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Basics of Bre's Composition

Welcome to a tutorial outlining how I go about composition. This will not be a step-by-step tutorial for a certain wallpaper but rather a guideline for what I look for when I make wallpapers as far as composition.

Please keep in mind that experimentation is your best friend in art! This is a guideline for my though process and why I think certain ways are better than others. Your way will be better to you rather than others - one reason why this is not a tutorial in the classic sense.

This has been requested multiple times so I hope everyone finds something helpful in it!

There are so many options when it comes to making wallpapers as far as image placement - including stock images, textures, etc - but this tutorial will focus on screencap placement for episodic pieces and how I go about getting emotion across in my pieces.

My work is very different and yes, sometimes, I make things just because I think they look pretty, but everything has a purpose in the end... and I will try to illustrate that using some of my previous pieces and comparing my old work to my newer pieces. Most especially the pieces that I have redone over the years because I think they illustrate my main point quite nicely.

What is composition?

Image placement. Simple, to the point. It's where you choose to place the images in your wallpaper and how that placement communicates what is happening in the scene. This has always been a struggle for me - for everyone! What is the right placement? What is the wrong placement? Why does this wallpaper look horrible and this other one looks great, using the same technique?

These are questions I ask myself when I first start making a wallpaper. Basically: what the hell am I trying to say in this piece?

It takes most fanartists a long time to get this concept down in their own way, which I will show throughout this little tutorial.


... is huge. SO HUGE. What is the focus of your piece? Is it a person, is it an object?

Bre's Rule of Thumb: Negative space is okay!

In fact, negative space is GREAT! It provides the focus for you in most instances instead of placing images ALL over the wallpaper and making it look like you just pasted a bunch of stuff together because they happened to be in the same scene.

Old Piece:

What is the focus in this wallpaper? I have no freaking idea! I know I wanted to show Buffy becoming the winner in her own sense, beating death and beating the Master but how can you tell based on the images alone? Without the text and the warm coloring? This, to me, is a jumble of images from an episode because they're from the same episode. There's nothing that is drawing the eye specifically.

New Piece

Clearly a very different technique behind this wallpaper compared to the original and I love it so much better. I chose to put the images in a smaller area of the canvas and I played with the image sizes more to focus on the look of success on Buffy's face. She kicked death's ass - hence the image of her face-down in the water, and she kicked the Master's ass - hence the image of his bones BEHIND the image of Buffy. The image is repeated at the bottom in conjunction with the image of Buffy dead because she has RISEN above that.

Bre's Rule of Thumb: Your interpretation is YOURS. No one else's.

Just because I chose to focus on the look on Buffy's face in this wallpaper doesn't mean there aren't a thousand other things happening in this episode and the end of that scene but this was what I chose to FOCUS on.

Use your focus as the object that will be the main thing that will draw the eye of the viewer...

Wallpaper Repitition

This is a tricky notion, in my opinion, and something I've noticed I use more than most. You can repeat the entire wallpaper until you die because it fills the piece but in the end, you have no idea what the original concept was.

I like to think of this idea as nailing it home - dang, that Buffy is miserable or damn, that Dean is crying over something serious...


I used repition in this piece because this scene is so incredibly intense! Buffy is about to kill Angel - her Angel - and she can't believe what she has to do. I wanted to capture the shock of the moment for her and how, despite her love for Angel, she still had to kill him. It's kind of an echo, in this wallpaper, of what is happening to Buffy and that was why I duplicated the entire image.

Temporary Insanity

This wallpaper is an example of the bad way to use repitition... It adds nothing to the piece besides filling the intense negative space and making the chaotic mess that I had already made into something more... on purpose - which it wasn't. I love this piece but it's also a huge mess and a horrible way to use repitition. This would be an example of Bre wanting to make something exciting and pretty instead of, you know, sane. There's nothing to focus on, it's like someone threw up a bunch of images and hoped you would find it neat.

Goodbye, Dick

This, for me, is another GOOD example of the use of repitition. This entire scene for Veronica and Logan is crazy because they have unveiled themselves to everyone when they really didn't want to and on top of that, Logan is telling his best friend to take a hike because of Veronica. There's a lot happening in this scene and that was my intention, to capture that.

Ask yourself before you do some repitition - if you use this technique... why the hell are you doing this, does it make sense for the scene and will it be communicated in that way?


