use good composition in art to draw in the viewers

  • How do we learn composition in art paintings?

Artists don't have to copy nature or photographs.

We have an artistic license to move and arrange the elements in our paintings to make them a pleasing composition for our viewers.

  • What is a good composition in painting?

Good composition has the art elements arranged in an enticing manner. The composition draws in the people. They enjoy looking and spend more time viewing our paintings.

We can design good composition with these easy tips.

the rule of center lines

  • The Rule of Center Lines is the first rule of composition in art. Normally we don't put the focal point in the center of the painting.

When the focal point is dead center in the middle of the painting, it is like diving into a deep hole. It is hard for the viewer's eye to move around to other areas in the painting.

For good composition in art avoid placing main elements of a painting on the center lines.Good composition avoids the center lines.

Good composition says do not put the main subject on the center lines, either horizontally or vertically.

Place any main objects to the left or right of the vertical center line and above or below the horizontal line.

Also, the horizon should be above or below the center horizontal line.

watch out for these mistakes

The Oyster Catcher in the painting below is dead-centered in the middle of the painting.

Example of poor compositionPoor composition centers the subject.

If you put the main object or the horizon on the center line, it will cut the painting right in half.

Then the viewer sees two paintings instead of one cohesive painting. They feel uncomfortable and don't know where to look.

This mistakes make a very poor composition.

what is the rule of thirds?

  • The rule of thirds is the easiest and simplest rule of composition.

The rule of thirds places the focal point about one third of the way into the painting.

The viewer's eye has space to move around to the other areas of the painting. This is good composition in art.

how do we use the rule of thirds?

The rule of thirds makes composition in art easy.Using the Rule of Thirds

Divide your painting surface into thirds, both horizontally and vertically. Draw two lines up and down and across the painting surface.

This gives us nine equal spaces. This works when our painting is oriented either horizontal or vertical.

Place the focal point, our center of interest at one of the intersections.

We may use any intersection, left, right, top or bottom.

In the example of the Scrub Jay painting, he is located at the intersection of the top, right third lines.

The viewer's eye is drawn into the painting and can freely move out around the rest of the painting.

More about the Rule of Thirds

more tips for good composition in art

After you position the main subjects of your painting, you are well on your way to an exciting painting. Here are a few other things to keep in mind.

After talking about lines, there are a few more tips.

using lines in our compositions

  • Parallel lines close to the edge of the canvas will pull the viewer's eye away from the focal point and out of the painting.

For example a tree trunk close to and parallel with the side of the canvas would not be a good composition in art.

In this painting, the lighthouse is well away from the side of the canvas. It tilts slightly to the center of the painting to keep it from being parallel with the edge. The top of the lighthouse is subdued to keep the viewer's eye in the painting.

Lines are an important element of good composition. art by Carol MayLines Are Important in Composition
  • Lines going directly out the painting will lead the viewer's eye right out of the painting.

This is especially true of lines going out the corners.

The horizon line on the right side of the lighthouse has less value contrast and softened edges to keep the eyes inside the painting.

  • A good composition in art will break the horizon line.

Use a bird, a tree, a mountain or something to break the horizon line. A long, straight horizon with no break gives the viewer a highway to travel right out of the painting. We want to keep the viewers inside the painting.

Notice that neither the lighthouse, nor the horizon are on the center lines of the painting.

Variety is very important in our paintings.

vary the sizes, shapes and colors thru-out the entire painting. artist Carol MayVariety Is the Spice of Life

Vary the sizes, shapes and colors. This is a very important item for good composition.

Don't repeat sizes and shapes thru-out the painting. Have large, small and medium items in the painting, never all the same size.

The turtle occupies a medium amount of space. The water takes up the most space. The other items take up the smallest amount of space. This gives the painting variety.

The same goes for color. Don't have equal amounts of warm and cool colors.

The painting is yellow, orange and blue. Each color is used in different amounts producing variety in the painting.

great Gifts ezine

Get the Great Gifts Ezine and stay up to date with the latest news and tips.


avoid tangents

  • A tangent is when two items a just barely touching each other. Artists call tangents, kissing.

Avoid objects kissing each other or kissing the side of the canvas. Tangents make the viewers feel uneasy.

If items are touching each other, overlap them.

placing people or animals

Good composition says, place people or animals facing into the painting.The hummingbird is facing in.

Position people or animals facing into the painting. The viewer will follow their line of vision.

When they are looking out the side of the painting, their line-of-sight will carry the viewer's eye right out of the painting. That's poor composition in art.

Notice the turtle in the painting above is looking into the painting. He has plenty of space in front of his face to look into the painting.

The hummingbird is looking at the flower thinking about lunch. That keeps the viewer's eyes inside the painting.

What does Wikipedia say about composition?

group items

  • Things look better in groups or near other items.

Single items are great for the focal area. In other areas of the painting, group the items together.

Grouping the items makes it more comfortable for the viewer. Plus, it is good composition in art.

use odd numbers

  • Numbers such as three, five or seven are more pleasing to the eye.

Even numbers like two, four or six are stagnant and unexciting to the eye.

So, no matter if its trees, rocks or apples, good composition in art will use odd numbers.

It helps to keep our paintings interesting.

avoid geometric shapes

  • Use your artistic license to change geometric shapes.

Shy away from using definite geometric shapes like a square, circle or triangle. They are too static and non-artistic.

But what if you have a building that is rectangular, a mountain that is shaped like a triangle or a lake that is a circle?

Move the view of the building to change its shape. Or camouflage it with foliage or shadows, etc. Put whoop-dee-dos in the mountain to change its shape. Make a meandering shoreline that is not a perfect circle and etc.

above all trust yourself

You are the artist! Use your artistic license to change and move things around for a good composition.

  • The rule of thirds and center lines are the most important guidelines for good composition.
  • As we paint, we will pick up the variety of other tips. It all comes with practice.

If it looks and feel right to you, it will please the viewer.

That's what composition in art all about.