The ABC’s of Composition Series – Part 1 the Rule of Thirds

The ABC’s of Composition Series
Part 1 – the Rule of Thirds

Composition is not for the faint of heart lol. It is the foundation of your painting. It is your plan that helps you to execute what you want to say, what experience you want your viewer to have. I am going to do a series about composition mixed in with my articles.

I remember years ago when I decided to get serious about painting, I wanted to learn everything there was to know. (I am still learning) I read a book by Ian Roberts called “Mastering Composition” It changed the way I looked at my paintings, the way I planned my paintings. I was both enthralled and annoyed at the same time lol I was so glad to gain the knowledge but now I had to change a lot of things about the way I painted. It was well worth doing the work. I recommend that you read it.

Composition Guidelines

There are many factors when it comes to composition; below I have listed some of the things to consider.

  • You should not divide your picture in half by placing lines or objects in the center diagonally, horizontally or vertically. Ex: your horizon line
  • As a general rule, you should have a center of interest or focal point.
  • You want to lead the viewers’ eye around all the parts of your painting.
  • Your subject should not be facing out of the image
  • You need to make sure your viewer’s eye has areas to rest.
  • Do not have your items all the same size or equally spaced in your painting.
  • You need to have a dominance of either cool or warm and light or dark you do not want these to have equal weight.

I could list many more but I think this gives you an idea of how many things there are to consider and of course each one is a topic on its own.

Please do not be intimidated by this list. In today’s article, I will go over the number one thing that will improve your paintings today.

The Rule of Thirds

The rule of thirds is simply dividing your image into thirds using 2 horizontal lines and 2 vertical lines, as shown below. You then position the important elements in. In the below diagram you can see the red circles indicating where the surface is divided into thirds. These four points are the prime location to pick for your focal point or area and you would position elements of your painting along those dividing lines.

Rule of thirds grid krista hasson

Place your center of interest in or around the red circles (marking the 1/3 intersections) Keeping your center of interest away from the center

Placing your focal area at one of these points helps create a pleasing design. You can also place a secondary less important focal area on one of the other points to help balance your painting.

Do not place anything that will run along the center lines of you painting as this will cut your picture in half.

If this rule is overlooked it can result in amateurish looking art. I could not believe the difference it made when I started using it. The biggest thing I want to stress is DO NOT place your focal point in the center of your painting. Also do not place your horizon lines or anything that will run along a straight path at any of the center lines.

rule of thirds grid krista hasson

Planning your Painting

Example of the Rule of Thirds while planning your painting

In painting a bull’s eye is not what you should be aiming for.
You can see where this one is visually more pleasing and interesting.

Here are a couple of my paintings with the grid overlaid on them. Giving you an idea of how I laid them out.

Rule of thirds example Krista Hasson
Rule of thirds example Krista Hasson

Thank you for stopping by. I hope you have enjoyed your time here.  

Cheers, Krista 

PS:  Don’t forget to leave your comments below and sharing is always appreciated! 

Join my Facebook Community – Creative Watercolor with Krista

Read more articles on painting  HERE

10 thoughts on “The ABC’s of Composition Series – Part 1 the Rule of Thirds”

  1. I have always painted and taught this way- just because it looked better- I never knew it was a technique! Very interesting and good examples,

Comments are closed.