10 essentials of composition every artist should know

The artists at Mondlicht Studios team up to offer 10 composition essentials to learn to help you improve your artwork…

Mondlicht Studios' Website


Even though computer graphics is a relatively new industry, it uses many rules from more traditional spheres, including art and photography. Basic understanding of those rules will help you to enhance your artworks in a very short time. We talked to the artists from Mondlicht Studios to find out what secrets they use to build a beautiful composition.

Atmosphere & story

Rarely an artwork gets a lot of attention if it’s only a beautiful image. To impress a viewer, one needs to think about the story behind an image, depict the idea and work with the atmosphere. Today, when all the programs are becoming much easier, it’s harder to surprise people with just a high-quality render. Which is why creativity and ability to tell a story come to the fore.

car close up details model
In this project artists from Mondlicht Studios wanted to depict what would happen if a fashion designer had a chance to create a still car set.
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“When students are finishing my CG course, they are already skilled enough to create a technically impeccable image. The only problem they face a lot is the story of the image. They could add too many elements, which confuse a viewer, or, on the contrary, make the idea too simple to be interesting. The solution is to work on an idea before an image itself and think it through. Sketching can really help you with that, even if your drawing skills are awful”

-       Dmitriy Glazyrin

Rhythm & dynamics

Invest some time in investigating advertising projects and get some tricks from this industry. You will notice many images are created a second before something should happen or already happening. This trick allows you to add dynamics to an image and make it more vivid. To create a similar effect, one needs to pay attention to the position of objects and postures of heroes.

victor vector animation shoe project
A new animation project created by Mondlicht Studios in collaboration with Victor Vector

The rule of thirds

The most basic, simple, and efficient rule will help you to improve composition in your artworks without putting extraordinary effort into it. The only thing you have to do is divide an image into nine equal sections and place the most important objects at the intersection of the lines. This trick is used in cinematography a lot because it’s so easy and works well in the majority of situations.

pine castle scenery 2d illustration
“Pine Castle” - a matte-painting created by Dmitriy Glazyrin and Mondlicht Studios

Leading lines

To emphasize the most important object of an image, you can easily use the environment to create a set of leading lines pointing to the object. It could be tree branches, a road, a hand, or anything else that will come to your mind and look appropriate. This trick is usually used to direct the viewer and make him follow the story of an image.

frozen world scenery 2d illustration
“Frozen World” is a good example of applying a set of composition rules

Create depth

A flat image is something you want to avoid. But how to create depth in a two-dimensional image? By dividing your artwork into background, middle, and foreground, and then thinking how to fill every part with details. That’s very delicate work – if you overdo this you’ll get an overloaded image, which is also bad. So be careful and always ask yourself whether an object enhances your work or looks unnecessary.

ford super dry card advertisement
The project with Ford Super Duty by Maksym Khirnyy and Mondlicht Studios
close up photography

“Sometimes, when beginners are working on their first projects, they put too much attention on the main object of an image and forget about the environment around. But an environment could help you a lot when enhancing an image if you work with it wisely. Every tiny detail helps to make an image more interesting, more realistic, and more profound. However, be careful – you don’t want to overdo it, or you’ll get the opposite result”

-       David Schäfer

Diagonals and triangles

One of the easiest ways to add dynamic tension to composition is to use triangles or diagonal lines. The effect could be explained by human perception: all straight lines (horizontal or vertical) are usually perceived as something stable and secure. And any angle adds the feeling of dynamics to the image.

car 3gci advert
“Roboracer” is a good example of using diagonal lines and interesting angles to add dynamics to the image

Balancing elements

If you add two similar objects into the scene, there are chances that they will start to “argue” with each other. However, you can’t just add a huge pyramid on one side on an artwork, and leave the other one absolutely empty – the image will look unfinished. Working on composition, it’s always better to put some additional efforts into balancing your work – all objects should be in harmony.

matte painting mountains scenery
One more matte-painting by Dmitriy Glazyrin and Mondlicht Studios

Golden ratio

The most famous technique from traditional art is not used that much today – the majority of artists stick to easier options like the rule of thirds or triangles. However, it doesn’t mean that the golden ratio becomes outdated – it still works perfectly and could help to build a good composition.


A beginner usually chooses the most typical view angle because it’s easier to find references and create an image. Those straight angles usually work well, but sometimes an artwork looks more boring than it should be. When you are trying to play with different angles, you not only get a chance to create a more memorable artwork but push your skills a little bit further, especially if you work with environments.

car race advertisement 3d model
Experimenting with a view angle could help you to find the most interesting composition for your artwork
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“I love to work on creative ideas. For example, I enjoyed creating the images with Roborace, where we placed the racing on some inhabitant planet. But to come up with the idea is only a part of the job, to create a remarkable artwork, you need to invest time in realization. Playing with angles is one of my favorite tricks. It helps to add dynamics to an image and make it much more vivid”

-       Maksym Khirnyy


This trick is used to emphasize the main object of an artwork or hide unnecessary items. There are different variations of frames you can use depending on an environment – walls, gates, arches, tree branches, and so on.

car 3d advertisement flowers
“Mclaren - Jacaranda garden”

These rules are handy and could help to improve your artwork a lot. However, it doesn’t mean that you have to stick to them all the time. Sometimes it’s even good to violate the rules and ignore them, but you should always understand what you are doing and how this can help your artwork to stand out.

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