The most crucial factor in growing a bonsai plant is the art of styling it. While styling a bonsai is a very subjective process, there are actually some principles and techniques to follow which will help you come up with the perfect look for your bonsai.
Styling a bonsai can be done in any of the five basic techniques: chokkan or formal upright; moyogi or informal upright; shankkan or slanting; kengi or cascade; and semi-cascade.
Before styling a bonsai, figure out which side is front and which one is back. Take a look at all the styling techniques, and figure out which one you would like your bonsai to have. Remove surface soil to know where the root starts and how large the trunk is before the first branch.
Get rid of dead leaves and wood using a pointed pair of scissors. Also, remove any leaf that may have grown at the lower end of the branches.
Make sure that the side you consider as the bonsais front should have its first major branch standing around 1/3 towards the top of your tree, either to the right or left side. When styling a bonsai, it is important that you can see much of the trunk from the front. There should be no branches or roots that will come straight at you.
The branches are special elements in styling a bonsai. Thus, it is advisable that you choose which ones are best to use in your design. Most beginners tend to preserve more foliage than necessary. Since you are styling a tree, not a shrub, keep in mind that the gaps found in between the foliage serve as much importance as the foliage.
Since the first major branch should be about 1/3 towards the top of the tree, the next one should be a little bit above the first, but on the other side. If possible, branches should not be in the same height and opposite each other, a characteristic known as bar branch and which is not considered ideal.
The third branch should again be higher than the previous one and should be located at the back of the tree. This pattern should be followed as much as possible until you reach the top of the tree. Unwanted branches should be removed and your tree should achieve a somewhat triangular shape.
Styling a bonsai does not really let you conform to strict rules. After all, art does not mean adhering to standards.