A viewfinder is a tool that enables the artist to crop and create a composition. It is basically a square or rectangle shape made from a piece or pieces of card/thick paper at right angles. A viewfinder enables you to see things by isolating them in a square/rectangle. You can place it close up to things to see things in detail or further away for a larger view.
Where can I get a Viewfinder?
You can buy them from art shops but I don’t recommend doing this however, because they are so simple to make. Viewfinders in art shops tend to be overpriced for what they are but if you do want to buy one you can find them in most art shops or online.
How do I Make a Viewfinder?
All you need to make a viewfinder is some card, paper, scissors, sticky tape or paperclips and anyone can make one! You can either cut a square or rectangle from a piece with thick paper or card with scissors or a scalpel, for a super simple viewfinder like the one on the featured image. This is a fixed viewfinder, so you choose what size it will be when you cut it out. You could make several in different sizes if you wanted, as they are so simple to make.
If you would like a more adaptable viewfinder you can cut out two right angled corners which you can adjust yourself – see the image on the left. This is also very easy to make, you can use the edges of a sheet of thick paper or card and hold the parts in place with a paperclip. It doesn’t matter if the edges are not perfectly straight, it still works!
Tip: A viewfinder made of card will tend to last a bit longer if you would like a more durable viewfinder. I have also seen them made out of plastic, which is great if you are using them outside.
How do I use a Viewfinder?
Play around with your viewfinder, it is an ideal device to try out several compositions and viewpoints before you embark on the more developed studies. You can always do several thumbnail sketches of compositions using a viewfinder in your sketchpad.
Viewfinders make us look a bit closer at things. It is a simple idea, but just by isolating the rest of the scene we really focus on what is in the square or rectangle.