5 Ways to Define Your Focal Point – The ABC’s of Composition Series – Part 2

5 Ways to Define Your Focal Point

The focal point is the main object or area of interest in your painting. You want this area to stand out and be the most interesting part of your painting. If you do not define a focal point you could end up with a painting that lacks direction and or purpose.

A painting can have more than one focal area or point but there needs to be a main one that is more dominant. If two are of equal weight, the eye does not know how to interpret it and can be confusing to the viewer.

Below I have listed 5 ways to define where you want your viewer to focus their attention.

  1. Value Contrast
  2. Color
  3. Texture
  4. Position
  5. Detail

Using one or more of these methods will make your focal point clear to the viewer

Value Contrast

The area with the lightest light and darkest dark will always draw the eye making it a very crucial part of planning your composition. Make sure you have your highest value contrast at your focal area.


The brightest or most exaggerated colors will also draw the eye. You can use bright saturated colors against dull neutrals or you can use two compliments next to one another.


Texture against areas of less or no texture will add interest and draw attention to your focal area.


Using the Rule of Thirds when placing your subject matter will be pleasing to your viewer’s eye. You can learn more about the Rule of Thirds outlined in my previous article The ABC’s of Composition Part 1.


The area with the sharpest focus and detail will also draw the eye. Soft focus and less detail will recede and not command as much attention.

Notice where your eye is drawn in my above watercolor painting “Ready for Tea”.

When planning your paintings your focal point or area should be your first consideration. Taking your time to do the planning is the foundation of great artwork.

I hope you have enjoyed this article.



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6 thoughts on “5 Ways to Define Your Focal Point – The ABC’s of Composition Series – Part 2”

  1. I understand the concepts and the rules but often find that my eye manages to ‘see’ the whole painting and I find that I don’t see a focal point. This makes thing very difficult – lol.

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