+$Strong artistic compositions are vital to the success of a piece of art. The composition of a piece is what captures a viewer's eye and holds their attention once they take a closer look.

+$Artistic composition can totally change the mood of a piece of art, changing it from vibrant energy to solemn contemplation. But how does this happen? Why do some seemingly beautifully rendered pictures fail to hold up whereas others captivate viewers?

+$Many rules dictate what makes a good composition, for example the黄金比例,金色螺旋和三分法则+$. However, it is crucial we don't approach these theories as unbreakable rules but see them as suggestions, or optional templates.

+$We'll discuss some of these techniques throughout this article, explain why they are successful and how you can use that knowledge to make a better image.



+$01. Tell The Story

+$Ask yourself: what's the story? [Image: Steve Ellis]

+$Whether it’s a professional brief or notes for a personal piece, the first step is to think about the story. Which elements are crucial to telling the story, which are secondary, and which add tertiary support? This is how you figure out the hierarchy of elements in your piece. Here, the confrontation between the warrior and the dragon should be paramount, but the secondary elements, such as the wrecked wooden platform, need to support the central narrative of the piece.

+$02. Create Relationships

Powerful artistic compositions: relationships

+$Creating a relationship makes the viewer compare the two shapes, thus creating movement [Image: Dan dos Santos]

+$As simple as this image is, it already has a sense of motion, and depth. How?

+$Through relationships. Causing a disparity between the shapes has given the viewer a means by which they can compare those shapes. "This one is bigger, that one is lighter." The grey square appears to be moving and receding only when compared to the black square.


+$03. Think In Thumbnails

+$Starting with thumbnails can solve many of the design problems ahead of time [Image: Steve Ellis]

+$Start with thumbnails that are the same size ratio and orientation as your final image. If the thumbnails are at the wrong dimensions, you'll end up with all your balances off-kilter, and have to rework your design. During this early stage it's important to solve many of the design problems before even thinking about the final image. The delicate balancing of elements can lead to a strong image, while a slight misplacement can change or alter the impact of the image you’re creating.

+$04. Know Shape Matters

+$Canvas shape and size is crucial to the composition of your piece [Image: Steve Ellis]

+$Plan for the outside shape of the image. This is a personal piece, therefore the size was able to be set. Commissioned pieces don't allow for this luxury and the artist has to react to the dimensions provided. Everything in your image needs to relate to the border dimensions. That’s why the canvas size is crucial. It creates the framing device for the image – the shape that the viewer will be looking through. Once the outer dimensions are established, the design can be approached from a few different directions.

+$05. Develop Dynamic Symmetry

+$Great compositions use geometry. Here’s an example of how dynamic symmetry helps to take this piece to a deeper compositional level…

+$a) Line art 

+$Draw the lines to find the primary point of interest [Image: Steve Ellis]

+$Using the initial sketch, draw a line from the top right corner to the lower left corner. Then, from the top left corner draw a line at right angles to  the first line. This is the primary point of interest, and where you'll paint the dragon’s eye.

+$b) Identify Edges

+$Establish the important elements of the platform [Image: Steve Ellis]

+$Draw a line straight across at the primary point to establish the dragon’s eyeline. Then place a line from the bottom right corner at a right angle to the original line. These help to establish important elements like the edge of the platform, the orc’s side and the dragon’s wing.

+$c) Check placement of elements

+$See where the characters are in the diamond shape [Image: Steve Ellis]

+$Next, repeat these steps, starting at the top-left corner. Using these guides, locate the edge of the platform, the left wing and the warrior’s hands. This enables you to see that the warrior is right in the middle of the diamond shape. The dragon’s head, shifted right, is now in the upper diamond

+$06. Apply the Golden Ratio

+$The Golden Ratio expresses itself as a spiral [Image: mathsbyagirl.wordpress.com]

+$Sometimes, dynamic symmetry doesn't feel right for a piece and this is where The Golden Ratio is most useful. This Greek mathematical equation expresses itself as a spiral. Many of the most famous pieces of art use this ratio to decide on the placement of elements and as a natural way to lead the eye across an image. It’s so embedded in our natural world and our humanity that we often use the ratio without realising it.

+$They believed that all things, both tangible and intangible, have a perfect state of being that define them. They also felt that one should always strive toward achieving this ideal state, be it in mathematics, one's physique, politics or aesthetics.

+$The spiral has created harmony between elements [Image: Steve Ellis]



+$In the case of the image above, the spiral has been used to create a harmony for the elements of interest, such as the wolf’s eyes, Morrigan, the tree and the ravens.

+$07. Channel The Rule of Thirds

+$Dulac abided by The Rule of Thirds [Image: wikiart.org]


让我们来看看Edmund Dulac的画作“小美人鱼:王子问她是谁”(上图)。杜拉克非常善于利用空位来获得优势,部分原因是因为他倾向于遵守三分法则。

+$The line of thirds has been used perfectly [Image: Dan dos Santos]


+$The result is less successful with the column and horizon in the centre position [Image: Dan dos Santos]



+$08. Learn how the rules work



+$Making one area of your composition more dominant creates tension, and therefore adds interest. It also makes your eyes move around the canvas more to compare all of these relationships.


+$09. Use Implied Lines

+$Implied lines guide the reader's eye [Image: Steve Ellis]



+$Sweeping action or movements across a piece will draw the eye from one side of a composition to the other. Using strong, direct action lines built into elements of the picture can move the eye to the point you want. In non-action pieces or in the calmer areas of action scenes, use elements such as flowing cloth, curling smoke or even directional brush strokes in the sky – all subtle trails that the eye can follow to the image’s focal point. Here, the waves, the tentacles and the shape of the sail direct the eye.

