The Elements and Principals


Line: Line is a mark that is created on a surface that travels from one point to another. They can range from zigzag, curved and implied. It should be noted that some people consider font to be a type of line but it not officially an element of design.1

Shape: A defined area on a 2D surface. There are open and closed shapes. Open shape is a shape that is implied while closed shape is a complete outline.2

Form: Form is the marriage between space and shape. Form is when a 3D object is made on a 2D surface. It is when a circle becomes a sphere.3

Space: This is like colour as it can be very complicated but in its simplest form think of space as a foreground, middle ground and background. Space can be created with overlapping, scale and atmospheric perspective.4

Colour: Colour is made of three things hue (the ‘colour’), saturation (how rich or dull the colour is) and brightness (how light or dark the colour is). There is a whole science to colours called colour theory but for the purpose of this website it is important to understand that black and white are colours.5

Value: This is like colour, but it dives into how colours interact with the surface they are on. The best example of value is the grey scale or crosshatching used in comic books to make muscles stand out.6

Texture: This is created with the use of dots and lines with the purpose of engaging the viewer’s other sense.7


Balance: This is like symmetry. If you have to much going on the left side of a painting the right side is going to be forgotten.8

Unity: This is used to make elements of the art fit together, just like bridesmaids.9

Variety: While unity is nice to much can make the art dull, so the addition of different textures and shapes can liven up a work of art.10

Emphasis: Some works of art have a specific subject matter that the artist wants the viewer to focus on. Emphasis is used to draw the viewer eye to it right away.11

Movement: While it seems impossible for something static to have movement it can be done. For some people movement is created by the imagination of the viewer, such as a painting of flowers in a breeze. For others movement is about how the artist makes the viewers eye move across the art.12

Pattern: Like unity pattern creates a sense of togetherness, this is made by the repetition of a motif. An everyday example being wallpaper.13

Proportion: Without proportion a viewer would have not idea   how objects interact with each other. This is how big or small an object is compared to the other objects in the artwork.14


All example thumbnails by Emma Lokhorst

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