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How to Create GOOD COMPOSITION in Your Art

Composition is a term that gets tossed around a lot in the visual art world, whether it’s illustration, photography, animation, etc. It seems really important to an art piece, but what exactly is composition, and how do we make it interesting and intriguing? Here’s a quick guide all about how to create good composition within your artwork!

Not a fan of reading? No worries – here’s a short and sweet video on our YouTube channel all about how to create good composition in your art!

What is Composition?

Before we get into creating a good composition, we should probably define it. A composition can simply mean your art, just like it’s used to describe music! It’s a combination of the elements of art and design put together to create an art piece. But we don’t want to just place things randomly on a canvas – there are things we need to consider first that will make a composition more appealing.

Focal Points

The number one thing you want to think about when planning a composition is what your focal point will be. A focal point is a figure or area on a piece that will draw the viewer’s attention first. Sometimes it’s a person or an object, or maybe it’s just a splash of colour!

Focal points can be created with contrast, emphasis and the rule of thirds, which we’ll talk about later. Contrast can be created with opposing colours, sizes, amount of detail – you name it! So long as your focal point is different from the majority of the piece, you’ll have an easy path towards it. You can add emphasis to your focal point as well by framing it with other objects, adding more contrast, or having leading lines that point towards it. But your focal point can’t just be floating alone on your canvas – let’s talk about what to put on there alongside it!

Foreground, Middle ground and Background

a simplified example of a background (blue), middle ground (pink) and foreground (green)
Here's a simplified example of a background (blue), middle ground (pink) and foreground (green)!

A main thing that a lot of artists think about when it comes to composition is their foreground, middle ground and background. A Foreground is what’s closest to the viewer, a background is what’s farthest from the viewer, and middle ground is everything in between. As a whole, these three create scenes and settings within an art piece. However, not all art pieces will have these – while foregrounds, middle grounds and backgrounds are necessary for scenes, they aren’t as necessary for abstract pieces or some concept art.

Character concept art doesn't usually need a foreground or background!

Backgrounds tend to be used to aid the focal point and composition as a whole. You’ll want to use your background strategically so your composition doesn’t feel too empty or too crowded. Foregrounds tend to be used to frame a composition – they’ll help it feel complete or give it a specific mood. They’re also used to add extra depth, whether they be a hand reaching out, overhanging trees or objects that are obscuring your view. Your middle ground tends to be the most common place for the focal point. You’ll want to place the focal point so that it leads your eyes straight to it, but let’s talk about how to do that first!

The Rule of Thirds

The frog lands on almost 2 of the intersecting points!

The rule of thirds is a guide you can use to place a focal point in your piece. Say if you took an artwork and put a 3 by 3 grid on top. You might see these on digital camera displays and photo editors! The points that intersect with one another are the points where you’ll usually want your focal point to land on. This creates a more dynamic composition and more interesting balance compared to just having your focal point in the direct center!

Composition seems like a big and intimidating word at first, but it was probably already something you knew without a name! Just as with most things in art, practice makes perfect, so continue to experiment with ways to make your compositions more dynamic, interesting, and balanced. Soon enough, you’ll be creating them like a pro!

If you’d like to access free videos that teach the foundations of art, be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel that has concise videos all about the elements of art, the principles of design, and more!

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