This will be the most important part of this faux tutorial because emotion is EVERYTHING - seriously, everything.

The following pieces will be used because they showcase great emotion and use the ideas that I talked about up there. *points up*

Old Piece:

New Piece:

Fear. Pain. Shame. The older piece had the same idea but you couldn't tell - if you didn't already know! - what was going on, and what was the cause. Spike, and Spike hurting Buffy and Xander's reaction (I just freaking love his back turned on her as he's about to go after Spike).

Bre's Rule of Thumb: Illustrate the WHY in your wallpaper.

Why was Buffy crying and why is she in pain? What happened to cause that look Xander's face and his back turned to her? Of course this is a manipulation of the scene because I didn't use Xander's face because his back turned on her is so much more powerful considering his feelings about her interactions with Spike. If you look closely at the new piece, you can see Buffy's leg where she was bruised and you can see Spike attacking her in the background.

Not all images need to be visible to the eye directly! Sometimes having them faded in the background and out of sight, out of mind sort of, you can get so many more images in there without it coming off as too chaotic.

Old Piece:

New Piece:

Again, what is the emotion in the older piece? Yes, there is pain and there is heartbreak but that's because I've handed that to you on a silver platter! Now, I adore this original piece even though it's quite crappy - I just love it to bits and pieces, I can't explain but the remade version is so much more emotional!

The focus is on Buffy and her heartbreak - every image is geared towards her being heartbroken, left alone, abandoned - which is exactly what Angel does to her in a sense, he says he's leaving her. In the original piece, there is no connection between the two of them, which works in a sense but it leaves the piece itself in scattered bits. The new piece has much more connecting everything that is happening to Buffy. Angel breaking up with her and the result of his breaking up with her. Comparing the aftermaths in each of the pieces, it's better illustrated in the new piece because - as in "Please" - the iamges are blended into the background and sort of an after-thought, layering the emotion on top of emotion...

Interestingly, this newer piece was made when I was going through some serious ups and downs in my love life and I think it reflects that so nicely. ;P

Old Piece:

New Piece:

This is another example of my liking the older piece better for the emotion - the idea is more focused while the piece itself is too large for my taste but it fits. The new piece was made because the lyrics are darker and the new look is prettier. Again, just me making something because I thought it looked pretty. It still has an effect but I didn't do a good job of communicating the emotion, in my opinion.

Old Piece:

New Piece:

So what is the emotion in the first piece? Another one focused on fear and pain and the inability to do what is right for Sam and John. John is asking Sam to kill him to kill the YED but Sam can't do it. Now while this piece is fantastic - the bright coloring is awesome for the conflict and it's why I used that technique in the newer piece - but the relationship between Sam and John was lost in the mix...

The new piece is fantastic, in my opinion. I used the idea of repitition in this piece as well and just... broke the image between the two of them to show the state of their relationship and how it is playing out in that scene. I saved the concept and added the emotion, if you will, in addition to the fact that John is asking Sam to kill him, but that their own relationship is so scattered to the winds - that was my intention.


So that's the basic idea, I suppose - I hope it made sense and you have an idea of how I approach wallpapers. I didn't want to lay out the exact methods because mine change with almost every single wallpaper that I make. Some basics that I depend on though are:

-Negative space is a-okay!
-Using a smaller portion of the canvas can be more impactful than using the entire canvas.
-Concentrate on including the WHY in your pieces - why you are focusing on Buffy crying - the WHY is she crying part...
-Your interpretation of the scene is yours and yours alone. Experiment!

A few notes in general:
-Always credit your resources!
-If you fancy, leave your signature somewhere on the piece, but try to place it where it can't be erased noticeably, or where it disrupts the overall piece.
-Remember to save a .pspimage or .psd of your wallpaper for at least a while because eight times out of ten, when you look back at your wallpaper, you notice that one little thing that you forgot to fix, or that little edge that needs to go, and this way, you can do that without having to recreate the entire thing.

And that's it! I hope this was helpful to some people, amusing to others, and overall interesting. Please remember that this is a guide, not permission to replicate these wallpapers and call them your own. Only by experimenting and finding your 'thang' can you really find your groove. If you do use this tutorial, remember to credit Primordial Souls.

I hope this will change as time goes on and I continue to do different things in my art...

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