Test Your Knowledge of Fine Art: Elements and Principles of Design

an introduction to the principles of good design.Test your knowledge of the elements and principles of good design. Take this simple test by writing your answers on paper, then check your answers at the end of the test. Don’t peek!

1. The principles of good design are _______.

A.    color, depth, form, line, shape, space, texture, and value
B.    balance, contrast, emphasis, movement, proportion, repetition, simplicity, space, and unity
C.    all of the above
D.    none of the above

2. The elements of design are _______.

A.    color, depth, form, line, shape, space, texture, and value
B.    balance, contrast, emphasis, movement, proportion, repetition, simplicity, space, and unity
C.    all of the above
D.    none of the above

3. A type of balance in which both sides of a composition are balanced yet different is called _______.

A.    asymmetrical
B.    radial
C.    symmetrical
D.    geometric

4. Formal balance is another word for _______ balance.

A.    asymmetrical
B.    radial
C.    symmetrical
D.    geometric

5. Another word for “center of interest” is _______.

A.    focal point
B.    emphasis
C.    dominance
D.    all of the above

6. The choice of colors used in a design plan is called a _______.

A.    color spectrum
B.    color wheel
C.    color scheme
D.    color mix

7. A circular chart used to show color relationships is called a _______.

A.    color scheme
B.    color wheel
C.    color ray
D.    color circle

8. Colors that are different in lightness and darkness are said to be _______.

A.    contrasting
B.    light in value
C.    dark in value
D.    bright and intense

9. Which of the following can be used to create contrast in a composition?

A.    Smooth and rough textures
B.    Large and small shapes
C.    Plain areas against areas of patterns
D.   All of the above

10. _______ is another word for the brightness of a color.

A.    Value
B.    Intensity
C.    Hue
D.    Complementary

11. _______ is an element of art that refers to the sense of touch.

A.    Value
B.    Pattern
C.    Texture
D.    Shape

12. Negative space is the background or area surrounding an object in a composition.

True | False

13. Rhythm is created when various visual elements are repeated.

True | False

14. Variation is the use of the same lines, shapes, textures, and colors within an artwork.

True | False

15. Unity is obtained when all parts of a design are working together as a team.

True | False

16. Blue and orange are _______ colors.

A.    primary
B.    related or analogous
C.    secondary
D.    complementary

17. Red, yellow, and blue are _______ colors.

A.    primary
B.    related or analogous colors
C.    secondary colors
D.    complementary colors

18. Visual _______ is achieved when all parts of a composition have equal weight and appear to be stable.

A.    focal point
B.    unity
C.    balance
D.    pattern

19. _______ is a three-dimensional geometrical figure showing height, width and depth.

A.    Space
B.    Form
C.    Balance
D.    Line

20. Various art elements, like lines, colors, or shapes, that are repeated over and over in a planned way creates a _______.

A.    focal point
B.    unity
C.    balance
D.    pattern

21. The lightness or darkness of a color is referred to as the _______.

A.    shape
B.    value
C.    intensity
D.   texture

22. _______ may be geometric or organic.

A.    Shape
B.    Value
C.    Intensity
D.   Texture

23. _______ is the suggestion of action or direction, the path our eyes follow when we look at a work of art.

A.    Proportion
B.    Simplicity or visual economy
C.    Rhythm
D.    Movement

24. _______ is the relation of two things in size, number, amount, or degree within a design.

A.    Proportion
B.    Simplicity or visual economy
C.    Rhythm
D.    Movement

25. _______ is the elimination of all non-essential elements or details to reveal the essence of a form.

A.    Proportion
B.    Simplicity or visual economy
C.    Rhythm
D.    Movement

26. Symmetry, asymmetry and radial are all types of _______.

A.    Texture
B.    Balance
C.    Patterns
D.    Form

27. Creating a sense of visual oneness in a work of art is called _______.

A.    Form
B.    Value
C.    Unity
D.    Texture

28. _______ is a mark with greater length than width. They can be horizontal, vertical, diagonal, sraight, curved, thick, or thin.