+$10. Reinforce those focal points

+$Implied lines can also create focal points [Image: Dan dos Santos]



+$Surrounding objects should point to your character to draw the eye in [Image: Dan dos Santos]


+$11. Create drama via a point of view

+$The viewer should be at the head of the warrior to create drama [Image: Steve Ellis]

+$For an emotionally effective piece such as this, the viewer should place themselves in the head of the warrior. Our hero – and thus the viewer – should feel overwhelmed and outmatched, but still willing to fight. To achieve this, the villain has been placed above the midpoint of the picture. The angle has been canted a bit to throw the viewer off-kilter as well. That way, the villain is literally looming over us as well as the boy.

+$12. See Threes Everywhere

+$Think in general arrangements of foreground, middle-ground and background [Image: wikiart.org]

+$The Rule of Thirds seems to work its way into most aspects of picture making, and value is no exception. When constructing compositions, think in general arrangements of foreground, middle-ground and background.

+$To heighten the relationship between these three depths, try to restrict each to a range of value, favouring black, white or grey. For instance, you can let the background predominately be white tones, the middle-ground predominantly greys and the foreground predominantly black tones.

当然,这三个值的任何安排都可行。通过限制您在这些区域的价值,您可以增强图像的深度感,使轮廓更容易阅读 - 而且易读性非常重要。

+$Look to the Old Masters to see Triptich value schemes [Image: wikiart.org]




+$13. Harness the power of triangles

+$The diamonds draw attention to the faces of the characters [Image: Steve Ellis]

+$Compositions are often based around strong, simple shapes. Here, the heroes in this piece need to have an individual moment to themselves, but also to fit together as a team. Because a triangle is a strong shape the team has been composed so that its various elements led the eye to the orc paladin’s head (the green triangle). And because the background is also arranged as a downwards-pointing triangle (the blue triangle), it creates a diamond shape where the heads of the main figures are approximately placed. All of this is meant to pull the reader towards the expressions on the characters’ faces.

+$14. Be clever with colour

+$Contrast dark and bright colours [Image: Steve Ellis]

+$Colour is an amazing tool for composition. In a piece where I want something to hit hard I’ll use a lot of contrasting value of colour as well as complementary colour. A bright warm colour in the middle of a field of cool can really pop out of a scene and draw the viewer’s eye. Here, the word ‘Cyclone’ is a dark red so that contrasts against the blue of the water, while the eyes of the serpent are bright yellow against the dark turquoise of the sky. The boy has been highlighted with yellow and a lighter skin tone, to bring him forward against the sign and the water.

+$Use black and white carefully to focus the eye [Image: Dan dos Santos]



+$This is one of the easiest and most successful ways of making your subject pop. In the above painting, Blood Divided, this has the effect of sitting the heroine apart from the background.

+$15. Consider Your Angle

+$Tip the camera angle to add excitement [Image: Dan dos Santos]




+$The sense of weight changes the dynamic between the characters [Image: Dan dos Santos]


+$16. Assess The Silhouette

+$Make sure the silhouette is interesting [Image: Steve Ellis]

+$When planning a painting, think about how the image will look as a silhouette. Compositionally, the silhouette is the outer edge of the main forms of the foreground objects or figures. If it works in black and white as a composition then there’s a good chance that the composition should work fine in colour, if you don’t mess around with the colour values too much. Also, make sure that the silhouette is interesting and background elements don’t compete with it.

+$17. Vary symmetry or asymmetry

+$Mixing up the elements keeps things exciting [Image: Steve Ellis]

+$Symmetry is great at telegraphing order and calm, but it can be pretty unexciting. Sometimes, as with this portrait, think about bilateral symmetry, but vary the elements a bit to keep the piece feeling active: the expression in the eyes, and the positioning, shape and size of the different tentacles, for example. Also balance the background elements without repeating them, so that they retain a sense of energy.

+$18. Play it big and bold

+$Use simple shapes to create points of interest [Image: Steve Ellis]

+$Sometimes it pays to be blatant with your design elements. Just look at any Norman Rockwell Saturday Evening Post cover. I’ll often use a giant circle on one of my points of interest in a piece, creating a halo around the main character or action. This draws the viewer’s attention to anything that breaks out of that circle. Taking this approach also works with other simple shapes, such as a diamond or a triangle.

+$19. Think ahead to the final product

+$Different types of art have different compositional needs [Image: Steve Ellis]

+$It’s important to think about the final home of the art. Is it a game card or book cover, or will it hang on a wall? Gallery art has different compositional needs than a card image or a 6x9-inch comic book cover. While a strong composition will work on many levels, the intensity of detail needed for a larger reproduction may not be necessary for a tiny card. Simple shape compositions can be strongest for small pieces, but might seem too simple when enlarged.

+$20. Stay Loose

+$Do some unstructured sketching to keep things fresh [Image: Steve Ellis]

+$While such advice can help to create strong images, if they ever become restrictive, throw out the rules and do some unstructured sketching. Use bigger, looser, bolder strokes and shapes and then go back to these tips. In the end you never want to lose the spontaneity in the image, otherwise it loses its fun. If making the art isn’t fun for the artist, it won’t be fun for the viewer.

+$21. Put it all together


+$Reinforce the focal points with The Rule of Thirds [Image: Dan dos Santos]


+$Jean-Léon Gérôme's Duel After a Masquerade Ball is the perfect example of using all compositional devices [image: artrenewal.org]

Jean-LéonGérôme的Duel After a Masquerade Ball将所有这些工具全部投入使用,是您使用所有组合设备的完美典范。

+$This content originally appeared inImagineFX;订阅这里