Art Terms — T

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A glossary of art vocabulary and definitions beginning with T.

T-square
T square graphicA guide for drawing horizontal lines on a drafting table. It is also used to guide the triangle that draws vertical lines. Its name comes from the general shape of the instrument where the horizontal member of the T slides on the side of the drafting table (see illustration).
Tempera
A method of painting with pigments bound in a water-soluble emulsion, such as water and egg yolk, (plus sometimes glue or milk), or an oil-in-water emulsion such as oil and a whole egg. Traditionally applied to a rigid support such as a wood panel and fresco, the paint then dries to a hard film. This technique was widely used in Italian art in the 14th and 15th centuries, and was later replaced by oil paint.
Tertiary Colors
tertiary colors on the color wheelAlso called intermediate colors, these are blends of primary and secondary colors. Colors such as red-orange and blue-green are tertiary colors.
Tetraptych
See “quadriptych“.
Texture
The tactile surface characteristics of a work of art that are either felt or perceived visually.
Three-dimensional
Occupying or giving the illusion of three dimensions (height, width, depth).
Three-dimensional Space
A sensation of space which seems to have thickness or depth as well as height and width.
Three-quarter View
A view of a face or any other subject which is half-way between a full and a profile view.
Thumbnail Sketch
Crude, small pencil drawings used to develop the initial concept for a design.
TIFF
Acronym for Tagged Image File Format, a standard graphic image file format usually generated by scanners. Developed by Aldus and Microsoft.
Tint
A hue with white added. Pink is a tint of red.
Titanium
An oxide used as a white pigment of great permanence and covering power. Usually extended with other whites to improve its brushing and drying properties.
Tole
The folk art of decorative painting on tin and wooden utensils, objects and furniture. Typical metal objects include utensils, coffee pots, and similar household items. Wooden objects include tables, chairs, and chests, including hope chests, toyboxes and jewelry boxes.
Transition
The change or passing from one condition, place, thing, or activity to another; the passage linking one subject, section, or other part of a composition with another.
Triptych
(Pronounced trip-tick). An artwork that is divided into three painted panels or three relief-carved sections. The imagery in the three panels may flow together to form a single unified scene or they may each function as a separate painting, yet related to create a strong sense of visual unity and cohesion. The panels can be attached using a hinge or displayed side-by-side.
Trompe L’oeil
French for “fool the eye.” A two-dimensional representation that is so naturalistic that it looks actual or real (three-dimensional.) This form of painting was first used by the Romans thousands of years ago in frescoes and murals.
Turpentine
A high quality oil paint thinner and solvent.
Two-dimensional
Having two dimensions (height and width); referring to something that is flat.
Two-dimensional Space
A measurable distance on a surface which show height and width but lack any illusion of thickness or depth.
Typography
The study and process of typefaces; how to select, size, arrange, and use them in general. In modern terms. typography includes computer display and output. Traditionally, typography was the use of metal types with raised letterforms that were inked and then pressed onto paper.

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UPDATED: 30 March 2021


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Art Terms — U

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A glossary of art vocabulary and definitions beginning with U.

Ultramarine
UltramarineA deep blue to purple-blue pigment originally made from ground lapis lazuli. The name comes from the Latin ultramarinus which translates “beyond the sea”. During the 14th and 15th centuries, ultramarine was the finest and most expensive blue used by Renaissance painters.
Umber
A natural pigment of brown or reddish-brown color used in painting. In its natural form, it is called raw umber, but when it is heated, the color becomes more intense and is called burnt umber. Umber is not one precise color, but a range of different earth colors. The name comes from the Italian terra d’ombra (or “earth of Umbria”),  named after a mountainous region in central Italy where the pigment was originally extracted.
Underdrawing
Preliminary drawing that lies under the final painted or inked image.
Underpainting
The preliminary layers of paint in a painting that render the basic outline of the image before the final paint layers are added to complete the work.
Undertone
A subdued or muted tone of color; specifically a color seen through and modifying another color.
Unity
An organization of parts so that all contributed to a coherent whole. It is the combined result of all principles of design. See Principles of Good Design discussion on unity for more information.
Uppercase
In typography, capital letters, which gained this alternative name from the standard location in where typesetters once stored them.
Urban Landscape
A premise of urban planning arguing that the best way to organize cities is through the design of the city’s landscape, rather than the design of its buildings. Also referred to as landscape urbanism.

