. Depending on their design and position, background images can establish a mood, provide context about a brand, and draw visitors’ attention to important elements on a web page.

In this post, we’ll go over the two different types of website background images you can use and then walk through real examples of websites with these types of backgrounds. Then we’ll cover some best practices for using background images in your own website designs. Let’s get started.

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Background Images for Web Pages

Before you start your search for the perfect background image, you have to know some basic information about website backgrounds in general.

There are two types of website backgrounds: a body or content background. A body background covers most of or the entire screen. It can be an image, graphic illustration, single color, color gradient, or texture. A content background surrounds text, images, or other content, and can be layered on top of the body background.  

Take the homepage of our blog, for example. The body background is white, whereas the content background is a light blue. The content background helps group the featured image, title, category, and read time of the individual blog posts together. This can help visitors browse the blog easier and make more informed choices of what to click on.

HubSpot's Website Blog's homepage has a layered body and content background

When using background images for your web pages, you can use images as the body background and place text directly over it. This is a common approach for creating a striking homepage. You can also use an image (or several) as the content background, layered over a single color body background. This is a common approach for portfolio sites.

Let’s take a look at some examples of website background designs below.

1. Warszawski UL

website with background image: Warszawski UL features background images with same blue as logo

Warszawski UL is an interactive website that uses scrolling animations and big background images to capture and sustain visitors’ attention. Each image offers a closer look at the interior of the serviced office.

What we like: Each background image included in the homepage slider contains shades of blue that match the color used in the logo and other design elements, making the overall design more cohesive.

2. Corvette Care

website with background image: Corvette Care features background image slider with hover animations

Corvette Care is an image-rich website. Its homepage includes a hero image slider that is triggered when the user hovers over one of the words representing the company’s services. This is a visual way to show that the company not only offers basic maintenance and upkeep — but is also one of the nation’s premier Corvette restoration and performance facilities.

What we like: Rather than show three images side-by-side, this site uses a slider of different background images to represent its range of services, which is triggered by the user hovering over text.

3. Addictions Design

website with background image: Addictions Design uses background images to create virtual showrooms

Addictions Design features many types of background images: some are full-body, layered, and featured in unique sliders. These background images help accomplish the company’s mission, which is to exhibit collections of artisans and furniture firms.

What we like: The background images, particularly the full-body website background image in the hero section of the homepage, make you feel like you’re stepping into one of Addictions Design’s showrooms.

4. ThruDark

website with background image: Thru Dark layers product images over background images of austere landscapes

ThruDark combines background images and videos with a dark color scheme to convey the different climates and activities that its products are designed to work for, whether that’s an expedition in extreme cold tundras or humid jungles.

What we like: Product images are layered over images and videos of landscapes, emphasizing that ThruDark’s clothing and equipment are developed to assist customers in the most arduous environments.

5. Colossal

website with background image: Colossal uses background images to visually explain its mission of de-extinction

Colossal uses bold colors, images, and animations to tell the story of how it will create a path to de-extinction. The page dedicated to its landmark de-extinction project — the resurrection of the Woolly Mammoth — uses background images and animations to effectively explain what this species is and what its goals are for reviving it.

What we like: The background images combined with animations and other effects make this website as engaging as it is informative.

6. INSPiiR

website with background image: INSPiiR uses background images with semi-transparent overlays to make text easier to read

INSPiiR showcases the INSPiiR Saint-Sauveur district with big background images across its site. The site uses opacity to make these background images somewhat transparent and darker, so it’s easy to read the text on top.

What we like: Semi-transparent overlays ensure that the text is still easy to read without obscuring the background images.

7. Morris Adjmi Architects

website with background image: Morris Adjmi Architects features full-body background images with only the logo and menu button in corners

MA’s website is designed to fulfill the studio’s mission of creating buildings that stand out. To this end, the homepage features a hero image slider with an almost austere navigation bar with only the logo and button labeled “menu.” This ensures that MA’s projects are the focal point.

What we like: A minimalist navigation bar keeps the focus on the background images, which feature projects from the studio’s portfolio.

8. hipcool Studio

website with background image: hipcool Studio juxtposes colorful background images against stark white content background

hipcool Studio is a minimalist website that masterfully uses whitespace, clean typography, and a white background color to make images from its portfolio stand out. Since the images are the only source of color (aside from the logo), they draw the visitor’s attention and keep it.

