Art Elements and Design Principles


A dot can be considered the beginning of the elements. A dot marks the beginning and the end of a line.

Artists have also used the dot in their painting techniques, such as Pointillism, a painting method developed by the French artist Seurat.


A line is a series of dots. There are many different types of lines: thick, thin, straight, curved, zig-zag etc.

Artists can also use the line to create different values or tones. This technique is known as cross hatching.


The space enclosed by a line is called a shape. Shapes are two-dimensional, i.e. they are flat.

Shapes with straight lines and edges are geometric shapes and shapes with curved edges are organic shapes.


Form refers to a three-dimensional object. However, artists can create the illusion of form or three-dimensionality on a flat surface. This illusion is created by adding different tones to their drawing or painting.


Tone is the value of light and shade. When painting or drawing there is a tonal range going from light to dark.

Shading is the application of tonal value.


Texture refers to how something feels, e.g. hairy, soft, spiky etc. Texture can be created or added to a form, which is tactile texture.

Visual texture is the illusion of texture. Artists create visual texture by adding tone and by using different lines (mark making).


Colour is what the eye sees when light is reflected off an object.

Painters mix different colours and make different tones of the one colour.

The three colours that they can’t make are the primary colours (red, yellow and blue).

The secondary colours (orange, green and purple) are created by mixing the primary colours:

Red + Yellow = Orange

Yellow + Blue = Green

Blue + Red = Purple

Tertiary colours are made when a colour moves towards the colour of its neighbour on the colour wheel or in the colour spectrum, e.g. a yellow-orange or a red-orange, a yellow-green or a blue-green.

The complementary colours are colours that complement each other. They appear very vibrant when placed next to one another. They are also referred to as contrasting colours. They are: red and green, yellow and purple, blue and orange.

- Black is not a colour. It is the absence of colour
- There is no such thing as pure white as white reflects the colours around it.     


A pattern is a repeated shape, form or visual motif. Pattern is found in nature or it can be man-made. It can be regular or irregular.

Pattern is often found on different fabrics, carpets, rugs, clothes, curtains and throws.


Scale is the size of something in comparison to something else.


Space refers to the area within a shape or the volume/mass within a form.

Space can be positive or negative. The positive space is the space within the construct and the negative space is the space around the construct.


Composition refers to layout. It is the arrangement and positioning of the art elements.


Rhythm in art is a visual beat.


Balance is the weight distributed in the design by the arrangement of the elements. It can be a visual phenomenon where something looks unbalanced or 'off'. 


A harmonious composition is one in which all of the visual elements work together.  


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