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10 Basic Rules of Composition That You Should Know

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Jul 17, 2024• Proven solutions

Bringing perfection to one's work is a trait that takes you a long way, don't you think? The same goes for professions like designing and photography, where even a slight chance of improvement can do wonders. Therefore, if you are a newcomer to both of these fields, how about a journey down this lane?

The article shall cover 10 basic rules of composition. For instance, the rule of thirds in design. Each of its rules has its own place and importance. Hence, let us jump right ahead and polish our skills for the best.

Part 1: What Does Composition Mean in Design or Photography?

What does composition mean? Composition is simply a way of arranging elements in a picture or a design. One way of defining it is that it is a placement of multiple elements in a frame according to principles and rules of art. Before knowing the composition rules, let us first look at how this term is incorporated in design and photography.

In photography, the composition art definition is stated to put things in the picture that makes it attractive and fascinating for the viewer. For example, you might have seen fantastic scenery where the picture seemed out of scale. This is all because of composition meaning in photography.

For design, the arrangement of different visual elements in the artwork is regarded as its composition. It has a close-knit connection with the "Layout" of design. In simpler terms, the way a designer decides to place different parts of his drawing is known as the composition of the design. It is an essential aspect of an artwork, as the viewer can decide in seconds if the painting is worth it.

It is essential to handle the composition of elements in the perfect balanced way to ensure a flawless model of your work. The following section shall present 10 of the basic rules of composition. So, without any further delay, let us commence this!

Part 2: 10 Basic Composition Rules

There are an exhaustive set of types of composition design. First, however, allow me to introduce you to ten of the basic regulations. The first of them is the rule of thirds.

1. Rule of Thirds

The rule of thirds in design is an essential rule to be followed for a flawless composition. In this rule, the frame is equally divided into 9 rectangles 3 across and 3 down. Then, one can check the settings of the camera to turn on the feature.

rule of thirds composition

Now, the next concern to be addressed is the placement of visuals in the frame. It is mandatory to arrange the critical aspects of the object closer to the lines of the grid or where one or more lines intersect. The placement of the main subject in the center does not always work like magic. Therefore, to fascinate the viewer, the photographer can place it off-center using the rule of thirds.

The rule of thirds composition is also considered the asymmetric composition in photography. It can adjust in any genre, such as landscape, portraits, or still life photography.

2. Leading Lines

Another basic and workable rule that takes the viewer's attention magically is leading lines. The rule states that all the image elements should lead directly to the primary subject of the frame. The leading lines can be pathways, walls, and even patterns. As the onlooker takes the first glance at the image, the focus is automatically switched to the central masterpiece of the frame.

leading lines

Having a close-knit connection with patterns and symmetry, the flawless composition can be achieved by taking advantage of structure and lines in the natural landscape. However, it is highly advised that the proportion is divided carefully so that the eye directly reaches the principal element. To do this flawlessly, make sure to use the lines in the scenery, and in no time, you will be called a professional photographer.

3. Centered Composition and Symmetry

Where the rule of thirds makes you arrange your primary subject off-center, this rule states the opposite. The placement of the important element has to be carefully adjusted in the center whilst considering the symmetry and balance of the viewpoint. The symmetrical scenes work perfectly with centered composition.

centered composition and symmetry

The square frames go well with this rule. In architectural buildings and roads, always imply this rule into your photographs and fascinate people. Furthermore, the reflections in a photo can be captured in the most promising way by incorporating the mix of the rule of thirds and centered composition plus symmetry. It will bring a soothing impact to the beholder.

4. Do Not Forget the White Space

White space is often considered space, which is an inappropriate term. The phrase "Emptiness" takes the negative narrative, stating that the image is not completing its desired purpose. However, it is not the case here.

white space

White space has more role than its exhibits. With the correct use of white space, the clarity and transparency of the image are boosted up to million times. In addition, the complicated and complex parts of the design show off a soothing and balanced preview with the use of this rule. Moreover, it is advised that you scale down the graphic elements of the design to make it look cleaner and more sophisticated.

The white space has its own purpose, and covering it with texts and artwork can really kill its original vibe. The designers often state that the strategic use of white space in the template shows off your skills like no other professional. There is a simple tip attached to it. Do not forget to incorporate white space in your drawings and let the world see your glamour.

5. Patterns and Repetition

The next basic rule to take under consideration is "Patterns and Repetition." Speaking of a man's brain, it automatically gets excited upon encountering patterns and repetitive textures. Thus, it generates a sense of harmony and balance in the frame whilst taking all the desired attention of the observer.

patterns and repetitions

Being aesthetically pleasing to the eye, if anyone wants to surprise the onlooker, he can utilize this rule to do so. The balanced and repetitive texture coming along with altogether different imagery in the same mold can attract the viewer's eye in detail. Moreover, the inclusion of a pattern on the wall, floor, fountain stones, and roof can ensure pleasing composition and a peaceful aura.

