How to review my own compositions ?


Hi everybody,

I’m looking to get better at compositions, so I do sketches, and I don’t really know if they are good or not, and when I do, I don’t know why.

When I draw too much with my instinct, the composition just sucks, and when I keep in mind too much the basics of compositions I know, it feels stereotipical.

How do you guys review your compositions ? How do you know it’s good or bad ?

Also could you advice me some good books about composition because the online documentation is generaly poorly provided with examples.

Peace !


Matt Kohr over at has a wonderful series of free videos on composition. Start with his “Welcome to Composition Basics” and then browse through the selection of videos at

When reviewing compositions, there is a checklist of artistic elements: Proportion, Focus, Contrast, Balance, Movement, Rhythm, Pattern, and Unity. Here are some sample questions to ask yourself during your self-critique.

Proportion: Self-explanatory, does everything look correctly scaled in relation other things in the image?
Focus: Is there a clear item in the image to focus upon, or does your eye wander all over the image?
Contrast: Is there control over contrast in the image to support the other compositional elements?
Balance: Does your eye rest upon the middle of the image, or does it tend to focus on one side?
Movement: Does the arrangement of stuff in the image guide your eyes to look around the image?
Rhythm: Like in music, is there a sense of rhythm to your image?
Pattern: Is there control over repetition in the image to support the other compositional elements?
Unity: Does everything in the image belong together, or does something look out of place?

Matt Kohr might have you covered here too. He has another series of free videos called “The Fix List” which goes through his list of topics to look out for when self-critiquing.

If you really need a book, there’s Picture This: How Pictures Work by Molly Bang and Five C’s of Cinematography by Joseph Mascelli (because composition in cinematography is important to good filmmaking)


Thank you so much for that detailled answer !
I’m definitely gonna watch all the videos and probably buy a book aswell ! Huge thanks !


Other than what’s already been mentioned, there are other aspects of composition that you must know, and some of them are issues that even advanced artists run into.

One of the most common issues I see in my students’ composition is how flat they present their scenes, as if every scene they depict are set up like a theater stage play with the actors facing the audience, and the viewer is sitting in the middle of the audience looking at a stage in front of them. There’s no sense of spatial dynamics or any of the more modern cinematic sensibility where the viewer is more like a camera that can placed anywhere, or use different focal lengths/field of view such as ultra-wide-angle or telephoto. When you compose your scenes, you want to think more like a movie director/cinematographer instead of just a person sitting in the middle of the audience looking straight on at a stage. Think about how you could placed the camera high or low angles for more drama and visual interest, or how you can tilt the camera for a sense of motion/dynamic action, or how you can push the camera very close to certain subjects in your scene so the viewer is right there next to the character, etc.

Another common issue I see–and this is one that even troubles a lot of advanced artists–is unintentional tangents, sharing of edges, splitting the apex, etc. When you have the contour edges of your shapes touch each other (sharing an edge), it decreases the clarity of the hierarchy of your scene’s z-depth. When two contour edge touch, you can’t easily see which one is closer. What you should do instead is to overlap, so we can clearly see which one is in front of the other. Separating them so they don’t touch is also a good solution, so that the contour silhouettes of your subjects read more clearly instead of blending together. There are weird tangents where one shape connects to another unintentionally, such as a character’s arm lining up perfectly with a tree branch of similar thickness in the background, then it creates an elongated shape that you didn’t intend. Splitting the apex is when you unintentionally bisect a shape in your composition too perfectly down the middle, creating an unnatural look. For example, a character is holding a spear vertically and it bisects a dome-shaped building in the background perfectly in half.

These are just some very typical examples, and there are a lot more. In the online workshop I teach, we dedicate an entire week of lessons to just composition. You can even see some of the students’ composition assignments on the course overview page (at the bottom of the page, in the “Student Gallery” section: