The Rule Of Thirds

The Rule of Thirds is a compositional rule of thumb that is commonly used in the visual arts, including painting, photography, and design.

This very basic rule for finding balance in your composition is often overlooked by amateur artists and photographers and sometimes forgotten by many art teachers. Using it can help improve the placement of your design elements or subjects, and I find it particularly helpful for stenciling and other pattern work as well as taking photos of my work.

Here's how it works:

  • Draw two equally-space vertical lines

  • Draw two equally-spaced horizontal lines

  • It should look like a tic-tac-toe board, dividing your rectangle or canvas into nine equal parts

  • This creates four points where the lines intersect or “hot-spots” or “sweet-spots”

  • Studies show that placing objects in these intersections creates a pleasing composition

  • Balance in the design can often be achieved by placing a secondary object or counterpoint at the opposing intersection — this creates more interest, tension and energy rather than just centering the subject

Applying the rule of thirds to your artwork and photographs keeps your composition from being split in half either vertically or horizontally.

The Rule of Thirds is actually a guideline more than a rule.  It is intended to help the artist or photographer with the placement of the elements and focal point within the composition.  But if you want your viewer to ignore the other parts of your artwork or photo then go ahead — break the rule and center your subject like a big bull’s-eye!  Knowing why you do something and what effect it will have on the viewer leads to a good composition.

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