How to Create Good Compositions

How do we create good compositions?

“Composition is the foundation of a successful painting.” That’s what they say. But what does that mean? As painters, we don’t inherently think of the work. We think being creative is spontaneous and fun. Well, that may be for some cases, however, to be better painters, we have to look at the practical side of things.

What is Painting Composition?

It is essentially the arrangements of visual elements with the consideration of the principles and techniques of art.

In other words, it’s structure and planning. To know how to create successful compositions takes time, but if we master it, we’ll be more efficient and relatable.


Composition is, first and foremost, planning. As painters, we sometimes find ourselves in an inspiring situation where we let our creative powers flow. However, most of the time, when we’re not inspired, we digress to a more pragmatic approach. We plan.


Planning is the most important step in composition—when we plan efficiently and thoroughly, we can create stronger compositions and ultimately have better results.


So how do we start planning?


A lot of times we think our first idea is the best. But if we have an open mind, we can make our initial plans even better. With that in mind, as painters, we should consider using thumbnails. What are they? Thumbnails are sketches or drafts painters make to get the general idea of their paining. They’re not meant to be complete pieces of art; but rather their purpose is to allow you to figure out the compositional questions before actually diving into the painting process.

One advantage in making thumbnails is that you will have time to decide on what Visual Elements to use.


What are the Visual Elements?

The Visual Elements are essentially the building blocks of any composition in art. Each one has a distinct purpose but at the same time, they can have a harmonious relationship that greatly affects the painting.


Here are The Seven (7) Visual Elements:

1. Lines

Lines are visual paths that can be found all over paintings. They can be used to encourage the eye to move a certain direction in the painting.


Once you’ve used it a number of times, you’ll know how versatile lines can be. It can be used to suggest shapes, patterns, forms, structures, distances, and many more.


2. Shapes


Shapes are areas defined by edges within the piece. In other words, they are the angles and curves that are either geometric or organic.

These shapes have the power to control one’s feelings—believe it or not. For example: squares and rectangles can portray strength while circles can signify continuous flowing movement.

Shapes are very versatile and to a master painter, they serve as an opportunity to contain and release emotion. However, we must always keep in mind the variety of shapes we use. Too much can give your paintings a jarring effect.



3. Color

We know this and we love this. Color is an element consisting of hues. Just like shapes, color suggests emotions, and just like shapes, we must keep in mind the variety of colors we use. One tip is to always have a dominant color as a basis for your supporting colors.

There’s no other way to master color other than to start experimenting yourself.


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4. Texture

Texture is the surface quality in a painting. I’m not talking about how it feels when you touch the painting physically, no. What texture refers to is the association our minds have with how surfaces look.

For example, when we see a painting of an apple, we automatically think that the apple is smooth.



5. Tone

In painting, the tone refers to the variety of color.


Color has an almost infinite number of nuanced tones. With that in mind we must be careful in what variation of color we use in our paintings since choosing the wrong combinations can result in unwanted attention.


6. Space

The element of space refers to the area within, around, above or below your subject. Positive and negative space work to frame the composition—to establish where everything in the painting should be.


The key to finding the perfect balance of space lies on your planning. With that in mind, we should always try to include the general space when we make thumbnails since it is one of the most rigid elements of art.


There are two kinds of space namely: positive and negative.


Positive space refers to the areas that have subjects or elements of importance. Negative spaces are places that surround these areas of importance.