118 – 9 Different Types of Focal Points in Art

Creating a strong focal point in your art is an easy way to strengthen your work overall. Many beginners look at a scene and try to paint all of it, leaving the painting without any focus. But we aren’t photojournalists, we are painters! In paintings, we don’t want the viewers eye to just wander all about. On the contrary, it’s the painter’s responsibility to direct the eye and to orchestrate its movement within the painting. The best way to do this is to provide a focal point. Using a focal point in your art is one of the easiest and fastest ways to create a composition that will keep your viewers interested and lead them to the subject of your painting. A focal point will help your viewer understand what is important about your scene and what you wanted to say! The focal point is often the most important part of the work, and it’s what the viewer will remember

As every rule is made to be broken, don’t forget that not every design needs a focal point. We often use an all over pattern, without a focal point, to provide depth and texture. But if you’re trying to communicate an idea or call to action, or if you want a resting place for the eye to land in an environment, you will want to have a focal point.

Think of the focal point as the star of your piece. The focal point of a painting is the main thing that you want the viewer to see or understand. Everything else becomes a supporting character visually. Your viewer will look first at any part of a painting that has one or more of these characteristics.

Below, we will get our ducks in a row and we will explore 9 types of focal points that you can use in your own art.

1. Contrast in Value

One way to create a focal point in your artwork is to use value contrast. This means making the most important elements in your work stand out by making them darker or lighter than the surrounding area. This can be a very effective way to draw the viewer’s attention to a specific element and make it the focal point of the work.

2. Contrast in Color

You can also bring attention to a focus by making elements a different color than the surrounding area.

3. Contrast in Texture

Texture contrast can be created by using different textures to create a visual contrast. This can be done by using different materials, or by combining different textures in adjacent areas.

4. Contrast in Saturation

Saturation Contrast is achieved by using different colors with different levels of saturation. This creates a visual contrast that can be very striking and eye-catching. It can be used to draw attention to certain elements of a work or to create a specific mood or feeling.

5. Contrast in Edges

Sharp, clean edges can create a feeling of precision and order, while soft or blurry edges can create a more relaxed and informal feel. Contrast in edges can be used to direct the viewer’s attention to specific elements or to create a sense of tension or unease

6. Contrast in Scale

This can be done by using different sizes of objects, or by using different sizes of elements in a pattern. Large elements can create a feeling of power and stability, while small elements can create a feeling of delicacy and fragility.

7. Anomalies in a Pattern

By deliberately introducing unexpected elements into a design, you can cause the viewer to question what they are seeing and make them more engaged with the work. This can be an effective way to create visual interest and draw attention to specific elements.

8. Tangents

Tangents are abrupt changes in direction in a line or edge. In art, tangents can be used to create contrast by using different shapes with sharp or smooth edges. This can create a visual contrast that is visually interesting and eye-catching.

9. Gaps in a Pattern

Another way to create a focal point in an image is to leave gaps in a pattern. This can be done by using different colors or textures to create a pattern, and then leaving gaps in between the elements. This creates a visual contrast that draws the viewer’s attention to the gaps and creates a focal point.

In another Minilesson, I will illustrate a number of simple ways you can create focal points in your compositions, taking examples from my work and famous masterworks, as well.

Happy Painting,

Painting Minilessons
with Marla Baggetta

My free online minilessons in art are a fantastic way to learn more about your craft, regardless of your skill level. There are lessons available on everything from basic drawing techniques to complex painting methods, and no matter what your interests are, you’re sure to find something that appeals to you. Whether you’re a beginner who’s just starting out, or a seasoned artist who wants to brush up on your skills, these minilessons are a great resource. These lessons are available anytime, anywhere. So whether you’re looking for a quick refresher or want to explore something new, be sure to check out some of my minilessons at Painting Lessons with Marla.

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