Art Terms — P

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A glossary of art vocabulary and definitions beginning with P.

Paint-by-Numbers Art
Paint by numbers kit
Paint-by-Numbers Kit

A process of painting whereby the artist uses a canvas that has been previously divided into areas and each area is numbered. Each number corresponds to a paint color that is to be painted in the specified area. Once each area is painted the artist will have a complete painting. Paint-by-numbers art usually comes in a kit that consists of canvas, paint and brushes. This process involves no originality of thought or creativity on the part of the artist. Click image for closeup view showing numbered areas.

An essential tool used by visual artists to apply paint, watercolor, or ink. Paintbrushes come in various sizes, shapes, and materials. For more information on paintbrushes see the following articles:
All You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Artist Brushes and Then Some — Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3
Anatomy of The Artist Paint Brush
Painting technique characterized by openness of form, in which shapes are defined by loose brushwork in light and dark color areas rather than by outline or contour. Click for more information about the painterly art style.
The act or process of using a brush to apply pigment, color or other medium to a surface such as canvas, to make a picture or other artistic composition; also refers to a painted representation or composition.
A thin piece of glass, wood or other material, or pad of paper, which is used to hold the paint to be used in painting; also, the range of colors used by a particular painter. Click to learn more about the artist palette.
Palette Knife
palette knife imageA tool originally used by artists for scraping up and mixing the paint from the palette, this implement has been adopted for the application of heavily impacted paint which is spread thickly like butter (see illustration). Click link for more information about palette knives.
Pantone Matching System (PMS)
An internationally recognized system of over 3000 pre-mixed colors representing shades on both coated or uncoated stock, along with the precise printing formulas to achieve each color. Each PANTONE color has a specified CMYK equivalent which is numbered and is listed in the swatch guide for quick reference when choosing colors for printing purposes. This system is highly accurate and produces consistent results.
Paper Filigree
The craft of making decorative designs out of thin strips of paper. Also called quilling paper. See “Quilling“.
Paper Mâché
A technique for creating forms by mixing wet paper pulp with glue or paste. The form hardens as it dries, and becomes suitable for painting. Although paper mâché is a French word which literally means “chewed paper”, it was originated by the Chinese – the inventors of paper.
The predecessor of modern paper made from the pith of the papyrus plant used by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans.
An early paper material highly valued during the middle ages. Originally made from goat or sheep skin, parchment today is made from organic fibers and affords artists such as calligraphers a crisp, smooth, high quality surface on which to write.
A crayon made from pigment mixed with gum and water and pressed into a stick-shaped form; a work of art created from pastels; a pale color.
(Pronounced pen-tap-tick). A work of art consisting of five panels or sections where each panel depicts a different but related composition.
Permanent Pigment
Refers to any pigment which is expected to last or remain without essential change and is not likely to deteriorate under certain atmospheric conditions, in normal light or in proximity to other colors.
perspectiveThe art of composing objects on a flat surface so as to give the appearance of distance or depth. Click for information on perspective drawing.
A style of painting in which an image is created in such exact detail that it looks like a photograph; uses everyday subject matter, and often is larger than life. Click for more information about photorealism art.
A professional image-editing and graphics creation software from Adobe. It provides a large library of effects, filters and layers.
oil paint pigment

Any coloring agent, made from natural or synthetic substances, used in paints or drawing materials; the substance in paint or anything that absorbs light, producing (reflecting) the same color as the pigment.

A shape which is essentially two-dimensional in nature but who’s relationship with other shapes may give an illusion of the third dimension.
Plein Air
French for “open air”, referring to landscapes painted out of doors with the intention of catching the impression of the open air. Plein air is when an artist goes out on location to paint.
Pocket Art
An art movement that combines art and craftsmanship with small items. ACEOs and ATCs are examples of this. See “Art Cards, Editions and Originals (ACEO)” and “Artist Trading Cards (ATCs)“.
Point of View
The position from which something is seen or considered; for instance, head-on, from overhead, from ground level, etc.
A painting technique in which pure dots of color are dabbed onto the canvas surface. The viewer’s eye, when at a distance, is then expected to see these dots merge as cohesive areas of different colors and color ranges.
(Pronounced pol-ip-tick). An artwork, such as altarpieces in churches and cathedrals, created using multiple canvas, sections or panels. The sections are attached together or displayed next to each other to make one large image. A polyptych consists of five or more panels and are typically characterized by one larger central or main panel with attached side panels or wings.
Pop Art
example of pop art
Pop Art

A style of art which seeks its inspiration from commercial art and items of mass culture (such as comic strips, popular foods and brand name packaging). Certain works of art created by Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein are examples of pop art. Click for more information about pop art.

Portfolio (in art)
Also called an artist portfolio; a collection of an artist’s best works which demonstrates their style, artistic skills, creativity, personality, abilities and commitment.
A painting, photograph, or other artistic representation of a person.
Positive Space
Space that is occupied by an element or a form.
A craftsman who shapes pottery on a potter’s wheel and bakes them it a kiln.
Potter’s Wheel
A horizontal disk revolving on a spindle and carrying the clay being shaped by the potter.
A form of ceramic technology, where wet clays are shaped and dried, then fired to harden them and make them waterproof.
Primary Colors
primary colors on the color wheelRed, yellow, and blue colors used in painting. With these three colors (and black and white) all other colors can be made. The primary colors themselves can not be made by mixing other colors (see illustration).
Primitive Art
Art that has imagery of folk art, it places emphasis on form and expression and often looks child like.
Principles of Design
The basic aesthetic considerations that guide organization of a work of art. They include balance, movement, emphasis, contrast, proportion, space and unity. See the discussion on Good Design Principles in this website for more information.
The process by which a work of art can be recreated in great quantity from a single image usually prepared from a plate.
Prismatic Colors
The colors that can be seen when white light passes through a prism.
A sense of appropriateness in the size relationship of different parts of a work. For more information about proportion, see the article Principles of Good Design: Proportion.
Public Art
Art in any media that has been planned and executed with the intention of being staged in the physical public domain, usually outside and accessible to all.
Pure Symmetry
An equilibrium created by identical parts that are equally distributed on either side of a real or imaginary central axis in mirror-like repetition.

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UPDATED: 23 March 2021

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