elements-of-art

A brief guide to the 7 elements of art

Elements and principles are the building blocks of Art. Every artist knowingly or unknowingly uses at least two or more of these elements in their creation.

The visual tools that an artist utilizes to develop a composition are known as art elements. Line, color, shape, form, space, texture, and value are the elements. The principles of art (balance, contrast, emphasis, movement, pattern, rhythm, and others)represent how the artist uses the elements of art to communicate the artists intention in his work.

Let us briefly discuss on what are the Elements of Art.

LINE

The line is the foundation in drawing art and it’s one of the seven elements of art. The basic idea to create a painting or a sculpture begins with a line. The line is the starting point and often defines the edges of a form for almost all designs.

5 types of Lines in Art

There are 5 basic types of lines in art.

  • Vertical lines- These are straight lines that are perpendicular to horizontal lines.
  • Horizontal lines – These are straight lines parallel to the horizon that move from left to right. Horizontal and vertical lines used in combination communicate stability and solidity.
  • Diagonal lines- These lines are at an angle and it can either be an incline or decline slope. They are straight lines that slant in any direction except horizontal or vertical.
  • Zigzag lines – These lines are a combination of diagonal lines that connect at points.
  • Curved lines- These types of lines can either be geometric as well as organic. The arc of a circle is an example of a geometric curve. Organic curves are often associated with the natural things in the world. An example of an organic curve is the subtle curve of a human body. These lines change direction by creating a sense of gracefulness, dynamism, and spontaneity.

Geometric lines

  • These are rarely found in nature but often found in man-made constructions. They have regularity and have hard or sharp edges.
Variations in Line

There are also different variations in line and all of these may differ in their length, width, weight, texture, or style in order to obtain the desired effect on a painting.

  • Length in a line could be long, short, or anything in between.
  • The width in a line determines how thick or thin the line is.
  • Weight is a continuous change of width in your line.
  • The texture of a line defines how smooth or rough the line is.
  • The style of a line refers to whether it is continuous, dotted, dashed, or implied.
  • Lines can also move or change the direction of art.
  • Curved lines show the degree of change in the curve of a line. This can vary depending on the artwork.

Below are some of the examples of great masters. Have a closer look to see how they have used lines in their work to create depth, movement, shape, and emphasis.(Image source: “Wikimedia Commons”)

COLOR

Properties of Color

Color is the appearance of things that are caused by the different qualities of light that they reflect or emit.

Colors consist of three properties: Hue, Value, and Intensity.
Hue — This is the name given to a color, where it has no tint or shade. It’s a pure pigment of a color. In other words, hue is the purest form of color.

  • Tint is the lightness of a color . It refers to any hue or mixture of pure colors when white is added . It is paler than the original color and the intensity of the color varies depending on the white added to the hue.
  • Tone is a hue or mixture of pure colors to which only pure gray is added (equal amounts of black and white). Adding gray to color will make the intensity much duller.
  • Shade is a hue or mixture of pure colors to which only black is added. It contains no white or gray. Shade darkens the color as black is added little by little to achieve the desired color.

Value — This is the lightness or darkness of a color. It is used to make objects look three-dimensional.


Intensity — This refers to the brightness or dullness of a color. It can also be referred to as “saturation”. When a color is at its purest form (straight from the tube) it is most intense and they are high-intensity colors. Those mixed with other colors less intense and are low-intensity colors.

Different types of colors

Studying the color wheel is a good way to understand how colors work. The color wheel is a circular chart divided into 12 sections with each sector showing a different color. It is made up of three different types of colors – primary, secondary, and tertiary. It was developed in 1666 by Sir Isaac Newton when he took the color spectrum and bent it into a circle. Since then, scientists and artists have studied and designed numerous variations of this concept.

primary-colors
Primary Colors

Colors that cannot be created by mixing any other color are called primary colors. Red, blue and yellow are the primary colors, and they are the base of every other color. All other colors are derived from these 3 hues.

secondary-colors
Secondary Colors

Secondary colors result when two primary colors are mixed together; they include orange, green, and purple.

tertiary-colors
Tertiary Colors

Tertiary colors are formed when primary colors are mixed with secondary colors, Six Tertiary Colors: Yellow-Orange, Yellow-Green, Blue-Green, Blue-Violet, Red-Violet, Red-Orange, which are formed by mixing a primary with a secondary

Analogous Colors
analogous-colors

Analogous colors are any three colors that are side by side on a 12-part color wheel. The three colors are analogous because of their close relationship to one another such as red, red-orange, orange. Usually one of the three colors predominates. Choosing Analogous colors could give a balanced and serene look to your painting.

