Tips on Critiquing Your Own Work

When working for periods of time on an image, it’s easy to get lost in your tunnel vision, seeing what you think is on your canvas rather than what is actually there. In this post, I’ll be showing you a few methods you can use to help critique your own creations by using my tried and true MRZMFGTI (just rolls off your tongue!) formula.

1. Mirror - One of my favorite methods to get an additional look to a creation is to mirror the image. Artists in the olden time days used to use a method of holding a mirror up to their art work to gain an alternate point of view. Now with Aviary, you don’t need the use of fancy reflective surface technology. You can temporarily mirror your image by flattening it (Layer > Flatten Layers) and flipping it horizontally (Edit > Transform > Flip Horizontal). Then, after you’ve examined your work, simply Undo back to your image’s original state.

2. Rotate - It is easy to gloss over key components of your image, because in your mind, you know what the image is supposed to look like rather than what it actually looks like. Another method to help overcome this is to rotate the canvas by 90º or even 180º. By looking at your creation from odd angles, it’ll help you to objectively view your work to see if the color and form of the composition are working.

3. Zoom – How well does your image “read”? A good practice to examine the overall composition of your piece is to study your image at various zoom levels. By zooming out and seeing your image at a thumbnail size, you can objectively test your creation’s instant readability. I like to employ this method to all sorts of creation types. It’s most effective when used in materials such as advertisements and logos. When you only have a split second to grasp a user’s attention, you want to make sure your image is instantly readable.

4. Multitask – It’s too easy to get caught up in a single piece you’re working on. Working on more than one piece simultaneously allows you to take breaks from your current piece, while keeping the creative energies flowing on another. While taking a step away to work on a new piece, you may inherently solve problems by accident in your previous piece by discovering a new method or new strategy while putting together the elements of additional works.

5. Frame it – Using your fingers, form the shape of a frame and view individual areas of your image. Isolating different areas may help you to see where you may be erring, while at the same time aid you with additional compositional cropping strategies.

6. Grayscale – It’s easy for us to see the neon things in our images. One great way to check the compositional readability of your image is to set your image to black and white (Image > Desaturate). This forces us to view the image completely by composition alone, and makes it a lot easier to see where we may be off with our lighting and shadow cues.

7. Turn Away – Have you been staring at your image for hours and tried all the methods described to no avail? Then turn away! Stop looking at your image for a moment. Something that helps a lot is to turn your head away and stare at the wall for 5 seconds, then glance at your image again. You’ll be surprised at little nuances that you notice in your image that you never paid attention to the whole time you were looking at your image. This practice allows you to take a glimpse at your image almost from a prospective viewer’s eyes looking at the image for the first time.

8. It’s Art – Tried all of it and still can’t get your image looking right? Well then accept your mistakes, call it art, and hope people understand it in 20 years.

Do you have any other methods for critiquing your own work? If so, let’s hear ‘em!]]