The Formal Elements and Principles of Art and Design
Principles of Design
Balance is the equilibrium of formal elements in a work of art. Broad categories include
symmetry, asymmetry, overall balance, and radial balance.
Scale is the size of an object in relation to things around it. Proportion is the size
relationship of parts belonging to one object or figure.
Unity refers to a coherent total effect that creates a sense of harmony in a work of art.
Variety refers to diversity or difference which acts as a visual counterpoint to unity.
Emphasis is the principle that states that the viewer’s attention will be drawn to some
parts of the composition more than others. Those points of attention are called focal
Rhythm is the measured repetition of accented elements that move the eye through a
Elements of Art
Line is the path of a moving point that provides direction and detail to a work of
art. An implied line is a series of points that the eye connects.
A shape is a two-dimensional area that stands out from the surrounding space
because of an identifiable boundary. The shape itself occupies positive space, while
the surrounding area is the negative space. Likewise, a form is a three-dimensional
area that stands out from the surrounding space because of an identifiable boundary.
The form itself occupies positive space, while the surrounding area is the negative
A mass is usually solid, and a volume is usually hollow.
Space is the implied or real sensation of two or three dimensions.
Texture is the tactile surface qualities of a work of art that appeal (vicariously) to the
sense of touch. These can be actual or visual.
Value is the light and dark in a work of art independent of color. Light is the measure of
illumination or shadow in a full range of colors.
Color is a property of light determined by specific light wavelengths, known as the
hues. A color will have a hue, a value, and a saturation/intensity.
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