Rule Of Thirds

The rule of thirds is a compositional guideline in visual arts (painting, photography and design).  

It states that an image should be imagined as being divided into nine equal parts by two equally spaced horizontal lines and two equally spaced vertical lines.

The important compositional items should be placed on the lines or at the intersection of the lines.

Some digital cameras actually have a Rule of Thirds overlay built into their into screens.

If your camera doesn't have one or if you just ignore it then you can modify your images with your favorite digital editing software - Photoshop, Elements or Paint Shop Pro.

rule of thirds template

When I take a photograph it would be nice if I could pay more attention to composition.  Truth is - it never, ever enters my mind.  I seem to be a "center the subject in the middle of the frame" kind of photographer.

Here are a few shots with the original and a modified version following the Rule  ...

rule of thirds sunset rule of thirds applied
The Original The sun is on the intersection
and the reflection is on the line

Did applying the Rule have a positive impact?  

How about this image ...?

rule of thirds church rule of thirds applied
The Original The steeple on the left line

And finally ...

rule of thirds model rule of thirds example
The Original The result with the guidelines visible
The model and the lady watching are
on the line intersections

It is left up to you to decide if the application of this rule is worth the effort with your images ...

however ...

It is a really useful when you are creating scrapbook pages or any document that includes images and text.

Page Layout - Scrapbooking

If you prowl the internet looking at scrapbook pages you will find, time after time, that they all, to a certain degree, follow the Rule of Thirds because ...

it just makes an appealing appearance!

Here are just a few examples ...

rule of thirds example 1 The two images are at the top left and bottom right intersection and the word
(September) runs from the bottom left to the top right interesction.

rule of thirds example 2 The baby picture is at the top left intersection and the other image is just off of the bottom right (it is on her shoulder). 

This is a nice page.
rule of thirds example 3 The picture outline pretty much matches the points and lines and the image pretty much matches the rule on its own.

An appealing presentation, don'tyou think?
rule of thirds example 4 A downloaded template which matches the rule of thirds - more or less.
rule of thirds example 5 A great doggie page!  The bottom right image has the dogs nose right on the intersection (I checked).

This is a guideline only and there are many instances when it can and will be ignored.  It is, however, a nice guideline and will help improve the placement of images, text and embellishments.

Rule of Thirds


There are Actions that will apply the Rule of Thirds to an image.

With a bit of effort you can create a Shape that can be used on any image in Photoshop.


There is nothing built into Elements so  the Grid will have to be used.

To create the Grid ...

  1. Edit > Preferences > Grid ...
  2. Choose a Line color.
  3. In the Gridline Every: box type in 33 and change the units to Percent.
  4. In Subdivisions: put 1.
  5. Click OK
  6. Go to View > Grid and make sure it is checked.
Now with every image you open the grid will be visilble and you can resize and crop and move things around if you want to conform the the Rule of Thirds.

Paint Shop Pro

Paint Shop has both the Rule of Thirds and the Golden Mean built into the Scripts palette.

To get to the Scripts go to View > Toolbars > Script.

When the Script palette loads drop down the menu and choose either ...
  1. Guides - Rule of Thirds, or
  2. Guides - Golden Mean

Now you can resize and crop and move things about to get what you want.

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