A.    Color
B.    Shape
C.    Texture
D.    Line

29. Shapes and/or forms similar to those found in nature are _______.

A.    geometric
B.    pattern
C.    organic
D.    texture

30. The element of art referring to the emptiness or area between, around, above, below or within objects:

A.    color
B.    shape
C.    form
D.    space

31. Space is the element of art that helps create the illusion of a foreground, middle ground and background.

True | False

Additional Reading

For more information on this subject see:

Answers: 1B 2A 3A 4C 5D 6C 7B 8A 9D 10B 11C 12T 13T 14F 15T 16D 17A 18C 19B 20D 21B 22A 23D 24A 25B 26B 27C 28D 29C 30D 31T

Creating Depth On A Flat Surface

national park wall painting
Monument Valley National Park

Depth is a basic building block* of all visual art. It is an important element in any composition as it creates a strong sense of reality in a painting. It can be defined as the illusion of distance or three-dimension on a two-dimensional or flat surface. A lack of depth in a composition means it will be less than lifelike.

Primary techniques an artist can use to create depth in a painting are layering and overlapping, changing size and placement, linear perspective, and relative color, hue and value.

Layering and overlapping is placing one or more elements in front of another element in order to create the illusion of depth in composition. Objects that appear in front of others seem nearer while those that are behind seem further away. This method is the strongest way of creating depth and it will over ride all other signs when there is seeming conflict.

Changing size and placement is another method artists use to create the sense of depth in a painting. This technique simply states that larger objects appear closer and smaller objects appear further away. Also objects that are positioned at the bottom of the painting appear to be in front and those at the top appear to be in the back.

Linear perspective allows artists to give the impression of depth by the property of parallel lines converging in the distance at infinity. An example of this would be standing on a straight road, looking down the road, and noticing the road narrows as it goes off in the distance. The point of infinity is what is called a vanishing point. These lines don’t actually need to be visible, though they can be. They can also be implied by the objects in the composition.

For more information about using perspective to add dimension to your paintings, read the article titled The Rules of Perspective.

Relative color, hue and value can also add the illusion of depth.

  • Darker colors look closer to the viewer and lighter colors look further away.
  • Colors that are close in value seem close to each other and strongly contrasting  colors appear to separate.
  • Warm, bright colors (red orange, yellow) seem to advance towards to the foreground and cool, dark colors (blue and bluish green and purple) seem to recede into the background.
  • Saturated colors seem to advance and low saturated colors seem to recede.

Lighting and Shading

Light adds depth by casting external shadows, it also shows depth in how it acts over the surface of one object. The closer to the light source, the brighter the surface is with more reflected light.

Cast and drop shadows are another common way to add depth. Reflections work similarly in that a reflection appears on a different surface. The illusion of depth can be increased by making the shadow larger and lighter and placing it further away from the object. Blurring the edges of shadows also increases the illusion of depth.

Focus, Texture, and Detail

Objects that more detailed, sharper in focus and more textured appear closer than those with less detail, blurred or little or no texture are perceived as far away.

*Click for more information about the basic elements of art.

Additional Reading

Creating Depth in Your Paintings via Atmospheric Perspective

Basic Art Element — Line

A line is a long, narrow mark or band connecting two points. It has one-dimension — length. When two ends of a line meet, a shape is created. Lines can suggest forms by creating volume. Lines can also create textures and pattern when combined with other lines.

A line is a basic building block* of all visual art. They are very important to a composition as lines perform a number of functions. They can be used to divide the composition, direct the viewers gaze, define shapes, and/or make a statement.

Lines allow the artist to direct the viewer’s eye into and around the composition along a path from form, color, or shape within a work of art. They can vary in width, direction, and length, and they often define the edges of a form. Lines can be horizontal, vertical, diagonal, straight, curved, thick, or thin.

