Elements & Principles of ART

September 04, 2017  •  Leave a Comment



The vocabulary of Art

Charles Fisch © 2001 

Design Layout is the division of available space.
Objects &/or text can be placed into the various areas of space
in a satisfying way, using the Principles of Organization of elements.
It is like arranging things in a room for practical reasons & aesthetic
reasons depending on the purpose of that room.

Type is an example of objects in space.
Areas of text create areas of tone. Areas of bold type look darker 
—have darker value— than areas of plain text. Type with spacious leading
& tracking
, has lighter value than tight leading and tracking.
Leading is the space between lines of text; Tracking is
the space between individual letters. Alternating
Bold & Thin type creates rhythm.

“Some things are more important than other things.”
A “Hierarchy of Vision” helps the eyes to make sense of things.
What is largest is seen 1st — & meant to be seen 1st— such as a Title
or a pictorial focal point. Of secondary importance are SubHeads
in bold font to focus attention to sub-topics in the text, and also
to guide the eyes around the page. Similarly, objects
of secondary importance may be smaller. 

Elements of Design
• Line • Shape • Value • Texture/Pattern • Space 


The path of a moving point that is made by a tool,
or medium, as it moves across an area.
A line is usually made 
visible because it contrasts
in value with its surroundings.

Line defines shape • Separates • Gives direction

• Edges of objects create lines
Contour (edge) / Cross Contour (across)
  often changing: thick to thin, dark to light
Hatching / Cross Hatching (shading lines)
Implied LineNegative line
• thick • thin • dotted • curved • jagged • dark • pale
A swan’s neck, a flower stem, a piece of string,
tree branches, edges of buildings, chem-trails
—all guide the eye & create a sense of motion.
Lines can separate areas of a page, connect information, define or outline a shape.
Curved lines/edges are elegant, sensuous, calm;
Jagged lines/edges are scary & dangerous.


Shapes underlie every object, drawing, painting, architecture, or graphic design…Unusual shapes attract more attention than square ones.

• Actual shape: areas clearly defined
  by edges or lines 

• Implied shape: a shape suggested or
  created by psychological 
connections of dots,
  lines, areas, or their edges, creating 
  visual appearance of a shape that does
  not physically exist. Our brain creates shapes.

• Biomorphic shape: (organic): irregular shape
  that resembles 
the freely developed curves
  found in live organisms.

Geometric shape: a shape that appears
  related to geometry (circle, triangle, square)


The amount of light reflected by a surface
An area of Tone

Local Value: natural value of a shape
  regardless of lightsource

Highlight: 10% brightest spot in the
  lighted area of an object

Shade: the absence of light
  on a side or surface of an object

Cast Shadow: a dark image/area caused by
  an object blocking 
light. The dark area takes
  the shape of the object (absence of light)

Chromatic Value: the lightness or darkness
  of a colour

Achromatic Value: no colour —grayscale
  lightness or darkness

Decorative Value: a two-dimensional pattern
  of light and dark 

Gradation: gradual change of value
  from light to dark

Texture & Pattern

The surface character of a material, that can be experienced through touch —or the illusion of touch, through sight or sound.

Texture is produced by natural forces, such as:
the growth of 
cells, or erosion by weather, drying,
freezing, or the mixing of 
certain chemicals.
These forces act to raise or depress the surface 

of any living membrane, material or object
creating shallow 
elevations and/or depressions
on their surface.

Pattern: in the form of repeated shapes
&/or lines provide an 
imagined sense of touching
a surface. This creates feelings of 
richness &
depth, especially as backgrounds.


Colours affect the emotions & physiology,
create moods, imagery; invite or repel 
Colour Symbolism is based on physiology:
Red: blood, danger; ripeness (fruit), 
Blue: calming, water;  Violet: spiritual
Colour detirmines the foods we choose to eat
Out of Context Colour: catches attention
eg: Blue bananas, Blue area on a human face…

Colour Harmonies (The Colour Wheel )
Analagous: 3 related colours side-by-side
Complementary: opposite colours = 2 colours
   180° accross the Colour Wheel
Split Complementary: colours on both sides
   of the opposite colour = 3 colours
Triadic: 3 colours  @ 60° angles
   equal distance from each other on the wheel 


Space is the container for other elements.