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UPDATED: 16 March 2021


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Art Terms — W

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A glossary of art vocabulary and definitions beginning with W.

War Artist
An artist commissioned by a government, publication, or self motivated, who documents their first hand experience of war in the form of an illustrative record.
Warm Color
Colors whose relative visual temperature makes them seem warm. Warm colors or hues include red-violet, red, red-orange, orange, yellow-orange, and yellow.
Wash
Used in watercolor painting, brush drawing, and occasionally in oil painting to describe a broad thin layer of diluted pigment or ink. Also refers to a drawing made in this technique.
Watercolor
A water-based paint that is a translucent wash of pigment; a painting produced with watercolors.
Watermark
A watermark is a design embossed into a piece of paper during its production and used for identification of the paper and paper maker. The watermark can be seen when the paper is held up to light.
Waterscape
A painting of or including a body of water. It might otherwise be called a marine picture, a seascape, or a riverscape, etc.
Wet-on-wet
A painting technique that is well-known as being the primary method of painting used by Bob Ross. Since lighter colors will usually mix with darker colors if laid over top of them while wet, the technique relies on painting from light colors up. This gives the painting a soft look, and allows the colors to be blended to the painter’s desire.
White
The lightest of all colors. White objects fully reflect and scatter all the visible wavelengths of light. It is often argued that white is not a color because it is achromatic (having no hue), however, since color is the result of human perception, many individuals consider white as a color. The compliment or antagonist of black.
Wildlife Art
Works of art which portray the natural world and the wildlife or domesticated animals that inhabit it. Click for more information about wildlife art.
Woodcut
Illustrations produced when the original printing plate was engraved on a block of wood. One of the oldest methods of printing, dating back to 8th century China.
Word Art
Any art that includes words or phrases as its primary artistic component appearing in a variety of different media including painting and sculpture, lithography and screen-printing as well as applied art (T-shirts, mugs, etc.).
Worm’s-eye View
As if seen from the surface of the earth, or the floor looking up from below. A variation on a landscape painting where the horizon is placed very low in the picture, or outside of it completely.
WYSIWYG
(Pronounced “wizzy-wig”) is an acronym for What You See Is What You Get, and is used in computing to describe a seamlessness between the appearance of edited content on the monitor and final product.

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UPDATED: 23 March 2021


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Art Terms — V

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A glossary of art vocabulary and definitions beginning with V.

Value
The lightness or darkness of a color; contrasts between light and dark. For more information see blog article titled “Basic Art Element — Value“.
linear perspectiveVanishing Point
In perspective, the point on the horizon in the distance where two parallel lines appear to converge and visibility ends.
Vanitas
example of VanitasA style of still life painting made popular in the Netherlands during the 16th and 17th centuries. Vanitas is a Latin term meaning “vanity”. Compositions include objects or symbols of mortality to remind people that life is fleeting and material things and worldly pleasure are temporary. A typical vanitas still life is characterized by and may contain symbolic images like skulls, extinguished candles, rotting fruit, bubbles, smoke, watches, hourglasses, musical instruments, wine and books.
Vector Graphic
A graphic made up of mathematically defined curves and line segments called vectors. Vector graphics can be edited by moving and resizing either the entire graphic or the lines and segments that compose the graphic. Vector graphics can be reduced and enlarged (zoomed in and out) with no loss of resolution.
Vermilion
VermilionA scarlet red pigment of variable color that is vivid red but sometimes with an orange tinge. Originally, the vermilion pigment was made from a highly toxic mineral called cinnabar, which contains mercury. However, because of the toxicity of mercury, a synthetic pigment called cadmium red was developed to replace vermilion.
Vertical Balance
The distribution of visual weights in a piece in such a way that top and bottom seem to be in equilibrium.
Video Art
A genre of art involving moving-imagery and audio-visual technology to produce videotapes for viewing on a television screen. This form of art gained rapid popularity in ’60s and ’70s with the widespread availability of inexpensive videotape recorders.
Viewfinder
viewfinder graphicA tool used to look through to compose an image. This tool is helpful in selecting the most interesting composition to be found in a larger image by cropping out unwanted perimeters. In photography a viewfinder is what the photographer looks through to compose, and in many cases to focus, the picture (see illustration). For more information see article titled “Making and Using a Viewfinder to Compose Better Paintings“.
Vignette
An image or painting where the borders are undefined and seem to fade away gradually until it blends into the background.
Violet
violetOne of the secondary colors that is created when the two primary colors of red and blue are mixed together. See Secondary Colors. The complement or opposite of the color yellow. The color of violet is named for the violet flower from which the color is derived.
Viridian
ViridianA darker blue-green pigment composed more of green than blue falling between teal and green on the color wheel. Viridian takes its name from the Latin viridis meaning “green”.
Visual Art
A form of artwork, such as painting, drawing, photography, printmaking, ceramics, crafts or sculpture, created primarily for visual perception and exists in permanent form.
Visual Artist
A practitioner of one or more of the visual arts.
Visual Communication
The communication of ideas through the visual display of information. Primarily associated with two dimensional images, it includes: alphanumeric, art, signs, and electronic resources. Recent research in the field has focused on web design and graphically oriented usability.
Visual Economy
As used in art, a paring down to only the essential elements required to achieve the desired effect; a.k.a. simplicity. See “Principles of Good Design: Visual Economy” for more information.
Volume
The mass of three-dimensional shapes in space.

