Image Composition

This article will be more abstract than others I have written. But I think it can help a lot of people doing 2D or 3D art. This information I will give you came from my personal research on different books of drawing. You might think it strange that you may take information from a 2D hand draw book and apply them to 3D art, but as you may see, there are some visual tricks that are very clever and you will need them. As those tricks are visual things I will use as much examples as I can, but I decided to have poor image quality (no details) to focus your attention on what I'm saying and not on the image himself.

Imagine you want to make a composition of objects on a table. And you want this composition looks "cool". How can you start? The first step is to choose objects you want to represent. It's always easier to have the objects physicaly when you want to draw them, or have photo, drawing or models if you cannot have them directly. But it's extremely hard to model, draw, paint something if you do not have any visual representation of the object. One other very important point is to light objects the way you want to represent them. This is very important for 2D drawing less for 3D as in 3D you may change the light after the model / texture process. But it help also to see what it look like in reality and then try to recreate the same thing on your paper or computer. And the last thing is TAKE YOUR TIME! You may start by doing some sketchs (even if you will model it after) so you start looking carefully at the object you want recreate.

After those words of introduction, let's start. First I want to show you a simple but interesting effect. I have three different shapes on a "table" and I will change the shape of the table. The first one is a square table, the second image has a round table. The fact it's on a square table will give you the impression that the space is smaller than having the same shapes but on a circle.

Funny isn't it?

Figure 1

Now I would like to talk about objects position's. First I placed all three spheres on the same line. It appears to be not interesting (beside the fact that's just spheres :-) ). The image needs more "movement" inside. Something more eye catching. Most of the time you will never have all things well aligned and placed on a line like this. So you need to move yours objects to reflect something more "natural".

Figure 2

Here we are. The three spheres are placed more or less randomly on the table, to cover a bit more space. And if you compare Figure 2 and Figure 3 you will see that in fact Figure 3 is more interesting. Not great of course (you will not find any GREAT images in this article) but more interesting.

Figure 3

Figure 4 is a bit more interesting than Figure 3 because overlapping a bit of the objects adds a sense of depth. I put shadows in those images just to help to see more the 3D but even without shadows Figure 4 is better than the Figure 3.

Figure 4

Figure 5 plays with the size of the elements. It adds a bit of randomness in the image, and when you can change the size, you should. I also overlapped the smallest sphere on to one of the bigger ones. But you must be carefully with the size because some times it's the only information you have to judge the distance. Imagine your in space, how could you show a far but big planet and in the same time a small but near planet? Some solutions are to overlap the near one on top of the far one or have an object between them.

Figure 5

In Figure 6 I changed the object to do some others things :-) This time the object should remain the same size so what can we do to improve this image?

Figure 6

Well one of the simplest solution is to have it "rotated" like in Figure 7. So you can also see it from a different direction. It gives the idea that not all is perfectly in order and sometimes it's exactly what you want. I cannot imagine a garden where everything is perfectly in place, new and clean. This will also fill a bit the "empty" space of the image, even if the size, and the number of objects is the same.

Figure 7

If you want to have more "mess" you may also try to break something. Like one of the pots. It will again change the feel of the image. In this case you should add a bit of "dust". In Figure 8 I didn't add dust because I want to stay simple for the explanation but the image result seems very strange. In my opinion at least.

Figure 8

Now if I would like to finish this image and give a interesting feel, I would add a foreground object that "cut" a bit of the vision, this object should be blurred or dark and put some background that can be blurred or not well defined so the focus will remain on what I would like to show. In Figure 9 the focus of eyes should stay on the pots.

Figure 9

One other way to focus the attention of the eye is to have an object with another color. In Figure 10 all is black and white but one pot has color. So you focus your attention more on this object than the rest of the scene.

Figure 10

Well that's some interesting tricks to achive some results even if your objects are not very interesting by themselves like my pots :-) Having objects like that on a picture is called a "nature morte" in French and is a kind of art by itself. Most artists have done some "nature morte" and some results can be extremely interesting for some examples you may look at an art made by Picasso. And the main part of the work is composing the picture.