Complementary Colors
complementary-colors

Complementary colors are any two colors that are directly opposite each other, that is red and green, yellow and purple, orange and blue. These colors are positioned opposite one another on the color wheel. when using complementary color in your painting, it is always better to pick one of the hues as your main color, then use the complementary color to highlight or to bring a certain subject as a focus. 

Below are some of the examples of great masters and notice how colors are used in their work.(Image source: “Wikimedia Commons”)

VALUE

Value is one of the seven elements of art and is the most fundamental aspect of any work. Value deals with the lightness or darkness of color and in painting. It is created when a light source shines upon an object creating highlights, form shadows, and cast shadows. Highlights and shadows combine to create the illusion of a light source.

Value of a color can be changed by added white or black to the paint.

Different surfaces of the same object will have different values based on the angle at which the object is facing the light. The value changes depending on the light and angle of the object.

This is what enables you to paint an object and give it the illusion of being three dimensional instead of flat on your canvas.

This variation in value occurs depending on the light that falls on the object enabling you to have shadows, highlights, and contrast in your painting.

What is a value scale

The value scale is a method of categorizing and organizing values. There are nine values in total, ranging from white to black with numerous shades of gray in between. One of the most well-known ways of describing how values change between white and black is the Denman Ross nine-step value scale. The scale was developed by Denman Ross in 1907 and has since been adopted as a standard for describing value gradations. The dark squares are shades, the middle squares are mid-tones the lighter squares are tints. You use these values in your painting or drawing to get depth, dimension, and contrast.


Adding value creates an illusion of light on specific areas of the subject. Notice in the paintings below how great masters have used color to add value to these paintings. (Image source: “Wikimedia Commons”)

SHAPE

A shape is a two-dimensional area that is bounded by a real or implied line (an edge for example). When the ends of lines are linked to enclose areas in a drawing, forms are generated.

Geometric and Organic shapes

There are two major types of shape in art: geometric and organic. The geometric shapes are mathematical and include squares, circles, cubes, and triangles. Organic shapes are irregular or asymmetrical. The difference between form and shape is that form is 3 Dimensional, whereas shape is 2 dimensional.

Below you will find examples of famous artists who have used shape in their paintings(Image source: “Wikimedia Commons”)

FORM

The form is an element of art that refers to the illusion of a three-dimensional object on a two-dimensional surface. They are objects such as cubes, cylinders, cones, and spheres. Forms that have no mathematical structure are organic forms that are irregular and random by nature. The form is three-dimensional as compared to a shape that is two-dimensional. In simple words, When a shape acquires depth and becomes three-dimensional, it takes on form.

form-elements-of-art

Here are few examples of artists who have used forms in their work. (Image source: “Wikimedia Commons”)

SPACE

Space is another element of art where it refers to the distance between and within the other elements such as. shapes, forms, colors, and lines, as well as the area around and within them.Space in a work of art refers to a feeling of depth or three dimensions. It can also refer to the artist’s use of the area within the picture plane.

Two types of spaces in art.

There are two types of space that exist within art — Positive space and Negative space

Positive space: Positive space is the area or part of the composition that an object or subject occupies in an artwork. The positive space in an artwork is often the first thing that the audience notices.

Negative space- It is the space that that runs between, through, and around or within objects. This also includes background, foreground, and middle ground.

Here are a few examples of master artists. The area where the subject occupies is the positive space and everything around the subject is the negative space.(Image source: “Wikimedia Commons”)

TEXTURE

The texture is a fundamental element in many pieces of art. The surface of a work of art is referred to as texture. It is associated with the way things appear or feel. Texture creates depth and helps the composition look more balanced.

Two types of Textures in Art

There are two types of texture in art:

Actual Texture

Simulated Texture

Actual Textures- The physical surface of an artwork or design is referred to as actual texture or physical texture. It depicts the sensation you’d receive if you could run your hand over a piece of art, The materials used by the artists determine the texture of the art, whether it is rough, silky, shiny, coarse, or smooth. The artist could create texture in impasto paintings by layering paint in thick layers, often with a palette knife. You may also find actual texture in a sculpture or collage.

Here are some of the actual textures by the master artists. (Image source: “Wikimedia Commons”)

Simulated Textures-Simulated textures or visual textures are not real textures. This is an implied impression of texture created by the artist using numerous artistic components like line, shading, and color which creates an illusion of texture. If you would run your hand on these paintings, they would be smooth and flat.

Here are some of the simulated textures by the master artists. (Image source: “Wikimedia Commons”)

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