How to Make and Use a Viewfinder for Better Composition

By Alina Bradford

Viewfinders have been a popular tool for artists for a long time. They are usually adjustable frames that can be used as tools for cropping subjects for artwork. It can be used to eliminate elements that distract from the main subject by visually cutting them off, helping the artist to focus.

You can easily make your own viewfinder in any size that you like by following the steps below. 

Things You’ll Need:

  • Lightweight cardboard (a manila file folder is good)
  • A pencil or pen
  • A craft knife or scissors
  • Self-adhesive Velcro
  • A ruler
  • Self-adhesive laminating sheets (optional)
  • Markers, paint, etc. (optional)
  1. On your cardboard, use your ruler to draw two block ‘L’ shapes that are 1 1/2 inches deep and however long you want. For a good travel sized viewfinder that will fit into your sketchbook you should make each ‘L’ around 5×5 inches long. To get a good idea of what your ‘L’ should look like, take a look at the picture labeled as “example one.”
  2. Next, cut out your ‘L’ shapes. When your shapes are laid out on a surface and connected, they should make a perfect 5×5 square with a 2 ½ x2 ½ square in the center.
  3. Put Velcro onto the end of each ‘L’ so that when the L’s attach to each other they make a square. Take a look at example two for an idea of how it is supposed to look.
  4. Now, you can decorate your view finder with pens, markers, or paint. An artist’s tool should look artistic, after all.
  5. To make your viewfinder last, use the self-adhesive laminating sheet to cover the parts of the viewfinder that isn’t covered with Velcro. Trim off the excess laminate and you’re done!

How to Use Your Viewfinder

Now that you have your viewfinder finished, you need to know how to use it. Velcro your viewfinder together and hold it in one hand. Next, stand back

from your subject and hold the viewfinder in front of it. Your viewfinder
should look like a frame around your subject.

Adjust the viewfinder’s size by reattaching the Velcro so the subject is cropped to the best composition.

You can sketch what you see in the viewfinder so that you don’t forget the composition, or you can get started with the artwork right away, going back to the viewfinder, as need, for reference.

Go out and try your viewfinder. You’ll find that it is such a handy tool you won’t know how you did without it!