The Rule of Thirds and Golden Ratio. How Can I Use Them?

BLOG post image Rule of thirds golden ratio

I have been telling about the two most common numbers in visual communication – Rule of Thirds and Golden Ratio.

They are defined like this:

  • The Rule of Thirds – defined by the number 3;
  • The Golden Ratio (aka. The Golden Cut) – defined as a multiplier of 1.6 (1.618 to be exact);

Both of them are fundamental to the world of design and visual communication. And I am here to explain why. And – most importantly – how can you embrace the power of these two fundamentals and use them in your next visuals?


Setting the correct proportions for your design.

Remember! Every single piece of design – either poster, presentation or ad – that we regard as beautiful, most likely follows some basic rules.

Beauty comes from well balanced proportions.

It is a formula.

What is the formula, you ask? Start with these two  – Rule of Thirds and The Golden Ratio.

The first question to be asked when starting a new graphic design – how do I divide the space? What amount is too much or too little? Both the Rule of Thirds and Golden Ratio gives the perfect answer.

The Rule of Thirds.

When starting new design work, try dividing the space in three equal parts. Then add the main element (in this case the picture of a guitar) in the 2/3, and leave the secondary element in the rest of 1/3.

See this example:

Poster rule of thirds festival design

That simple. You may divide the space also vertically or diagonally. Just make sure all the three parts are of the same area. And of course, be clear about your priority – either the image or copy.

The Golden Ratio.

The Rule of Thirds is not the only way to divide the space. You can also use the Golden Cut to do that. In this case you divide the poster in 1 / 1.6. For example – if the height of the poster paper is 104 cm, the smallest part would be 40cm, and the biggest would come out at 40 x 1.6 = 64 cm.

The biggest area will be reserved for the main element of the design, of course.

See example here of the same poster:

Poster golden cut ratio festival graphic design

Pretty straightforward, right?


WTF – Is there any difference at all?

But, Gundars – you may ask – THEY LOOK THE SAME! Are you trying to fool us?

Nice catch and compliments for your sharp eyesight. The fact is, both of these rules end up making practically the same proportions.

Have a look at this GIF to compare both options:

Exactly – the difference is really miniscule. That is the reason why I tell people mostly about the Rule of Thirds as the go to way to do the job. Because it is easier to remember and actually execute in real life situations. Try you quickly dividing your PowerPoint slide according to the Golden Ratio? Easy? I believe not.

The advantage of using Golden Ratio  – there is a liiiitle bit more space for the secondary element (in this example, for the copy).


Deciding on the font sizes.

This is the area where the Golden Ratio is the king.

One of the things I desperately try to teach people – how to use properly balanced font sizes for headings, subheadings and body copy.

Golden Ratio to the rescue. When you learn this trick, you will never go wrong with correct font sizes.  Essentially, what you do, is the following:

  • Take the size of your heading (or some kind of main text);
  • Divide it by 1.6 – you will get the best size for the subheading;
  • If that is too large – divide again by 1.6;
  • … and divide or multiply up or down until you get to all your needed font sizes.

By doing this you`ll ensure, that people will understand:

  • what are the heading parts of the copy;
  • the most important textual info to read (headings);
  • what is the secondary info to read;
  • what can be read, if they are interested more.

How to choose the right sizes for your #fonts? 🔠🔡 Every level of of font sizing should be increased or decreased by a multiplier of 1.6 As in this example – the #headline (main message) is sized at 55px. If there is a need to jhave a subtitle or a smaller font, then we take 55 and divide it by 1.6 – we get to 34px. The same goes even further down or up. In this way you can make a set of well balanced font sizes. ————————————— Follow me @visualexpert for extra tips on how to make well designed visuals #smallbusiness #businesstips #visualtips #visualexpert #VisualContent #VisualMarketing #VisualMarketingStrategy #VisualSocialMedia #branding #BrandingTips #digitalmarketing #dailydesigntips #smm #MarketingTips #SmBizTips #SmallBusinessOwner #entrepreneur #solopreneur #fonttip #fontsize #bodycopy

A photo posted by Tips on Visual content (@visualexpert) on

This is important in advertising, where you merely have 5 seconds to give the message to the audience. And you want to make sure that your main message does not disappear in a huge mess of other textual parts.


Making or taking perfect pictures.

Again – the Golden Ratio is the answer. There is a perfect aspect ratio for pictures. And it indeed is the Golden Ratio.

Pictures which have the height and width divisible by 1.6 are the most beautiful ones. So – for example – picture of 130 cm width should have a height of 80cm.

Pictures Golden ratio perfect

By saying perfect – I mean that images in these proportions will be seen as naturally appealing, calming. These proportions are not intrusive, and – as a side effect – are failing to attract attention.

If you choose much wider or higher aspect ratios, there should be a reason for that. I will explain, what messages different aspect ratios communicate to us. Follow me to not miss the post about it later (subscribe to my newsletter 🙂 )

But as long as you need just a nice illustration, that should not draw much attention – go for the Golden Ratio and crop your images accordingly.


Try these next time.

Here you go. Hopefully your question  – how to use the Rule of Thirds and Golden Ratio – should be answered now. Feel free to comment or ask any other questions you may have in the comments section.

Good luck with designing your visual content. Make sure it looks GREAT! 🙂


How to use Rule of Thirds and Golden Ratio in your visual content? Pin it... or Share it
How to use Rule of Thirds and Golden Ratio in your visual content?
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