Creating a dynamic composition can vastly improve your art.
However, especially for beginners, it can be challenging.
Where do I place my focal point? Where do I arrange the composition? Where do I even begin?
With all of these questions it can become confusing. However if you want to improve your compositions, the golden ratio is a worth learning.
Within this blog post you will discover what the golden ratio is and how you can construct your own golden rectangle. You will learn the golden circles, and how you can apply this to your artistic compositions. I’ll be sharing paintings and logo designs that use the golden ratio to further illustrate the power of this method.
As you’re interested in leveling up your composition skills, my recent article on the colour wheel can help you improve your art even more, and be sure to check out my tips to help you create an amazing illustrator portfolio.
What Is The Golden Ratio?
Also known as the Golden Mean and the Golden Section, the Golden Ratio can help every artist and designer create dynamic and organic-looking compositions.
The golden ratio is seen in man-made objects like the Parthenon in Greece to the Taj Mahal in India, but it’s also seen throughout nature; in the spiral of a flower to a galaxy spiral.
Artists dating back 4,000 years ago such as Leonardo da Vinci have used this method, like these examples below. If you would like to find out more about how artists have used this method, here’s a good resource.
You can see from the Mona Lisa that the golden ratio is arranged from the top of the face to the arms (and not used throughout the whole of the image).
The curve of the arm and the clothing leads the eye to the center of the face. As human beings we are instantly drawn to faces within art, and the use of the golden ratio adds to this.
Looking at the Parthenon building, the architecture sits along the structure of the golden ratio – which goes to show how long it’s been used by artists and craftsman.
Michelangelo’s ‘Creation of Adam’ uses two golden ratios that work together to form the overall image – to great effect.
Adam’s body sits perfectly along the golden ratio’s curve, with the rest of the piece resting on Adam’s leg and arm.
The golden ratio can be used in multiple ways to your advantage.
The golden ratio is a ratio of 1:1.618, which is mathematically called Phi. This ratio closely refers to the Fibonacci Sequence. The Fibonacci Sequence is a progression in which the next number in the sequence is a total of itself and the previous number, starting at 0.
0, 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34
This is the rate of growth that is pleasing, sequential and is infinite. For example, 0+0=1, 0+1=1, 1+1=2, 1+2=3, 2+3=5 and so on.
This rate of growth roughly boils down to the ratio of 1:1.618, the golden ratio. If you look at the golden rectangle, one side will be 1, and the other will be 1.618. Here’s an interesting TED talk all about this sequence.
Why Is The Golden Ratio Important?
The golden ratio leads the eye, and gives you structure when preparing an image. In contrast to just arranging your composition randomly, which can often lead to disappointing results.
If you have an important part of an image you want people to look at, using the golden ratio is a great technique to try.
Imagine structuring a composition and knowing exactly how your viewers will look at it?
How cool is that!
This is exactly the appeal of the golden ratio, and shows you how important it is. If you couple this up with using great colour, then you’re onto a winner!
Not only this, the golden ratio is important because it’s pleasing on the eye.
Why Is The Golden Ratio Aesthetically Pleasing?
According to Adrian Bejan, professor of mechanical engineering at Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering, states the golden ratio is interpreted faster than any other composition.
From animal evolution of antelope to deer, these animals scan the horizon for potential danger. Scanning for danger from side to side is smarter and quicker, in contrast to up and down.
This is the reason why the golden ratio is structured how it is, describing the horizon and forming interest from side to side.
The Golden Ratio In Web Design
The golden ratio not only appears in art, but also in web design.
For aesthetic pleasing web pages, web designers deliberately structure content inline with the 1:1.618 ratio.
Take Twitter’s desktop web layout for example, this is deliberately organised to fit within the golden circle.
It looks pleasing on the eye and draws the eyes to the most important part of the webpage. It’s no coincidence that the ‘Tweet’ blue button sits on the left arch of the circle, and the top ‘Trending’ hashtag pretty much sits on the inner circle of the structure too.