However, the patterns must be envisaged and captured carefully in the image. If they are dealt with without care, the purpose will be wrecked.

6. Balance Elements in the Scene

Incorporating the rule of thirds in design and photography might be workable for most, but it leaves a space in the frame. The next basic rule, "Balance Elements," in the scene, comes to the rescue.

balance elements in the scene

How does it work? It simply adds another object in the viewpoint of lesser importance to achieve an effortlessly balanced composition. However, this new object may take the limelight from the primary subject. But no need to worry about it, as it also gives away a secondary effect on the composition and generates depth and scale to the lot. The element of balance in the imagery has a unique way of leaving an impression of “Food for Thought” for the observer.

7. Golden Triangles

Stay with me as I introduce you to another basic mystical rule of composition - Golden Triangles, as we call it. There is a close connection of golden triangles with the rule of thirds in design. However, instead of a grid of rectangles, the frame is divided into diagonals from one corner to another.

golden triangles

After that, two more lines are added from other corners to meet the diagonal. The smaller ones converge with the big ones at right angles that create triangles in the frame. Dynamic tension is produced in the photograph that produces a striking composition. The different diagonals on the imagery can unveil every detail and leave an everlasting impression on the observer.

8. Golden Ratio

The Golden Ratio is an exceptional rule when it comes to design or photography. It isn't easy to become a pro in handling this ratio as it goes back to centuries-old history. The Golden Ratio is a perfect balance between 1:1.618. The focus is kept on the primary subject of the frame with more minute details. In this rule, the frame is divided into a series of squares known as "Phi Grid."

golden ratio

The square helps in positioning different elements in the scene and exhibits a profound composition. Mathematically speaking, when a line is divided into two parts, the longest length is called “a” and the shortest length “b.” Thus, the sum of both sides (a+b) is divided by “a” to get 1.618. Now, how does this work in design?

The know-how of the Golden Ratio helps you figure out the font size in the design. For instance, header, blog post, and template all require a different font size to display their importance accordingly. For example, if a blog size is 12px, it can be divided by 1.618 to calculate the header text size. Pretty viable, don't you agree?

The Golden Ratio also plays a necessary role in cropping and resizing the images. The layout and logo arrangement is also decided based on this golden rule. So, do not forget to measure the text elements and then let the Golden Ratio show its glam in the design.

9. Particular Color Combinations

The use of colors is an expressive way of sending the message across. The idea of particular color combinations is familiar to graphic designers and interior designers as they are partially responsible for getting attention.

particular color combination

Some color combinations complement each other, while others are opposed to one another. The colors complimenting each other can visually be striking to another level. For example, the Red and Blue combination is often used on billboards to get massive attention from people.

The movie posters are usually designed in Yellow and Orange to captivate as many people as they can. The yellow shades of the building with blue sky in the night make the view irresistible and charming.

10. Simplicity and Minimalism

You often hear the clause “Less is More” that perfectly fits here. Simplicity is a strong compositional tool that displays the photograph with uncomplicated backgrounds and keeps the attention where it is due. In this rule, you focus and zoom in to a particular scene's subject and capture it without any hassle.

simplicity and minimalism

Simplicity and Minimalism are achieved when unnecessary views are omitted and a cleaner frame is presented. A targeted and straightforward image of the zoomed-in subject captivates the onlooker and leaves a soothing impression on him. This basic rule often utilizes the rule of thirds in design and leading lines as well. The best photographers in the world claim to keep it simple using this basic rule of composition.


The article presented ten of the basic rules incorporated in composition art definition to give the design a lifelong impression. The use of the rule of thirds, Golden Ratio, balanced elements, patterns and repetition, golden triangles, simplicity, and minimalism in design and photography will not be detrimental in your career.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  • What are the three main parts of a composition?

Color, Texture, and Space are the main parts of a composition.

  • What are the five elements of composition in art?

The five elements of composition in the art include Balance, Contrast, Emphasis, Pattern, and Proportion.

  • Why are leading Lines important?

Leading lines are essential as they help in focusing the viewer's attention directly on the subject. In addition, it is beneficial in creating a strong visual impact by means of depth and symmetry.

  • What are the most popular color combinations?

Many color combinations are popular. For instance, Blue-Green-Pink, Aqua-Blues, and Orange-Cream-Dark Blues.

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Max Wales
Max Wales is a writer and a lover of all things video.
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