Shapes of any size, however small, occupy space.

Space can be occupied or left blank.

Space can appear flat or suggest depth  

Types of Space

Positive or Negative: both work together.

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When defining an image’s space, there are three basic elements of composition to consider: the frame, the positive space and the negative space.

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Good composition strives for a balance between the frame, the positive space and the negative space. 

Negative space is not just the absence of something. It has weight and mass, and plays an important role in defining your subject.

The use of the positive and negative spaces interacting with the edges of your work, has measurable effects on a viewer's eye. 

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The goal in composition is controlling the viewer's eye.  You want viewers to discover things that might not be immediately obvious.


Too often when we draw something, we stop observing the subject and start drawing what we know and remember about the subject.  By working from the negative spaces rather than focusing on the object, you end up with a much more accurate drawing.

When an image is turned upside down, positive and negative space when balanced stay balanced.  By turning the picture upside down, you will inhibit that part of your brain that tries to categorize and give things names. It will then be easier to see shapes and the spaces between your frame and the subject.

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Katsushika Hokusai The Great Wave Off Kanagawa
From "Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji"; 1823-29 


Hiroshige, Ando Plum Estate, Kameido 1857

Unlike a drawing or painting, too much empty (negative) space on a web page is uncomfortable and wasteful.  Too many positive images crammed in together are confusing.

Max Beckmann