Online Drawing Lessons:
Composition and Design

Enhance the effectiveness of our online drawing lessons and improve the quality of your drawings by understanding the importance of Composition and Design.

Learning to draw is not only about mastering the ability to draw what you see. Knowing how to create a balanced and harmonious composition within the borders of your page is also an integral part of making art.

There are no official "rules" when it comes composing a visually interesting work of art. Simply use the elements of art (line, shape, form, texture & color) to create your desired outcome. For example: Do you want your drawing to be active & dynamic or would you prefer it to feel calm & peaceful? The possibilities are endless and the choices are completely up to you.

Click here for important tips on how to light your still life

For Teachers: How to teach Composition Video!

From still life below, several different compositions can be made. Use a view-finder to help you choose a well balanced composition.

A good composition may be traditional or unexpected; complex or simple. It all depends on your own aesthetic (what you like!).

Here are a few examples. Which is your favorite?

drawing viewfinder still life composition still life composition

Principles of Design:

  • Movement - This refers to the way your eye moves through the composition. You can create dynamic or static movement depending on your intent.

  • Unity/Harmony - the quality of wholeness or oneness created by a composition.

  • Variety - Having different forms or types within a composition. These differences can create visual and conceptual interest.

  • Balance - Arranging a composition so that no one part overpowers or feels heavier than another part. Also, symmetry vs. asymmetry.

  • Emphasis/Focal Point - Creating a point of interest within a composition that attracts the viewers eye.

  • Contrast - Refers to the differences in value within a composition. Low contrast would include a shallow range of values while High contrast ranges from black to white.

  • Proportion - The size and space relationships of all elements within a composition. Can be used to create the illusion of largeness or smallness in an artwork.

  • Pattern/Rhythm - The use of repetition within a composition. Can be used to create movement and action.
*Source: See Wikipedia, Principles of art, (as of Aug. 18, 2008, 17:16 GMT).

Here's another great idea in composing and checking the composition of your drawing. It's the "golden template" with it's origins from ancient Greek. Check it out at Using the Golden Rule in composition.

Use the links on the left to browse all of our online drawing lessons.

Or, follow this link to learn how to light your still-life:
Online drawing lessons - Tips on lighting still life objects.