Dessert Presentation

10 Design Principles for Plating Food

A checklist:

  • Flow from left to right
  • Splash of colour on left
  • Height on right side

In the western world, we read from left to right. When a new image is presented to us, we tend to scan it from the left side to the right side. You can use this knowledge to influence the placement of food on the plate. If you have a bit of colour on the left side of the plate (sauce, fresh fruit, etc.), the eye will be attracted to that. If you plan to have height on the right side of the plate (garnish, ramekin, etc.), it will draw the eye across the plate (Figure 6).

Figure 6.

Your eye should be able to flow across the components. There should be movement on the plate. An upward curve of a tuile or chocolate garnish, a connection between two components with a caramel stick, or the flow of coulis can help direct movement and create a focal point. All these items combined will make a plate more appealing visually and attract the eye of the diner before the dessert is eaten.

The main component of the dessert does not always need to be centred, but can be placed slightly offset. Generally, sauce, ice cream or sorbet, and the main garnishes should radiate from the main component without a lot of separation. This allows the plate to have a balance of white space and not look too busy or confusing. Keeping components away from the outside edge of the plate will also help balance the presentation.

Placement on the plate

Figure 7a.
Figure 7b.

On the plate in Figure 7a, the two main components are pushed to the outside of the plate, causing the eye to focus on the emptiness (or negative space) in the middle. On the plate in Figure 7b, the components have been brought together, making a connection between all three items. This creates visual harmony.

Using the serving area of the plate well

Figure 8a.
Figure 8b.

Figure 8a shows the correct design principles (colour on the left, and a garnish that is high on the right side), which do cause the eye to move left to right, but the cake is pushed back almost to the very edge of the plate. The sauce is all on the left side. The combination of the two uses only about half of the surface area. This highlights the negative space on the plate.

In Figure 8b, the sauce is piped across the entire surface of the plate, and the cake is brought almost to the centre, creating more balance.


Figure 9a.
Figure 9b.

Figure 9a shows a dessert with a lot of sauce, done in similar shapes. The highest item is placed incorrectly, in the bottom left corner.

In Figure 9b, the presentation is simplified. Movement is controlled, drawing the eye to the tallest component. To help balance the plate, perhaps another component could have been added in the middle. Think about what might make an appropriate addition.

Media Attributions

  • Modern dessert plate © Ken Harper
  • Plate Placement A © Ken Harper
  • Plate Placement B © Ken Harper
  • Unbalanced Plate © Ken Harper
  • Balanced Plate © Ken Harper
  • Flow 1 © Ken Harper
  • Flow 2 © Ken Harper


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Modern Pastry and Plated Dessert Techniques Copyright © 2015 by The BC Cook Articulation Committee is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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