This layout keeps users on the web page and makes them interact; something very important in today’s digital culture.
Have a look at the National Geographic website below. They use the golden ratio to advertise their ‘Latest stories’, and their ‘Best photos of 2019’ is close to the bottom arch of the golden circle.
This layout is engaging and makes you want to find out more. Not only is the National Geographic’s logo using the golden ratio (which I’ll get to in a moment) but their web layout if heavily inspired by the ratio too.
When designing your website, how can you incorporate the golden ratio?
How To Create A Golden Rectangle
1) Start by drawing a square which is equal on all sides – let’s say 100px (or 10cm if drawing manually) for the width and height. (I suggest you use Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop).
2) Create a duplicate of this square and place to the right, and multiply this box by 1.618 to form a rectangle. (Make sure that the anchor symbol is turned off).
3) Select both boxes, and using the align tool, align them both to the left hand side (making sure the align tool is set to ‘Selection’ not the page).
4) And there you go, your golden rectangle is complete!
5) You can now keep creating squares in each of the rectangles, which ultimately goes on indefinitely.
How To Create A Golden Spiral
Using your golden rectangle, we’re going to create the golden spiral.
1) Place a circle in the largest square (the dimensions should be the same as the rectangle).
2) Times this circle by 2 (so a 100px circle will now be 200px wide and high).
3) Place the circle within the square
4) Delete the 2 anchor points to create the semi-circle
5) To create the second semi-circle, duplicate the previous semi circle and divide it by 1.618
5) Rotate to fit within the smaller square size.
6) Keep repeating this until you have filled all of your squares (remember you will have to stop at some point as it’s an infinite sequence).
7) Your Golden spiral is complete!
How To Create Golden Circles
1) Using your golden rectangle, place a circle in each square
2) Select all of your circles and align centrally
3) And there you go! Golden circles complete!
Golden Circles In Logo Design
The golden circles have been used in some of the most famous logos throughout history.
From Apple to Twitter, these golden circles have been used to create pleasing and dynamic logos, all created from the golden ratio. For more info on golden circles in logo design, this is a great resource.
You can see the logos below are using these circles within their design. This brings logic, rhythm and a meaning behind every logo.
The National Geographic literally uses a ratio of 1:1.618 for it’s logo of a rectangle.
Toyota and BP uses different sizes of golden circles within their logos too.
A Logo That I Designed Using Golden Ratio Circles
Since we’ve been talking about the golden ratio, I gathered this would be the ideal opportunity to share a recent logo design that I designed.
Using the circles from the golden ratio, I have constructed the red logo below.
Experimenting initially with the circles from the golden ratio to form a fox’s head, the design transformed into this fictional company named ‘FXHost’. I’ve always wanted to design a logo for a fictional company of my choosing, and I couldn’t pass this opportunity by!
I wanted to convey a cheeky, warm and energetic logo design, all using this method that we have discussed in this article.
Everything is from the ratio, the fox’s whiskers, the shadows and highlights, to the eye – absolutely everything.
Alongside this, I have also made the ratio of the lettering & crest of the logo 1:1.618. The golden ratio is definitely singing from this one! (And if you didn’t already notice, I have used 3 whiskers, 3 shadows to 3 parts of the eye, which relates back to the Fibonacci Sequence).
Find out more about this logo design using the golden ratio on my portfolio.
Golden Ratio For The Win!
I’ll love to hear how you have tried, experimented and used the golden ratio (and it’s numerous forms, like golden circles) within your art. Give me a comment below!
If you have enjoyed this article on learning all about the golden ratio, do check out my other blog posts, giving you tips, advice and tricks to help you on all aspects of art and design.
If you unfamiliar with my work, do check out my portfolio, specialising in editorial, publishing to advertising illustration.
I hope you have enjoyed this blog post guys, and see you on the next article!
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