Composition 101: Add Leading Lines to improve your compositions

With this composition technique, the viewer’s eye is drawn to lines that lead to your focus point in your image.
This path, be it natural lines, obvious turns or implied shapes, can strengthen your composition by leading the viewer’s eyes toward your subject through the different focal areas in your work.

Next to applying contrast to your compositions, having leading lines is an important factor for a working composition. It is important to understand how to use leading lines effectively, because when used in a bad way, they can do more damage than good.


Where do the lines lead to?

A road would be the most easiest example of a leading line. It is basically a shape that leads us further, going from one place to another. Ideally, we’ll use the leading lines to guide the viewer to the leading actor of our play. That is, the focal point in our composition.

Remember that the viewer’s eye will leap from one focal point to another, throughout your painting. By using leading lines effectively, we can also guide the viewer back into the painting and back to the focus point. Extremely efficient and helpful should the viewer wander to close to the edge of your work. In all it’s essence, the leading line is literately telling the viewer to go back into the painting. Look of it as this strict guard who’s telling you ”there’s nothing else to see here, please turn back.”


Implied leading lines

Leading lines don’t have to literal lines or paths. Implied lines can be created by the repetition of different shapes throughout your composition. That placement and repetition of elements or shapes form an implied line. Even the alignment of certain brush marks can act as leading lines. It’s our brain who will connect all the dots in the end and create one fluent line out of it.

By repeating an element we also break up the space of a composition and that way we create more depth. At the same time it helps to guide the viewer around the piece and that is what composition is all about. You can read more about what composition is and needs in the first chapter of the Composition 101 series.

In the previous Composition 101 chapter, the one about Contrast in your compositions, we talked about how the placement of light and dark shapes and altering their temperature create depth in your works. We can use that same technique to create repetition in your painting. By doing so, we just created another implied leading line.

When dealing with one point perspective in your work, remember that eyes are drawn to the vanishing point, so It will act as another leading line. It’s a good idea to put your focal point around that vanishing point.


In conclusion

  • Leading lines can connect your foreground, mid-ground and background and will be an immense help to create more depth and dimension in your work.
  • Diagonal lines can add energy and action
  • Curved lines can add soft elegance
  • Vertical lines can add power and solidity
  • Horizontal lines can add balance and harmony
  • Make sure your lines are leading inwards and never out of the frame. You want to keep the viewer inside the image as long as possible


Other ways you implement Leading Lines in your work? Please share it with the rest of us in the comment section!
Additional resources on this topic can be found on on the Pixpa blog where they talk about leading lines in Photography.




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