Composition Guidelines

The composition of your finished painting needs some careful consideration.

Some simple guidelines that help are...

  • Divide your paper or canvas into thirds horizontally and vertically. Try and create your point of interest around one of the 4 intersections. This will help the painting be interesting and avoids the painting looking as though it is in 2 halves horizontally or vertically.

No one point of interest?

No one point of interest -- that is fine though you need to consider how the viewers eye will be led around the painting.

This can be done with:

  • use of colour
  • use of brush strokes
  • use of a repeated motif
  • use of a pathway or stream

In Wikipedia we learn... Some principles of organization affecting the make-up of a picture are:

Shape and proportion

Balance among the elements

Harmony, or consistency among the elements

The orientation of elements

The area within the field of view used for the picture ("cropping")

The path or direction followed by the viewer's eye when they observe the image

Negative space


Contrast: the value, or degree of lightness and darkness, used within the picture

Geometry: for example, use of the golden mean


Illumination or lighting

Repetition (Sometimes building into pattern; rhythm also comes into play, as does geometry)


Breaking the rules can create tension or unease

As you become more experienced and confident in experimenting you will find that 'breaking the rules' creating tension or unease is just whats required to give your painting a wow factor.

Happier with composition, why not look at drawing for some more top tips?