What we like: The site juxtaposes large, colorful background images with a stark white content background to really make the images pop.

9. Goldling Drinks

website with background image: Goldling Drinks features a graphic background image of a golden desert

Like the products, the website of Goldling Drinks is designed to transport visitors into the world of its drinks’ flavor. To do so, it has a dreamy and playful graphic background that captures the “golden hour.”

What we like: The website background is composed of graphic illustrations that evoke the playfulness and complexity of its products and brand.

10. K+

website with background image: K+ uses background images with details that draw focus to text at the center

K+ is one of the best photography portfolio websites. Its homepage features a hero slider with background images that look like full-body images until the user scrolls. The photos are perfectly chosen: the composition draws the eye to the centered text and scrolling arrow and to the logo and hamburger menu button in the corners.

What we like: The background images are colorful and detailed but manage to draw attention to — rather than distract — from the logo, menu button, text, and scrolling icon.

11. JVN

website with background image: JVN features background images showcasing products, ingredients, and results

JVN’s website is focused on the ingredients that make these products different, which is reflected in the copy as well as in the videos and images. The background images showcase the products, their specific ingredients like sugar cane, as well as the results on real people’s hair.

What we like: The header background image juxtaposes a texture that looks like the product with an image of the founder holding the bottled product to showcase it in multiple ways.

12. Parques de Sintra

website with background image: Parques de Sintra uses background images to show different parks and places in town

Parques de Sintra is designed to help visitors discover the many different ways to explore Sintra. To do so, it uses multiple image sliders. In its header section, for example, an animated image slider shows slices of images featuring Sintra’s many parks, monuments, and places. This is a great way to show that one person’s journey through the town may look very different from another’s.

What we like: This website’s paneled hero image slider is a clever way to feature multiple background images without taking up much space.

If you want to check out more website background designs, here’s a video by Flux that walks through five websites with cool background images and other effects and why they work:

Website Background Image Best Practices

A background image on a web page has to do more than look good — it also has to enhance the user experience in some way. Let’s walk through some best practices so you can pick a background image that helps convey your brand and provide visual cues to your visitors.

1. Select high-quality images.

In terms of background images, quality refers to composition, resolution, and size. First, background images should have enough negative space and color contrast to make any overlaid text easy to read. Here’s an example:

website background with negative space where text is positioned

Image Source

Website background images should also be at least 72 pixels per inch (ppi) and 1920 pixels wide x 1080 pixels high ideally, according to NW Media Collective. This ratio of 16:9 is considered ideal because it spans the webpage without compromising the quality of the image.

2. Make text stand out.

If using a background image, then you need to ensure text stands out so visitors can read it. You can do so in a number of ways: by using contrasting colors, or a solid color content background in between the text and background image, or overlays on the images. You can also position the text over the darker, or lighter, parts of the background image.

Notice in the example below that the white content background helps the logo and text stand out against the body background.

website background with detailed image as body and white content background surrounding text

Image Source

3. Ensure images are responsive.

It’s essential that a background image is responsive so it adjusts to all screen sizes without noticeably impacting your website’s performance. To ensure images are responsive, you should:

  • Set the CSS background-size property to “cover.” This value tells the browser to scale the background image’s width and height so that they are either equal to, or greater than, the viewport’s dimensions.
  • Add a media query. This will tell the browser to serve a smaller background image for mobile devices, which will reduce the payload and therefore improve load times.

For a more detailed look at all the code required to make background images responsive, check out How to Add an Image & Background Image in HTML.

4. Place bold, colorful images in the header.

If you have an image with bold colors or illustrations, consider putting it in the header section of your homepage. That way, you can immediately establish your brand personality and website’s mood, and then place more text-heavy content below. Here’s an example of a video header followed by a more minimalist section:

website background with bold image in header section followed by text-heavy section

Image Source

Using Background Images in Your Design

Using a website background image can help immediately capture a visitor’s attention, tell a story, and provide important visual clues. Using one will require you to consider file sizes, load times, text color, and other factors — but when done right, background images will make your site more engaging and memorable.

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Originally published Feb 15, 2022 7:00:00 AM, updated April 01 2022

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