Elements & Principles

  • The building blocks of visual art

    Line is the path of a point moving through space. Types of line can include actual, implied, vertical, horizontal, diagonal, and contour lines.


    When lines meet shapes are formed. Shapes are flat. Some shapes are geometric such as squares, circles, triangles, rectangles, and ovals. Other shapes are organic or irregular.


    Color is derived from reflected light. The color wheel shows the chromatic scale and demonstrates three properties:

    • Hue, the name of the color (determined by the dominant wavelength)
    • Intensity, or the purity and strength of the color defined as brightness or dullness
    • Value, the lightness or darkness of the color

    Value refers to lightness or darkness. Value depends on how much light a surface reflects and is one of the three properties of color.


    Texture appeals to sense of touch, either actual or implied.


    Form has three dimensions: length, width, and depth; and resides in space. Form
    may be an actual object having volume or implied on a 2-D surface with the use
    of light and shading techniques.


    Space refers to:

    • The area in which art is organized, and
    • An area showing depth or perspective.
    • Space can be two-dimensional (2-D), three-dimensional (3-D), negative, and/or positive.

    Use or arrangement of the building blocks of visual art

    Balance is a sense of stability in an artwork. There are three kinds of balance: symmetrical (formal), asymmetrical (informal), and radial.

    Contrast emphasizes the differences in the elements of art used in a work of art (refers to distinctive compositional areas created by the arrangement of the elements of art).

    Emphasis refers to developing points of interest that pull the viewer's eye to important parts of the artwork.

    Rhythm/pattern refers to the repetition or recurrence of a design element, exact or varied, which establishes a visual beat.

    Proportion is the size relationship of parts to a whole and is within an object. Scale is the size/weight relationships between shapes/forms and compares different objects.

    Movement refers to the suggestion of motion through the intentional use of various elements of art. It adds excitement by showing action and directing the viewer’s eye through the artwork.

    Unity is the appearance of oneness.