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Your Ultimate Guide To The Elements Of An Artwork

The visual elements of artwork constitute the vocabulary the visual artist composes.

These elements in the overall design usually relate to each other and the whole artwork.

The elements of Artwork are:


Lines are optical phenomena that allow the artist to direct the eye of the viewer. The artist may exaggerate or create lines, perhaps as part of their message to the viewer. Many lines without a clear subject point suggest chaos in the painting process or a chaotic mood the artist is trying to evoke.

Oblique lines convey a sense of movement, and angular lines generally convey dynamism and possibly tension. Lines can also direct attention towards the main subject of the artwork. Horizontal lines, commonly found in landscape paintings, can give the impression of calm, tranquility, and space.

An image filled with strong vertical lines tends to have the appearance of height and grandeur. Tightly angled convergent lines give a dynamic, lively, and active effect to the image. Firmly turned, almost diagonal lines produce tension in the picture.

In a visual artwork, Lines are mainly created by arranging the artwork elements. Lines can also derive from the borders of different colors or contrast, the artwork subjects movement direction could be also a source of lines.

Compared to straight lines, curves provide a greater dynamic influence in a picture. They are also generally more aesthetically pleasing, as the viewer associates them with softness.

Mixing On Oil Painting Palette by Kheder
Mixing On Oil Painting Palette


There are three properties of color: hue, brightness or chroma, and value. Hue is the name of a color (red, yellow, blue, etc.). Brightness and chroma refer to the intensity and strength of the color. A high-chroma color is more pure and less grey than a low-chroma color. The lightness or darkness of a color is the value. Color also can work within our emotions. Given that, we can use color to create mood. It can also be used as tone, pattern, light, movement, symbol, form, harmony, and contrast.


Texture refers to how an object feels or how it looks like it may feel if it were touched. There are two ways we experience texture, physically and optically. Different techniques can be used to create physical texture, which allows qualities of visual art to be seen and felt. This can include surfaces such as metal, sand, and wood. Optical texture is when the illusion of physical texture is created. Photography, paintings, and drawings use visual texture to create a more realistic appearance.


Lightness and darkness are known as The "value" in visual art. Value deals with how light reflects off objects and how we see it. The more light that is reflected, the higher the value. White is the highest or lightest value while black is the lowest or darkest value. Colors also have value; for example, yellow has a high value while blue and red have a low value. If you take a black-and-white picture of a colorful scene, all you are left with are the values. This important element of design, especially in painting and drawing, allows the artist to create the illusion of light through value contrast.


The term form can mean different things in visual art. Form suggests a three-dimensional object in space. It is also described as the physical nature of the artwork, such as sculptures. It can also be looked at as an art form, which can be expressed through fine art. A form encloses volume, and has length, width, and height, unlike a shape, which is only two-dimensional.

Forms that are mathematical, spheres, pyramids, cubes, cylinders, and cones, are known as geometric forms. Organic forms are typically irregular and asymmetrical. This form can be found in nature, such as flowers, rocks, trees, etc., but can also be seen in architecture.

Forms in drawing and painting convey the illusion of three-dimensional form through lighting, shadows, value, and tone. The more contrast in value, the more pronounced the three-dimensional form is. Forms with little value appear flatter than those with greater variation and contrast.


Space is the area around, above, and within an object. Photographers can capture space, architects build space, and painters create space. This element is found in each of the visual arts. It can be positive or negative, open or closed, shallow or deep, and two-dimensional or three-dimensional. In drawing or painting, space is not there, but the illusion of it is. Positive space is the subject of the piece. The empty spaces around, above, and within, is negative spaces.

Principles of organization

The artist determines what the center of interest of the artwork will be, and composes the elements accordingly. The gaze of the viewer will then tend to linger over these points of interest, elements are arranged with consideration of several factors into a harmonious whole which works together to produce the desired statement – a phenomenon commonly referred to as unity.

Such factors in composition should not be confused with the elements of art themselves.

For example, shape is an element; the usage of shape is characterized by various principles.

Some principles of organization affecting the composition of a picture are:

  • Shape and proportion

  • Positioning/orientation/balance/harmony among the elements

  • The area within the field of view used for the picture ("cropping")

  • The path or direction followed by the viewer's eye when they observe the image.

  • Negative space

  • Color

  • Contrast: the value, or degree of lightness and darkness, used within the picture.

  • Arrangement: for example, use of the golden mean or the rule of thirds

  • Lines

  • Rhythm

  • Illumination or lighting

  • Repetition (sometimes building into a pattern; rhythm also comes into play, as does geometry)

  • Perspective

  • Breaking the rules can create tension or unease, yet it can add interest to the picture if used carefully

Viewpoint (leading with the eye)

The position of the viewer can strongly influence the aesthetics of an image, even if the subject is entirely imaginary and viewed "within the mind's eye". Not only does it influence the elements within the picture, but it also influences the viewer's interpretation of the subject.

For example, if a boy is photographed from above, perhaps from the eye level of an adult, he is diminished in stature. A photograph taken at the child's level would treat him as an equal, and one taken from below could result in an impression of dominance. Therefore, the photographer is choosing the viewer's positioning.

A subject can be rendered more dramatic when it fills the frame. There exists a tendency to perceive things as larger than they are, and filling the frame fulfills this psychological mechanism. This can be used to eliminate distractions from the background.

In photography, altering the camera's position can change the image so that the subject has fewer or more distractions with which to compete. This may be achieved by getting closer, moving laterally, tilting, panning, or moving the camera vertically.

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