Design A Drawing or Painting: What You Don't Want to Do

When you design a drawing or a painting, it often happens that you get sidetracked from properly composing it. As a result, the work ends up being weaker than it needs to be.

Often they are just simple things we overlook. Follow these pointers to keep your compositions strong and effective.


Keep looking at the big picture! I can't emphasize it enough. After you work out the golden mean for your painting , and you know roughly where you want to place the large shapes, take some time to check for these common mistakes:

  • Avoid “kisses”
    These are edges which touch each other, but do not overlap. They can cause unnecessary visual tension and confuse the eyes. Similarly, even if the objects don't touch, but are simply too close to each other, it can draw unwanted attention. The fix is simply to either overlap the two objects, or separate them further.

    drawing composition - avoid tension

  • Avoid tangential lines
    Lines from separate objects that run into each other to form a single edge can be confusing to the eyes. You can fix this problem by shifting the objects to break the alignment.

    drawing composition - mistake to avoid

  • Avoid scattering objects to the edges
    Arrange your objects toward the middle of the painting. You generally want the focus of a painting to be on the interior, and objects scattered around the outside will distract from that.

    composition mistake

  • Avoid lumping all of the objects together
    While you want the focus to be on the interior of a painting, crowding everything too tightly into the middle of the painting creates a dull or overly tight painting . Break the masses apart by distributing one part a little way away from the center of interest for a better balance.

    composition mistake - lumped together

  • Avoid stacking objects on top of each other
    Be careful not to put things directly in a row, either vertically or horizontally.

    composition mistake

  • Avoid drawing objects that point out of the picture
    Items that taper to a point and are close to an edge have the effect of leading the viewers eye out of the painting. The solution? Turn them around so they point toward the center of the design.

  • Avoid parts that come together at a single point
    It is an exception only when you intend it to be the focal point as you design a drawing. You can break up the star or downplay some of the elements.

    composition mistake

  • Watch out for objects that run off the painting
    Things like rivers and winding roads can act like “trails” that lead the eyes out of a painting. You can stop the outward flow with a vertical shape like a tree or a rock. That way you can redirect the eyes and keep them inside the picture.


design drawing - avoid composition mistake



As you become better at catching these common pitfalls when you design a drawing or a painting, it can be so much fun to dive into your creativity without being hampered by them.


Discover six more useful composition structures here.

Mastering Composition
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