As visual artists, it is imperative that we learn and understand basic design principles and elements of art. Below are the design principles of elements of art that translate to every form of visual art.

Design Principles

  1. Balance: The sense of stability achieved through implied weight of an object. There are three different types of balance: symmetrical, asymmetrical, and radial.
    1. Symmetrical balance: When one image is mirrored on the other side to repeat itself.
    2. Asymmetrical balance: When different types of elements create a visual balance.
    3. Radial balance:The distribution of elements around a central point in all directions.
  2. Proportion: The ratio of one art element to another. It is important to keep in mind the relationship between different elements of the composition so that the scale of your artwork always makes visual sense. For example, if you were drawing your best friend sitting in a chair, the size of the chair should be in proportion to the size of your friend.
  3. Emphasis (Dominance): When one element of an artwork stands out more than another. This creates a sense of importance and is intentionally used to communicate a message or feeling. Emphasis creates variety in your artwork.
  4. Variety: The counterweight to harmony and creates visual interest by slightly changing or using different elements together in a composition. It can be created with contrast, change, elaboration, or diversifying elements. With variety, it is important to consider how the elements are working together so that you still have harmony and unity within a composition.
  5. Movement: The visual flow of your artwork. It's the path that you intend your viewer's eye to follow. You can create this by purposefully placing art elements in a way that creates this path.
  6. Rhythm: A continuance, a flow, or a feeling of movement achieved by the repetition of regulated visual information.
  7. Harmony: Harmony in art and design is the visually satisfying effect of combining similar, related elements. For instance: adjacent colors on the color wheel, similar shapes etc.
  8. Gradation: A way of combining elements by using a series of gradual changes in those elements. (large shapes to small shapes, dark hue to light hue, etc). Gradation is a combination of design principles.

They are used to organize the basic elements of art: line, shape, form, value, color, space, and texture. They are sometimes also referred to as principles of organization or design principles.

The Elements of Art

  1. Color: An element of art made up of three properties: hue, value, and intensity.
    1. Hue: name of color.
    2. Value: hue’s lightness and darkness (a color’s value changes when white or black is added).
    3. Intensity: quality of brightness and purity (high intensity= color is strong and bright; low intensity= color is faint and dull).
  2. Form: An element of art that is three-dimensional and encloses volume; includes height, width and depth (as in a cube, a sphere, a pyramid, or a cylinder). Form may also be free flowing.
  3. Line: An element of art defined by a point moving in space. Line may be two-or three-dimensional, descriptive, implied, or abstract.
  4. Shape: An element of art that is two-dimensional, flat, or limited to height and width.
  5. Space: An element of art by which positive and negative areas are defined or a sense of depth achieved in a work of art .
  6. Texture: An element of art that refers to the way things feel, or look as if they might feel if touched.