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Some tips on composition to make your illustrations more dynamic!
Do your illustrations come out looking stale, stiff, and staged? Composition is something a lot of illustrators and artists struggle with, so here are a few tips to creating stunning illustrations with dynamic compositions that lead the eye around the piece!

Posted by Abbi Laura from Wimborne Minster, England, United Kingdom • Published See Abbi Laura's 7 projects »
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  • How to create art / a model. Composition - Step 1
    Step 1

    I'm using one of my existing illustrations to help explain why the composition works well, what steps I took to creating a dynamic composition, and things to avoid when thumbnailing and sketching. The purpose of this illustration was to show characters using products I designed.

  • How to create art / a model. Composition - Step 2
    Step 2

    One "rule" of composition you may have heard of is the Rule of Thirds. Divide your canvas into thirds, horizontally and vertically. The eye will generally fall on the areas where those lines cross, so this is where you should try to keep anything you want people to focus on.

    Compositions also tend to work best if the horizon line is not in the centre. In this piece, it's near the line between the top and middle third, splitting the piece in a way that is pleasing to the eye.

  • How to create art / a model. Composition - Step 3
    Step 3

    In this case, the faces of the characters are important, but also the apron, as it is the largest area showing off my pattern! I also wanted to subtly draw attention to the wedding bands to show the relationship between the characters. Using this method draws the eye to the rings without making them glaringly obvious.

  • How to create art / a model. Composition - Step 4
    Step 4

    The Fibonacci Spiral is another interesting compositional tool. For me, I like to use the spiral as a guide for creating flow within a piece. You want your illustration to draw the eye in and guide it around - elements like the teapot full of flowers and the pot of kitchen utensils help keep the eye from straying off the page, bringing the viewer back around to the most important areas.

  • How to create art / a model. Composition - Step 5
    Step 5

    In my illustration, I went for 2-point perspective and a dynamic viewpoint. Had I opted for 1-point perspective, it would have made for a very stagnant piece! This is often what my very first thumbnail looks like for each illustration - it's a helpful step for getting the concept on paper, but it doesn't make for a very exciting final artwork!

  • How to create art / a model. Composition - Step 6
    Step 6

    Another thing to look out for is tangents. Tangents can ruin your composition and make an illustration hard to look at. A tangent is any area where things line up weirdly or are too close to each other in a way that is visually troublesome. For example, where the girl's fingertips just touch the top of the chair, or where objects are too close to the edge of the page.

    Symmetry can also look staged and unnatural. Try to vary things like the lift of the shoulder, how bent the elbow is, and the action each hand is performing.

  • How to create art / a model. Composition - Step 7
    Step 7

    Do another rough sketch, this time with varied poses and a more interesting camera angle. Then, compile any references you might need. This was my first time drawing a kitchen interior, so I researched all sorts of kitchens to make sure I had a strong mental idea of what to include. Do a more refined sketch based on the rough composition, and watch out for tangents!

    These are the sketches I completed in preparation for my kitchen illustration. You can see how I used the angle, perspective, and a variety of kitchen objects to create a dynamic composition that feels natural and looks appealing.

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