• Elements of Art & Principles of Design (E's &P's)

    Elements of Art:

    Line: a mark made by something sharp i.e. pencil, pen, brush, stick, etc.
     Also defined as a moving dot or the path of a point moving through space
    Adjectives to describe line: nervous, soft, heavy, waving, erratic, confident, strong,
    Broken, bold, confident, smooth, scratchy, thick, thin, and…..

    Types of line:

    • Contour Line: the outline of the edges of forms or shapes, describing forms and shapes in simplest way
    • Implied Line: Edges of objects which in reality have no edge but are seen when making a 2D rendering, edge seen when object is against a backdrop
    • Gestural Line: indicates action and physical movement
    • Hatching: placing many lines next to each other
    • Cross Hatching: when many parallel lines cross each other

     Shape: an area that is contained within an implied line, or is seen and identified because of color or value changes. Shapes are two dimensional: Length x Height

    Types of shapes:

    • Positive Shape: the subject in a representational work, the focus of a design
    • Negative Shape: the space surrounding and in between the positive shape, subject or focus
    • Geometric Shape: square, triangular, rectilinear, rectangle
    • Organic Shape: freeform, biomorphic, or curvilinear. Shapes in nature are usually organic.
    • Abstract Shape: simplifies shapes to their basic characteristics
    • Non-objective Shape: does not represent any natural shapes, more of a design
    • Realistic Shape: rendered as it actually appears, representational

    Form: describes volume and mass, or the three dimensional aspects of objects that take up space. 3D: Length x Height x Depth. Forms can and should be viewed from many angles.

    Types of Form:

    • Architectural Forms usually contain enclosed spaces and most are geometric, some are curvilinear
    • Geometric Form: squarish, cubistic, and straight edged.
    • Curvilinear Form: rounded, flowing, undulating
    • Natural Form: born of nature such as rocks, trees, flowers, animals and people
    • Abstract Form: simplify forms to their basic characteristics
    • Non-objective Form: does not represent any natural forms at all.
    • Realistic Forms: depicts people, animals, birds, and plants, etc., as they may actually appear.

    Color: the visual sensation dependent on the reflection or absorption of light from a given surface. A ray of white light passing through a prism separates into the hues seen in a rainbow

    Characteristics of color:

    • Hue: the names of the colors
      • Primary Colors: red, yellow and blue
      • Secondary Colors: made by mixing two primary colors to make orange, green and violet.
      • Tertiary or Intermediate Colors: mixtures of a primary and an adjacent secondary color to make colors such as Red-Orange, Yellow-Green and Blue-Violet, etc.
    • Value: refers to the lightness and darkness of a color, includes grays and blacks
      • Tint: hue + white
      • Shade: hue + black
      • Neutral tone: blending of complements, decreases the intensity of a color
    • Intensity: refers to the brightness or dullness of a color; describes the saturation or purity of a color (also called “chroma”)

     Color Relationships (or Color Schemes):

    • Complementary: set of colors opposite of each other on the color wheel; or one primary and the secondary of the other two primaries. Or a secondary and the remaining primary.
    • Analogous: family of colors between two primaries
    • Monochromatic: one hue with value changes made with black and white
    • Triadic: three colors equidistant from each other on the color wheel
    • Warm colors: yellow, orange, red, red-violet: fire, energy, passion, love, hate, blood, heat. Warm colors seem to advance or come forward in a painting.
    • Cool colors; blues and purples to yellow greens; water, dreary, unapproachable, fragile, calm, dreamy…

    Value: refers to the lightness or darkness of a hue or neutral color. Use of varying values creates contrast and helps us to see images in a 2D work of art. Value describes form, creates a focal area, and defines space.

    Types of Value:

    • Contrast Value: used to bring emphasis or create a focal point to an area of a painting, drawing, photo and even sculpture. Helps to set one element apart from another by contrast as well as to create the sense of light.
    • Color Value: colors have variances in darkness and lightness and in paintings particularly can be described with two terms: high key and low key;
      • High Key: paintings made with colors that are light in value such as yellow and orange. They contain a minimum of value contrast and often suggest happiness, light, joy, and airiness.
      • Low Key: paintings which use dark valued hues such as purple and blue and also contain little value contrast. Low key artworks suggest sadness, depression, loneliness, and sometimes mystery.


    Texture: refers to the surface quality, both simulated and actual, of artwork. Texture can be depicted with technique such as dry-brush painting to get a simulated quality of a rough texture in a painting. Or by applying thick coating of paint with a coarse brush or other implement, actual rough texture is created (you can actually feel the roughness)

    Types of texture:

    •  Simulated Texture (also called “visual texture”) occurs when smooth painting surfaces (such as paper) appear to be textured to show stones, grasses, leaves, spines, water, fabric, etc.
    • Actual Texture; texture which can be sensed by touch as well as visually, most often used in sculpture and ceramics, but also found in collage, assemblage and some paintings.


    Space: The emptiness or area between, around, above, below, or contained within objects. Space is seen as three dimensional whether actual or implied.

    Types of Space:

    • Actual or Real Space: the space occupied by objects such as sculptures, architecture, and other three dimensional forms.
    • Implied Space: created by the use of overlapping and other visual devices (such as value and contrast) to give the illusion of space in a two-dimensional work of art.
    • Areal Perspective: a way of using color or value (or both) to show space or depth. Elements seen in the distance appear lighter in value, have fewer details, and less intense colors.
    • Linear Space: a way of organizing objects in space:
      • One point perspective: looking directly at the side of an object or scene.
      • Two point perspective: looking directly at the front corner of a box, building, car, or other form. Combined with value contrasts of light and shadow greatly increases the sense of space

    Principles of Design:

    Balance: refers to the distribution of visual weight in a work of art; the visual equilibrium of the elements that causes the total image or form to appear balanced.

    Types of balance:

    • Symmetrical balance: elements on both sides of a central vertical line appear to be about equal in shape, weight, value, and color. Also referred to as formal or classical balance
    • Asymmetrical balance: involves two sides that are different but are in visual balance. Also referred to as informal balance.
    • Radial balance: elements radiate (like the sun) out from a central point.
    • Value balance: visual balance of lights and darks in color and in black and white

    Movement: visual movement is used by artists to direct viewers through their work, often to focal areas or centers of interest.

    : the repetition of visual movement of the elements (line, color, shape, form, space, and texture).

    Contrast: refers to the differences in values, colors, textures, shapes, and other elements

    Emphasis: used to create dominance and focus in a work of art, to create importance in an area of a composition. Use of color dominance or intensity, value contrast, element difference such as in size, texture, color, use of space, etc.

    Pattern: uses the art elements in planned or random repetitions to enhance surfaces of 2D and 3D artwork..

    Unity: visual unity provides the cohesive quality that makes an art work feel complete and finished. Can be accomplished by creating an overall surface treatment, overall intense colors, repeated shapes, consistently hard edges and clustering of elements.

    Variety is a major component of a composition, mixing up the use of shapes or forms, color and value, and texture within a pattern and in addition to unifying elements.