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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Creating Licensable Art: Composition Tips

If artists have a formal art training they may already know what makes a painting appealing to consumers besides the theme. But if they are self taught artists like I am, learning what makes good art by using the principles of design and compositional techniques to give the art unity may help them create better art so that it is more licensable.

The correct placement of motifs and color in a design or painting is one important aspect in a good composition. The techniques used to achieve it are well documented. For instance, the Rule of Thirds gives the design a pleasing balanced composition. The Rule of Odds makes it more interesting. Using an asymmetrical balance of the principal image in a design also makes it more interesting (see the example at the top of this article). The Rule of Space, Simplification, Limiting focus are a few more ways to attain good compositions. Note: Do not forget to apply composition techniques to colors beside motifs in a design.

The techniques mentioned above are not used individually but several are combined. Each artist chooses their own combination of techniques and some artists purposely break the rules of a good composition to create their own effect. But breaking the rules may be okay in paintings for home decor but not for designs to be placed on products. For instance, using both the Rule of Thirds and the Rule of Odds works well for patterns. The balanced look of the composition creates pleasing repeats. Those techniques also work well for backgrounds with motifs. The balanced background motifs do not detract from the central image(s) but still gives interest to the overall design. And using the technique of limiting the focus in the main image(s) works for greeting cards and decorative flags because the main image is the most important element of the design. Note: An artist does not have to blur the background to focus the eye on the image shown in the article "Composition (visual arts)" from Other techniques such as using saturated colors on the central image and unsaturated colors for the background also focuses the eyes on the principal image.

Read the following articles for information and to view examples on the principles of design and how to create good design compositions.

• "Art Composition Rules: Rule of Thirds" by Marion Boddy-Evans"

• "Composition and Design, elements, principles, and visual effects" by Marvin Bartel"

• "Composition (visual arts)" from

Make sure that you read the comments.  Artist and photographer Erin Sparler has posted more links to in-depth articles on composition.

Comments are welcomed. Enter them in the below comment section.


  1. Such a great topic and unfortunately little discussed. Its almost like without formal training it gets glossed over. People talk about the rule of thirds alot but it just kinda peppers out there.
    Here's a couple of more in depth articles you might be interested in:


  2. Thanks Erin. Links to the articles are really appreciated! Joan

  3. Another excellent article, Joan. I think every artist who wants to learn about how to be successful in art licensing should subscribe to and read your blog. You're a wonder!

  4. Thank you for all of the great information!