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  • Writer's pictureJenny Lu

5 Crucial Elements of Making a Good Painting

By Jenny Lu | 19 March 2021

“Genius is supposed to be a power of producing excellencies which are out of reach of the rules of art; a power which no precepts can teach, and which no industry can acquire.”-Sir Joshua Reynolds

Have you been so frustrated staring at your artwork for hours and trying to figure out why it is not working? Do you love your brilliant ideas so much that you have to visualize them?

Well. Good pictures do not happen by chance. If we don't carefully plan our paintings, it is unlikely to leave your audience with a satisfying feeling.

Today, we will be sharing with you five crucial elements of making a good painting! In the end, you'll find that making a good picture is no longer a mystery!


Composition is the most important thing for making a good painting. When we make a painting, we arrange and select the elements that can best express our ideas efficiently.

Most of the time, how well a picture is composed defines whether the image will succeed or fail. Here we will walk you through four crucial factors of making a well-composed picture.

a. Avoid Equal-Space Division

Variation is the spice of composition. Here we highly recommend you to carefully study Andrew Loomis’s “Informal Subdivision” grids that can help you divide your picture space interestingly and unequally.

b. Avoid Size and Shape Repetition of Your Objects

Composition is all about variety. You can add interest by varying your objects’ size or the distance between them in the picture space.

When you draw an item, always think about making it large, medium, or small. Always avoid putting repetitive shapes and sizes of objects in your painting.

c. Overlapping

Overlapping is a great way to create the illusion of the third dimension. If you have more than two duplicating objects in size or shape, let one overlap the other to change the silhouette and create depth.

You can see two examples above that shows you the idea of overlapping. All the objects align in the image on the left. Everything seems to be flat, and there’s no interaction between three objects in this painting.

But if you see the right image, the glass of juice overlaps the jaguar. The picture itself has a foreground, middle ground, and background overlapping.

d. Depth

Image Source: Unsplash

If you don’t want your painting to look flat, there are three things you can do to create depth that will enhance your composition.

  1. Overlapping

Overlapping is a great way to create the illusion of the third dimension, and it also adds varieties to your composition.

2. Changing the Scale of Your Objects

Drawing objects smaller when it goes further away from the viewers’ eyes is another way to show depth.

3. Atmospheric Perspective

“Atmospheric perspective” means that things will become lighter as they get further from the eyes. Items will also appear to be blurry, less detailed, and less saturated when they get further.

Using three of these tricks, you can create a sense of depth in your composition!


Image Source: Adam Caldwell

Directional lines are one of the most crucial tools to make a picture. These lines will guide the viewers’ eyes to move as they look at your images.

Artists always need to design these directional lines by arranging the elements in the painting so that these main lines or big shapes unconsciously lead the viewers’ eyes to the focal point.

The artwork above was painted by a fantastic Oakland-based artist, Adam Caldwell. You can always see how he plays with his paintings’ directional lines.

The grouping shadows of the figures on the floor, the direction of eyes from three of Micky, and the debris on the ground are all pointing towards the center of interest, which is the mother with a princess’s shirt.


Image Source: Unsplash

Silhouette is one of the most critical factors of a good painting. Silhouette means the outer edge of the primary forms of your objects.

If you fill a solid color, such as black, into the shape, you want to make sure the viewer can still clearly understand what the object is.

Squint your eyes to check the big overall shapes in your painting. Squinting your eyes is a great way to eliminate unnecessary details and help you see the bigger picture.

If you design all of the crucial objects with solid silhouettes and values, then there’s a good chance that the composition will work in the color stage.


Value, lightness and darkness, plays a leading role in making a good painting. The fewer the values are in your artwork, the stronger your picture will be.

Artists usually pick the strongest value from many of their value roughs and apply the colors corresponding to the same value. A good painting is never about the colors but about the values. If the values work, the color will work!


We highly recommend anyone who is struggling with colors to create several color charts with the medium they like to use. It’s the best way to get familiar with your paint.

The color charts will look slightly different for each medium. If you are serious about your work, you should do all of them!

Check out two of the wonderful videos below for how to make watercolor and oil color charts.

Video Source: Chelsea Lang

Video Source: Mr. Otter Art Studio


These are five crucial elements of making a good Painting that we want to share with you today! What are some of your favorite tips of making a good painting?

I hope these tips help! If you enjoy this article, let me know in a comment and subscribe to our blog. You can also check out this website to get more information about how to make a good painting!


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