How to Compose Elements for a Scratch Collage Project - dummies

How to Compose Elements for a Scratch Collage Project

By Derek Breen

Composition is the arrangement of stuff on a page, canvas, or the Scratch Stage, and elements are the stuff. (These are the kinds of words that make you sound smarter than the average dummy, not to mention a professional digital artist.) Take a few minutes to move the different characters around.

If you click each sprite and click the Costumes tab, you might find that some have multiple costumes with a different pose.


As a digital artist, you are looking at two elements while trying out different arrangements of sprites. And by elements, think different compositions! The first is obvious. Look at which poses work and how the figures might fit together. The second is less obvious but REALLY important, especially in collage. In art school, they call this second element negative space. In dummy terms, that’s the empty space around and between sprites.


Why would all that negative space be important for a collage? Because that’s where all the stuff that is not your main characters can fit. In art lingo, the characters are foreground elements, or the stuff you want to stay in the front. That’s why it makes sense to start with the foreground sprites and then gradually fill in the background.

Choose a background

Before messing around with rotation and flipping and other ways to change costumes, maybe putting in a backdrop will help you figure out the best way to arrange them.

  1. Click the Choose Backdrop from Library icon (below the Stage).

  2. You can choose any backdrop you like, but going with a photograph (versus an illustration) might be easier. This example uses Brick Wall2 because the characters will look good against it.


See, don’t the characters look great against the brick wall? Well, okay, not yet. But, if you put a few more minutes into arranging them against the new backdrop. . . .


Duplicate sprites

Something about the poses of Cassy and Amon suggests duplicating and flipping both of them. Using copies of some of the elements is a common collage technique.

  1. Duplicate a few of your characters by right-clicking the sprite or by holding the Shift button while you click the sprite and then choosing Duplicate.

  2. To flip a character, select its Costumes tab and then click the Flip Left-Right button.

  3. See whether the doubled poses give you any new “composition” ideas for your collage.

    Duplicate all but one sprite, Jodi, so she can be the center of attention. This gives the sense everybody else is her friend.


In case you haven’t noticed, clicking and dragging a sprite across the stage brings it to the front layer. This is how you can decide whether you see these friends’ hands on feet or feet on hands (or heads). If you want to bring a sprite to the front layer without changing its position, click and hold the cursor in place for a few seconds.

Add more elements

Before adding new elements, take a moment to think about your theme again. Close your eyes if it helps. Heck, go ahead and hum a song. (The first one that comes to my mind is “With a Little Help From My Friends” by The Beatles — and YES, they REALLY DID spell their band name that way!)

Are you back? Now make your stage full-screen to see how it looks without all the Scratch buttons and tools and window stuff in the way.

Maybe you’d like to add an object or two. Back to the Sprite Library!

  1. Click Choose Sprite from Library.

  2. Click Things and Bitmap.

  3. Double-click a sprite that fits your theme or evolving composition.

  4. 4Click and drag your sprite(s) into position on the Stage.


This example replaces Jodi’s head with a giant fortune cookie.