Grid paper with a square drawn separated into nine smaller boxes by dashed lines. A ruler lays diagonally across the bottom left hand corner.


School and Youth

Learning Activity: The Rule of Thirds

Grade level: K-6


The rule of thirds is a guideline commonly used in painting, photography, and design. The rule of thirds means that the subject isn’t centered; rather, the main focal point can be to one side or at the top or bottom of the image. It’s a tool to help artists draw the viewer’s eye into the composition, rather than just glancing at the center. Georgia O’Keeffe was aware of this principle, which can be seen in the artwork below. Lines overlaid on an outline of the painting show how she organized the composition.

Materials:  Drawing paper and drawing utensils

Take a look at Georgia O’Keeffe’s painting called “Black Place III”.

Georgia O’Keeffe. Black Place III, 1944. Oil on canvas, 36 3/16 x 40 1/8 inches. Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. Gift of The Burnett Foundation. 2007.1.26.

See how the composition is roughly divided into thirds:

LET’S TRY IT!  On your sheet of paper, draw four equally spaced lines to create nine areas on your paper, as seen below. This breaks the space into three horizontal and three vertical sections. The four points where the lines meet are visual “hot spots”— good areas to position things you want the viewer to focus on. When the grid is ready, draw your own unique landscape.