Monday, September 6

7 Simple Tips for Better Composition in Your Paintings

Example: I Think This Reference Photo Has Good Composition
Photo Copyright 2010
Hi- Today I am talking about achieving pleasing composition in your paintings or drawings.

Composition is one of those elements that, when done correctly goes unnoticed, but--oh boy--if it’s done poorly, everyone notices.

Here are seven simple tips to better composition:

1. First decide which layout fits your motif best—more horizontal (landscape) or more vertical (portrait).

2. Remember the ‘golden mean’ in design—things should be in the proportion of 1/3 to 2/3.

3. Remember the ‘rule of 3s’—arrangement looks best when there are at least three objects in opposition to each other—some even look for the imaginary triangle in composition; similarly, an odd number of objects is more interesting than an even number.

4. If painting en plein air, use either a frame-template or your two hands to hold up before your motif in order to “size-up” the boundaries before you start painting; keep doing this as your painting progresses so you don’t forget your boundaries.

5. If painting from a reference photo, crop the motif using photo-editing software, print out the cropped motif, and tape it to your support as you paint.

6. The focal point of your painting should be placed diagonally inward from one of the corners, not too high and not too low, and definitely not in the center .

7. Use some element (a shadow, a road, a river) to lead the viewer into your painting.

Academics would say these simple tips are too elementary, but for me, and I’m guessing for a lot of us, that’s just what we need. I hope this is helpful.

Until next blog…


  1. I'm not an artist in the traditional sense, though I view my writing as filling a creative need.

    But, I do enjoy reading your blog. Often the points you make about painting are just as applicable to any creative pursuit.

    Thanks for your work.

  2. Thanks for taking time to leave your nice comment and for reading the blog, in which I try to give pragmatic and somewhat entertaining information...