Understanding the secret behind good composition


Composition in a painting is mainly about getting two things right – the placement of the objects and the colours used. Can you imagine a beautiful house and a path carelessly meandering into the woods, with the trees on both side of the road in careful balance? The picture of a classic landscape scene, so dreamy, that all elements just work to make a beautiful painting! So what makes the composition in this painting so special?

Let us discuss the formats of composition.

A format is basically the shape of your painting as a whole. There can be two types of formats – square, rectangle (panoramic) format. The format you want to use varies as per your personal preference. All in all, the easiest way to create a good composition in a painting is using the rectangle shape – much like using an A-4 size paper.

Square format:
Painting done in this type of a format can either go really well or really bad. Thus, you will rarely find a master painting in a square format, as is not an easy format of painting to balance all your elements in. For example, a group of people in an outdoor setting depicted using across a landscape using the square format, may just end up looking too crowded or awkward.

Rectangular format:
This is the easier format, among the two. You can flip around the shorter side of the paper towards the top and this would be your ‘portrait’ frame. Keep the longer side of the paper
as your top part and you have the ‘landscape format’. There is more space to arrange the elements of your painting through the rectangular format – you can only make the figures look crowded if that is what you wish to depict. Good composition is about variety – avoid making two things same. Also, make sure that the shapes, gaps and spaces between the objects inside your painting are all different. You can use the ‘rule of thirds’ to create balance within your painting. The rule of thirds is commonly used in photography. When used in photography, the rule of thirds adds tension, interest and balances the picture.


Here is how you can use it for your painting:
• Divide your page horizontally into 3 parts.
• Decide whether you want the horizon (or the elements where the horizon would be) in the upper third part of your painting or the bottom third.
• Next, split the painting into 3 vertical parts.
• Distribute the elements you want to focus on by aligning them between the lines as shown in the images below.


This way, you are clear on where you are headed as you finish your painting. As the great artist Pierre Bonnard says – ‘And after drawing comes composition. A well-composed painting is half done’ Now go on, and try your hand at composing a beautiful painting and share it with us! If you found this information helpful, do let us know in the comments section below.

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