The following is the TRANSCRIPT from the main feature of the Second Session of the 3D Art Direct podcast.
(The artwork referred in this article to can be referenced from the post in the below link)
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Our latest podcast is an interview with my Deviant Art buddy Rob Caswell on....well just about everything, but mostly to do with Rob's portfolio and Daz Studio.
NINE ESSENTIAL COMPOSITION TIPS FOR DIGITAL ARTISTS
Now what is composition? That's a Latin word meaning arrangement. In terms of photography or in digital art, it is arranging the elements in the scene to make the final image aesthetically pleasing. Now, when I say elements, what do I mean? It's every 3D object in the scene and its physical arrangement. It's the position and use of the camera, the lighting, the textures used on the objects.
Now, out of the nine, our first one is depth. Because digital art is a two-dimensional medium, we have to choose our composition carefully to convey a good sense of depth. You can create depth in an image by including objects in fore, middle and background. Another use for composition technique is overlapping where you deliberately partially obscure one object with another. The human eye naturally recognizes these layers and mentally separates them out, creating an image with more depth.
Now, in the example of one piece of artwork we have here by Brian Christensen, which is called Escape Velocity, overlapping is used with good effect by the planet overlaying its moon. The foreground spacecraft includes a leading line of an exhaust trail to create even more depth in the foreground portion of the image.
Now my second composition tip is to do with framing. The real world is full of objects which make perfect, natural frames, such as trees or archways. In 3D digital art, the choice of frames is, of course, even greater. You can simply make them up. By placing frames around the edge of the composition, you help to isolate and place attention on the main subject. The result is a more focused image which draws your eye naturally to the main point of interest.
Now in an example I've put on the post for this session, I have Warren Turner's Pans Labyrinth which is created with Mojoworld. Warren uses effective framing to create a sense of depth and exploration in this image. In fact, as well as the main foreground frame, multiple frames from the lattice structure create further depth and mystery in the image.
Cropping is a useful composition method. An image can lack impact because the main subject is so small it becomes lost among the clutter of its surroundings. By cropping tight around the subject, you eliminate the background's noise, ensuring the subject gets the viewer's undivided attention.
My fourth composition tip is to do with symmetry and patterns. Now, patterns and symmetry are all around us, both in natural and in manmade formats. They both can make for very eye-catching compositions, especially in situations where they are not expected. You can try upsetting the balance of symmetry in an image. You could place an object to weight the image on one side to create a kind of attention or a focal point to the scene.
With digital art, it's easy to introduce patterns using repeated textures that look seamless when placed together. This is particularly powerful in landscape scenes where you can use rock or ground textures to good effects. Take Lewis Moorcroft's Patrol image rendered in Mojoworld that has a fantastic ground texture that he's used as a great example of patterns.
Composition tip number five is viewpoint. 3D digital art has a large advantage in that the virtual camera can be placed with ease anywhere in the scene. Because of this, very interesting or unusual viewpoints can be accomplished. Viewpoint has a huge impact on the composition of an image. As a result, it can greatly affect the story that the shot conveys. Rather than just using an eye level point of view, which we often default to when we're not thinking about composition, consider placing the virtual camera from high above, down at ground level, from the side, from the back, from a long way away, from very close up, and so on.
For a good example of viewpoint, look at the image of Kid Soldier by Wolfgang Sigl. This makes good use of viewpoint by having the virtual camera at quite a low position. It's looking up towards the child and the soldier. The soldier, from this viewpoint, looks quite menacing, quite large, and quite overbearing for the child who's also in the picture.
Composition tip number six is background. Having a busy background will lessen the impact that the foreground objects are trying to make. The background will tend to blend into the foreground in this case. A real world or virtual camera has a tendency to flatten the foreground and background. This can often ruin an otherwise great photo or 3D digital image. Don't crowd your background. Make it a little plainer and more unobtrusive in order to power up the foreground.
Now the seventh tip, rule of thirds, is quite a well-known and talked about composition effect. Imagine that your image is divided into nine equal parts by two horizontal and two vertical lines. Try to place the most important elements in your scene along these lines or at the points where they intersect, which is sometimes known as the power points. Doing so will add balance and interest to your render.
Now it's actually quite amazing that a rule so seemingly mathematical can be applied to something as varied and subjective as a photograph, but it works and surprisingly well. The rule of thirds is all about creating the right aesthetic tradeoffs. It often creates a sense of balance without making the image appear too static and a sense of complexity without making the image look too busy.
What's usually most important is that your main subject or region isn't always in the direct middle of the image. For landscapes, this usually means having the horizon line in the upper or lower third of the image. For subjects, this usually means placing them to either side of the image. This can make landscape compositions much more dynamic and gives subjects a sense of direction.
Tip number eight is leading lines. When we look at an image our eye is naturally drawn along lines. By thinking about how you place lines in your composition, you can affect the way we view the image by pulling us into the picture towards the subject or on a kind of a journey through the scene. There are different types of lines you can think of to gain this effect such as curvy, diagonal, straight, zigzag, radial, and so on. Each of these can be used to enhance the image's composition. Now you could start from the edge of the frame, preferably as close as possible to one of the corners, and lead into the image or towards the focal point of your image.
Examples of leading lines in the real world could be streams, railway tracks, roads, or some kind of geological feature.
Tip number nine, the last tip, is balancing the weight of elements. Placing your main subject off-center creates a more interesting image, but it can leave a gap in the scene which can make it feel empty. You should balance the weight of the subject in the scene by including another object of lesser importance to fill the space.
Now, a good example of balancing the weight of elements is the idea of a see-saw. If you have two people of the same weight, they need to be the same distance from the center fulcrum, which is the pivot of the see-saw. However, it is also possible to balance the see-saw with two people of wildly different sizes and weights by making the larger one sit closer to the fulcrum. The same principles of balance apply exactly when you're composing a scene if you think of the center of an image as being the fulcrum about which the differing elements need to balance out in their visual weight and importance within the overall image.
That's my brief outline of nine composition tips. Now, they're not really rules. Do we have to stick with these tips or rules? No. Breaking the rules may actually benefit the final image. As you compose more and more artwork you may just get a better gut feeling about what looks right and what could be improved. I suppose I see these tips as a range of ingredients that make a good recipe for the final image. Just take what you need to try to improve things.