Composition techniques in art

Composition is all about making something look natural. Your brain will reject bad composition!

No matter how good at painting you are if your composition and structure isn’t spot on it can ruin a painting! The human brain will instinctively look for good composition in paintings and will naturally reject anything that doesn’t look right.

Sometimes when painting a complex piece of art our ability to naturally create a pleasing composition can often get lost so knowing the basics is very helpful.

Focal elements
Focal elements help to get your attention to a particular element. Focal elements  should be applied to points of natural interest that tend to fall within the fabrcino sphere or one of the points within a grid of thirds.

Focal elements can be created by adding:
Contrast amplifying the contrast of the point of interest.
Saturation of the surroundings to add focus on the thing that isn’t saturated.
Camera focus creating blurring and depth of field to emphasize a particular point.
Motion If the rest of your picture is static by adding motion to your point of focus you can catch peoples attention to that point.
Faces or Figures evolution has made humans naturally drawn to faces (threats).

How to influence your focal points.
guiding lines -are lines that subtly guide you towards the point of interest.

It should be noted that you can have too many focal elements which can be too distracting and confusing for your brain to look at.

Structure is the organization of all your elements particularly your focal elements. Structure goes beyond just making your painting look good it helps express what your painting is actually about. If your painting has no real structure and is just a random concoction of random elements then most peoples brains will just reject your artwork because they do not know what to make of it.

Most used structures are:


Rules of thirds is the most commonly used technique whereby you divide your painting into thirds horizontally and vertically and where the lines intersect you should place your focal elements on.

Golden ratio aka the Fibonacci Spiral
is a spiral that is found through out nature.. we see things that fit into this spiral as being more pleasing to us because it plays on the notion that because we see the spiral throughout nature we are more inclined to think that things look more natural if it fits in the spiral.
Placing the main focal point within the center of the spiral and adding points that fit on the line of the spiral can make a difference (sometimes.)

Pyramid structure for singular elements such as characters to create striking towering appearances for the elements!

Symmetry is the most unnatural as nothing is perfectly symmetrical.. but can work well for artificial structures.

Full frame is essentially zero composition and is most commonly used when drawing just faces with no points of interest.

In a nutshell when artists talk about the balance of a image they are talking about colors, lighting, sizes of the elements.
Balance is the least important aspect of composition as essentially balance should be down to your own individual style and should not be forced with a formula.

These methods of creating composition should only be used as guides and you should not limit your self within the boundaries of these methods.

Composition should be natural and in most cases  if a painting naturally looks good it will have a good composition too because weirdly enough if you then overlay the Fibonacci Spiral or a grid of thirds over your painting you will find that you have subconsciously used these methods without realizing!

What do you think?

Written by James

I am a aspiring artist.. there isn't much else to say really!

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