how do we create a focal point in art?

A focal point in art works like crazy to attract the viewers.

  • What is a focal point?

The focal point is the main attraction of a painting. It's the what and why of the painting. Why did the artist do the painting? What is the artist trying to say?

The focal point attracts the viewers into a painting. Then their eyes move around to other areas of the painting.

  • Does every painting have a focal point?

If a painting is basically a display of patterns, there may not be a specific area of focus.

It is up to the artist whether they want focal point or not.

There is not always a focal point in art paintings."Schoolin'" is a painting of patterns

This fish painting is a painting of patterns. There is no outstanding center of interest.

Some paintings have more than one area of focus. They have a main point of interest plus supporting, secondary focal points.

In the boat painting below, the boat is the main subject and the buildings are additional points of interest.

let's see how to create a focal point in art

Accomplished artists will use one or more of the following methods to make focal points in their artwork.

placing the focal point

The focal point in art should be well integrated into the design of the entire painting.

A well placed focal point makes a pleasing painting.A well placed focal point
  • It's not a hard and fast rule, but generally the focal point is placed "near" the center of the painting.

The subject is almost never placed in the absolute center of the painting.

When the subject is dead-centered, the viewers to look at the subject and then leave the painting. They don't spend additional time looking at the rest of the painting.

  • Don't place the subject close to the edge of the painting. It will make the viewers feel uncomfortable and possibly draw them out of the painting.

An easy method of placing the subject is the rule of thirds. An example is the bird painting above. The bird is slightly off-centered and well integrated into the design of the painting.

people, animals and vehicles

  • People, animals or vehicles become the star of the show when they are in a painting.

Actually any man-made things such as vehicles, buildings, boats, etc. will automatically be the focal point in art paintings.

Give people or animals plenty of space in front of their face. Have them looking into the painting, not out the edge of the painting. An example is the bird painting above.

If the subject is looking out of the painting, their view will carry the viewers right out of the painting.

single objects

  • Solitary items automatically attract attention.
Artists use animals and people as focal points to draw the viewers into their paintings.A single object is the focal point.

The egret draws the attention of the viewers. It has several things going for it that make it the focal point of the painting.

First, it is a solitary item. It's a single object. It's all by its self, not in a group.

Second, it's a bird. People and animals automatically attract the viewer's attention.

Third, it is moving. Moving objects grab the viewer's attention.

Fourth, there is a high value contrast between the white bird and the darker background.

  • Please notice, there are two palm trees, not one tree.

A lone tree would attract too much attention. Two trees together, set them into the background. Then they don't detract from the focal point.

value contrast

  • Contrasting values are the easiest way to create a focal point in art.
The boat is the main focal point. The stilt houses are secondary points of interest.The boat is the star of the painting.
The buildings are secondary focal points.

Value is the light and darkness of an item.

The eye is automatically drawn to a high contrast of values.

Artists will use light against dark in many areas of the painting. But the focal point in art should have the strongest value contrast.

The boat in this painting of a "Cedar Key Canal" easily becomes the focal point because it is a

  1. man-made object,
  2. a solitary item,
  3. it is painted with hard edges and
  4. it demonstrates high value contrast.

color and detail

  • Bright, saturated colors attract attention to the main subject.
Detail draws the viewers' attention to the focal area.The color and details on "Lacey" attract attention.

The red comb and wattles on the chicken are the brightest red in the painting. So they draw attention to the chicken and her face.

  • Use more detail in the focal areas compared to other areas of the painting.

There is more detail on the chicken's face and feathers, then the background which is somewhat out of focus.

soft and hard edges

  • Soft edges are easier to look at. Hard edges attract more attention.

Compare the hard edges on Lacey (the chicken) to the soft edges in the rest of the painting.

complimentary colors

  • Complimentary colors vibrate when they are painted next to each other.
Complimentary colors are a good way to attract attention to the focal area of a painting.Complimentary colors and warm vs cool colors

They are great for attracting the viewer's attention into the focal area.

Complimentary colors are across from each other on the color wheel.

The complimentary colors are red and green, yellow and violet plus, blue and orange.

The bluebird has several things that make him the focal point of the painting.

  1. The complimentary colors, blue and orange
  2. Hard edges compared to the soft edges in the background
  3. Saturated colors
  4. Plenty of space in front of his face, so the viewer stays in the painting.
  5. Warm and cool colors

Do you think I missed one? Yes, he is a solitary object, a bird or animal and the painting shows movement.

It's easy to create a focal point in art with multiple methods.

use warm and cool colors

  • Painting warm colors against cool colors is another great tool artists use in their focal areas.

The warm colors, (red, orange and yellow) will automatically attract attention.

When we place them against cool colors, (blue, green or purple) they really sparkle.

The bluebird above exhibits both complimentary colors and a warm orange chest with a cool blue body.

How to mix warm colors and cool colors.


  • Use any or all of these techniques to create a focal point in art paintings. Your paintings will be sure to attract the viewer's attention.

i wish you the best on your art journey!