Create an Email Template Layout

4 templates

What is an email template? An email template is a pre-designed layout created for marketing purposes that includes mock images and text that can be customized, and personalized for business use. As email marketing providers have become more sophisticated in their technology and tools, these templates have also become more tasteful with options for hundreds of layouts. Marketers can now become designers by tweaking and customizing templates for different campaign automations. The key to success is to follow some basic aesthetic rules to ensure that your email templates look great and are consistent with your website. 

Starting the template with a blank canvas

Basic Email template layout Every email has a rectangular content area. Because of the limitations of styling and CSS in email clients, the content area that contains text and images must be a rectangle and have a fixed width. The width of the content area should be between 500 and 700 px. Any wider, and your recipients may need to scroll to see the entire email. Any narrower, and it will appear condensed on desktops.

Adding in the email and content backgrounds

Next, you have to choose the background colors of these areas. There are two strategies on how to pick colors for your email and content backgrounds.

Use black or white for the email and content backgrounds.

One point to note is that “pure” black (hex code #000) creates too much of a contrast, so use a slightly off-black, like #111 or #222.

Rosalias email template with a white background to the left and black for the right image

Use a white content background against a colored or patterned email background.

This will frame the content of the email without creating too stark of a contrast. A good choice for the background color is the primary color of your website, and if you’d like these colors to match exactly, you’re going to need to know the hex code. W3school’s web color chart is a useful tool for finding hex codes or you can download the ColorPick Eyedropper extension to grab hex codes from web pages. If your website has a patterned background or if you’d like to add texture to your email, either use the pattern from your site or download patterned backgrounds for free.

Two patterns for an email template for Rosalias with flowers as the image

For a bolder approach, use a non-repeating image as the email background.

Another, bolder method is setting a non-repeating image as your background. The example above works well because the photo interacts with the content background — the puppy looks as though it is peering out from behind the email. In a coming post, we’ll teach you how to format this correctly.

A brown and white puppy background for an email template with dummy textImage via

Add some borders

Borders frame the content and, if you’re using a white email and content background, distinguish the two from one another. Your border width can range anywhere from 1 to 10 px — in the above example, I used a 1 px border. If you’d like your email to feel like it is truly framed, choose a thicker border.


Email template design is a broad topic, so I will discuss how to choose colors and fonts in my next post. The key goal is to maintain brand continuity between your website and your emails, so customers have a consistent experience. Using a email template tool like Klaviyo provides a strong start.

Do you have any additional layout tips? Let me know in the comments!

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