Lots of space around an object, brings focus
  to that object. Such as leaving spaces between
  words…Leaving space around groupings of
  objects, such as dining table + chairs
  Eyes/eyebrows are separate from hairline 
Reduced space between objects creates
c o n n e c t i o n s between them,
   such as “kerning” of space between letters.

Crowding: Not enough space: Over-crowding
   can create a feeling of discomfort.

Space has *SHAPE*  It forms “Negative Shape”
of the objects it contains.


Principles of Design ( Organization )
• Contrast • Proportion • Emphasis • Repetition
• Movement • Rhythm • Balance • Variety • Unity 

Contrast: high contrast & low contrast 

Contrast = difference of: • shape • value • texture
• colour • size & proportion • crowding/emptiness
• ideas • moral values

High Contrast: a great deal of difference • black/white
Low Contrast: a little difference • shades of grey
High contrast increases visual activity, excitement
& drama. 
Low contrast subdues the mood. 

Use contrast to: • Compare • Emphasize something 
• Subordinate something • Exaggerate something

Proportion Comparative Relation )

Appropriate or inappropriate size & measures of
elements compared to other elements.

Proportion gives the reader a sense of size of
an object to its environment & to other objects
or a part to the whole. Size of an object or space
compared to human size.
Measurements: height/width, size, area, degree
Ratios: 2/3 to 1/3 GoldenSection, Rule of Thirds

Contrast 2 elements –large & small– to express
an idea, such as a child compared to adult’s size.

Hierarchy of Vision: The largest element will
be seen first and will seem to advance in space.
Unusual or inapropriate proportions create focus.


What stands out the most gets noticed 1st*
Hierarchy of Vision of pictures & text: large to small
Focal Point: created by contrast, size, value,
  texture, colour, location, space, Bold text, italic…
• Rule of Thirds: a device for creating a focal point


Repeated elements create Eyeflow & Rhythm.
Eyeflow: Our eyes recognize similarities
in elements & skip from one to the other
Pattern: repeated elements create Rhythm

Use of varied elements to hold the viewer’s attention.


How the viewer’s eyes are guided through a
composition by Design Principles. The objects in
the composition are not moving. It is the eyes of
the viewer that are moving: Eyeflow, Gaze pattern


Created by repeated elements which may be similar 
in: form, size, value, 
colour, contrast or proportion
— or are somehow visually related
They make the eyes move from one to another.
Eyeflow: how the viewer’s eyes are guided  
throughout the composition by design principles
Variety: To keep rhythm active, Variety is essential

Regular spacing (intervals) causes smooth rhythm
& relaxing 
mood —like Baroque music.
Abrupt changes in size (loudness) shape or
spacing (silence) 
makes a fast lively rhythm;
an exciting mood (Jazz, Heavy Metal)


Weight distribution of elements which creates
equilibrium in a composition.

Formal Balance: symmetrical, centred, horiz/vert
  equally weighted between 2 sides of a composition
  —dignified, stately, rigid composition 

Informal Balance: asymmetrical, felt or imagined
  balance through manipulating weights of
  elements and directional axes or lines of sight.

Diagonal movements of elements, eyeflow or axis
  create a modern, open & more musical feeling.

* People with low abstract thinking capabilities or
  unstable lives, 
may be too challenged by diagonal
  movements. The predictability 
of perfect horizontals
  & verticals is more comforting to some.

Harmony & Unity
& Text Integration

Harmony: all the elements are placed in a
  logical way & work together in a satisfying way
Unity: all the elements fit together in style

Text Integration: visuals & text empower
  each other in meaning & style
  (eg: rounded text for round shape objects)
Continuity of style helps Unity 
   Film/video: continuity of elements in scenes 
   props, hair, costumes, lighting, locations… 
• Too much Contrast destroys harmony.


Layout Devices

EYEflow Golden SectionEYEflow Golden Section


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"There is no such
thing as perfection. 
Each step is a step
towards the next step."


Thankyou to my lovely,
smart sister Susan Fisch
for helping to edit my writings
in both English & French.
She does a great job.

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