How to position your subject properly?

Posing is deciding on what body position the subject will take, and positioning is very important to a painting. Next to it is considering considerations of the subject.


Common position on portraits, people usually sees this in paintings such executive portraits. However, don’t leave the subject standing in an open space. Make them stand on a desk, a chair or a credenza table decorated with personal items. This will balance out the composition and give the viewer a better feel for the subject if the corrects setting is chosen.


This is a better option for subjects since this has a more casual feel or for those can’t stand for longer periods of time. Of course, find a chair that fits the person’s personality to add more drama to the portraits. Take for an instance a bartender would be perfectly matched perched on a bar stool, a professor will look good on the edge of a desk and a business man will look regal sitting in a wing-backed chair for an executive portrait.

There are numerous posing options for someone who is sitting. Each pose gives a different ambiance. I listed some of them:

  • Inclining forward and propping an arm across the knee-conversational
  • Head-in-hand with elbow on knee-contemplative
  • Head-in-hands with both elbows on the knees-friendly or approachable
  • Leaned back, legs crossed-easy going
  • Knees together with ankles crossed and to the side-demure
  • Knees spreading apart, elbow on each knee, hands interlocked-confident

Hand Positioning

Positioning the subjects arm is also important. This will make the subject more comfortable and will make the painting more appealing. You can try these hand positions:

  • Hand in the pocket
  • On the back of a chair
  • Holding something
  • Doing some busy works like knitting, sketching, and using a calculator


This is the biggest mistake of most portrait artists by sticking their subject dead-center in the composition. This will make the painting look boring.

The perfect way to decide where your subject should be is through the use of the Tule of Thirds. Rule of Thirds tells that the most interesting composition is obtained by visually dividing your canvas into thirds vertically. Meaning to say, your canvas will be divided into nine areas. The ideal composition will have the subject in the intersection of lines in the upper left-hand corner, upper right-hand corner, the lower left-hand corner or the lower right-hand corner.

Remember all these tips and you will create a strong pose in your portrait!

Unlike portraits, abstract art paintings are easier to paint. Since abstract paintings are created more of lines, shapes and combination of colors, positioning is not that obvious. So if you’re the type of artist who does not want to pay much attention to your subject’s position, you may want to try an abstract art painting instead.

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