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UPDATED: 22 March 2021


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Art Terms — X

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A glossary of art vocabulary and definitions beginning with X.

X-Radiography
A medical diagnostic tool used extensively by conservators to determine how artists applied different layers of paint to create an image. The X-rays penetrate through multiple layers of paint to image on film the atomic weight or density of the various materials that are present. It can easily detect if repairs have been made to tears in the canvas, if there are holes in the panel support, and other such occurrences. This information is extremely valuable to conservators as it helps to determine the best procedures to use in preserving the image. It can also assist art historians in the interpretation of the art work and more specific dating.
Xerography
Photographic process which uses an electrically charged metal plate. On exposure to light the electrical charge is destroyed, leaving a latent image in which shadows are represented by charged areas. A powdered pigment dusted over the plate is attracted to the charged areas, producing a visible image. Also called photocopying or xerocopy, a lesser used term.
Xylography
An early form of wood engraving, was first seen in China in the 1st century. It is the oldest known engraving technique.

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UPDATED: 22 March 2021


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Art Terms — Y

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A glossary of art vocabulary and definitions beginning with Y.

YBA Art
Stands for Young British Artists, also called Brit artist or “Britart”. YBAs were a loosely-affiliated group of artists in London who began exhibiting their artwork together in the late 1980s. If they had anything in common, it was probably an anything-goes attitude when it came to materials used and their creative processes. As artists, they worked and experimented in various media and art forms and were best known for their use of shock tactics, entrepreneurial spirit and wild partying.
Yellow 
CMYK-YellowThe color between orange and green on the color wheel. Considered to be the most visible color on the spectrum and the most attention-getting. One of the four primary colors used in printing ink (cyan, magenta, yellow and black). One of the three primary colors used in art (red, yellow, and blue). The complement or opposite of the color violet. In painting, yellow is used to create a multitude of colors when mixed with other hues.
Yellow Ocher
yellow-ocherA yellow pigment often used by artists that usually contains limonite, a yellowish-brown oxide of iron; a natural earth pigment containing hydrated iron oxide, which ranges in color from yellow to deep orange or brown.
Yellowing
A discoloration that can occur over time in oil paintings due to excessive use of linseed oil medium; applying any of the varnishes that are prone to yellow with age; or most often – an accumulation of dirt embedded into the varnish.

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UPDATED: 23 March 2021


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Art Terms — Z

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A glossary of art vocabulary and definitions beginning with Z.

Zackenstil
A 13th-century German word meaning “jagged style.” Zackenstil is used to describe a zig-zag style used in sculpture, painting, stained glass and manuscript illumination.
Zenga
A style of Japanese calligraphy and painting, done in ink. Often both calligraphy and image will be in the same piece of art.
Zinc White
A common white pigment, zinc white is a brilliant white synthetically derived from the metal zinc.
Zincography
A printing process that uses zinc plates instead of stones plates made from fine lithographic limestone.
Zinnober Green
Another name for chrome green.
Zoomorphic
Describes forms of art and ornaments based on the shape, form or likeness of an animal.

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UPDATED: 22 March 2021


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