The Elements and Principles of Art

The visual arts are art forms that focus on the creation of works which are primarily visual in nature, such as traditional arts (drawing, painting, sculpture, architecture, and printmaking), modern visual arts (photography, video, and filmmaking), and design and crafts. Many artistic disciplines (performing arts, language arts, textile arts, and culinary arts) also involve aspects of the visual arts.

Elements of Art and Principles of Design


The elements of art are a commonly used group of aspects of a work of art used in teaching and analysis, in combination with the principles of art.  Lists of the elements of art vary somewhat but typically include the following: color, value, form, line, space, shape, and texture. Design is the structure of art, with the elements and principles unifying the different parts and giving the work visual order. The elements and principles are always used in combination and therefore work together to create a composition with good design.

Composition: The arrangement of a picture’s parts or the arrangement and organization of visual elements within the piece of work.



Elements of Art:  The basic elements that are used by artists in creating works of art; they are what you use to create a good composition. If we want to make art, we need to understand these seven elements of art.


1. Line – the mark made by a moving point. People use lines to write words and artists draw lines with pencils or other tools.

2. Shape – is a flat, enclosed line or area that has two dimensions – length and width.

3. Color – how eyes perceive reflected light off an object. There are three properties of color – hue (the name of the color), Value ( the light or dark of the color, also known as shades and tints), and intensity ( refers to the brightness of the color).

4. Value – degrees of lightness or darkness.

5. Texture – the surface quality of an object; can be real or implied.

6. Shape/Form – an object in space determined by its external boundary, geometric or organic in form with length, width, and height. Can be two-dimensional (flat) or three-dimensional in space, volume and mass. Objects that are 3-D have can be viewed from many sides.

7. Space - Positive space is space taken up by objects. Negative space is the distance between objects.



Principles of Design:  Standards or rules to be observed by artists in creating works of art or to create a good composition.


1. Unity (Harmony) – visually pleasing agreement among the elements in a design; It is the feeling that everything in the work of art works together and looks like it fits.

2. Variety –occurs when an artist creates something that looks different from the rest of the artwork. An artist may use variety to make you look at a certain part or make the artwork more interesting; helps to create interest and avoid monotony.

3. Emphasis (Focal Point) – Artists use emphasis to make certain parts of their artwork stand out and grab your attention. The center of interest or focal point is the place the artist draws your eye to first; meant to stand out to draw attention to the area.

4. Balance – distribution of visual weight and interest. Symmetrical (formal): balance refers to using the exact same characteristics in the same position on either side of the composition; like a mirror image. Asymmetrical (informal): by using different by equally attracting features on either side of the composition.

Radial Balance is when the elements radiate from the center.

5. Movement – how the eye moves through the composition; leading the attention of the viewer from one aspect of the work to another. Can create the illusion of action.

6. Rhythm – regular repetition of, or alternation in elements to create movement and interest.

7. Proportion – size relationships of one part to another part or to the whole.