Make your own free website on

aboutart.gif (2124 bytes)

Home | Elements & Principles of Design | Composition | Major Categories of Art | Links


The Five Elements of Design

Elements are the devices used to compose a physical work of art.

Line  Shape  Value  Texture  Color

The Four Principles of Desgin

These are the basic sources for manipulation of the elements of design.

Repitition   Contrast  Balance  Variation


Line, like form, is the result of a mark produced by some instrument on the surface of the picture plane.  We might say that line could be described as a form so long in proportion to its width that we tend to overlook the dimension of width and assume that the element has only the one dimension of length.  There are a number of ways to use line in a work of art: mechanical, freehand, soft, hard, vertical, horizontal, and diagonal.  And the way in which we use line can also have an affect on a work of art.   Vertical and horizontal line can imply or give the illusion of stability, strength, and order; while diagonal line can imply or give the illusion of instability, change, and movement.  Line can also be used in such a way as to draw the viewer to the focal point of the subject of a particular work of art.   Jean Auguste Dominic Ingres was excellent with this ability.


There are two types of shape used in art: geometric and biomorphic.   Geometric shape is from the branch of mathematics dealing with the relations, properties, and measurements of solids, surfaces, lines, and angles.  Geometric shapes are therefore shapes with a measurable, definite pattern.  Biomorphic is a term applied to shapes that resemble the curves of plant and animal life.  Other terms related to shape are enclosed and unbounded.  And enclosed shape is that which is confined by another shape.  Unbounded is that which is not confined, i.e. positive and negative space giving the illusion of multiple shapes.


The word color is a general term for the qualities of hue, intensity, and value observed in pigment or light.  Color theory is based on the principal that color is light.  When white light is diffused by a crystal prism, a spectrum of the entire range of pure colors (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet) becomes visible to the eye.  Every color we normally see is light which has either been reflected from or transmitted by a colorant, such as a pigment or dye.  Colors, because of their chemical structure, have the property of selectively absorbing and reflecting certain areas of the light spectrum.  Example:   If a colorant produces a visual sensation of red-violet (not in the spectrum), it has the property of absorbing all of the colored rays in white light except violet and red, which combine to produce the color we see.


The repeated use of similar shapes, line, contrast, value, color, etc. to create a design or work of art.


The variance of value and color distinction.   Contrast can also be the representation of the opposite:  Light/dark, thick/thin, large/small, high/low, light/heavy, positive/negative, transparent/opaque, and direction are all examples of contrast.


The visually favorable distribution of elements.  There are two types of balance, symmetrical and asymmetrical.  Symmetrical is a formal balance with elements of equal or near equal weight on either side of a real or implied center fulcrum.  Asymmetrical is an informal balance arrived at by the informal distribution of elements.  A balance similar tot hat of a steel-yard scale.


The altering of shape, line, contrast, value, color, etc. to create a design or work of art.