Types Of Lines

  • Horizontal lines
    • suggest landscape and the horizon
    • impart a sense of peacefulness, vastness, stability and constancy
    • associated with earth bound things and suggest a feeling of rest or repose
  • Vertical lines 
    • are perpendicular to the horizon and stretch from the earth to the heavens
    • communicate a feeling of solidity, loftiness and spirituality
    • impart a sense of height, grandeur, and formality
    • gives the impression of dignity that extends upwards toward the sky beyond human reach
    • suggest power with a strong foundation
  • Horizontal and vertical lines used in combination 
    • are structurally stable and are not likely to tip over
    • communicate stability and solidity
    • suggests permanence, reliability and safety
  • Diagonal lines 
    • suggest depth and the illusion of perspective that pulls the viewer into the painting
    • appear to being unbalanced, either rising or falling, neither vertical nor horizontal
    • convey action, movement or direction, restless and uncontrolled energy
    • can appear solid and unmoving if they are holding something up or at rest against a vertical line or plane
  • Curved lines
    • sweep and turn gracefully between end points and is another type of line that the eye like to follow
    • provide a greater dynamic influence in a picture
    • are more aesthetically pleasing, as they are associated with comfort, familiarity, relaxation, softness and sensuality
    • can also communicate confusion, turbulence, even frenzy, as in the violence of waves in a storm, etc.
  • Organic lines
    • occur in nature and are associated with things from the natural world, like plants and animals
    • are irregular, curved, and often fluid
    • convey a sense of gracefulness, dynamism, and spontaneity
  • Implied lines
    • don’t actually exist at all and can not be shown visually
    • are lines created by values, colors, textures or shapes that guide the eye though the piece of artwork
    • are what is implied in the mind’s eye when we see and mentally fill in the spaces between objects
    • are created with directional elements such as shape, hand gesture, eye contact or gazing in a direction (even off canvas)
  • Contour lines 
    • define the edges of objects and also the edges of negative space between objects
    • create boundaries around or inside an object
  • Geometric lines
    • are mathematically determined
    • are rarely found in nature, but often found in man-made constructions
    • have regularity and hard or sharp edges
    • convey a sense of order, conformity, and reliability

*Click for more information about the basic elements of art.


Draw an example of each type of line as described above.

Your Next Art Lesson

If you enjoyed this lesson, be sure to check out another one in this series.

The Basic Elements of Art (Introduction)

Basic Art Element — Color, Part 1

Basic Art Element — Color, Part 2

Basic Art Element — Form

Basic Art Element — Line

Basic Art Element — Shape

Basic Art Element — Space

Basic Art Element — Texture

Basic Art Element — Value

The Basic Elements of Art

Learning about the basic art elements and how they work in conjunction with the principles of good design.

The basic elements of art are the “building blocks” used to create any visual art piece. The elements are color, form, line, shape, space, texture and value. Without them, it would be impossible for an artist to create art. Every artist, whether they realize it or not, uses at least two or more of these elements in their art-making. For example, in sculpture an artist uses both space and form, and a painter will utilize line and shape when creating a painting.

Defining The Elements

  • Color — A pigment used in artwork, along with their various values and intensities, such as the primary colors – red, yellow and blue.
  • Form — The mass of the shapes created by the forming of two or more shapes or as three-dimensional shapes when showing height, width and depth.
  • Line — A mark (actual or implied) that spans the distance between two points used to define shape in two-dimensional work. Implied line is the path that the viewer’s eye takes as it moves along a path from form, color, or shape within a work of art. Click for more information about lines in art.
  • Shape — Any area defined by edges within the piece bound by line, value, or color. It can be geometric (for example: square, circle, hexagon, etc.) or organic (such as the shape of a puddle, blob, splatter, etc.).
  • Space — Refers to the empty or occupied areas around, between or within components of an art piece. It is either negative (empty space) or positive (occupied space).
  • Texture — The way a surface feels or is perceived to feel. The actual or implied structure and minute molding of a surface (rough, smooth, etc.) which can either be seen or felt with the sense of touch.
  • Value  Shading used to emphasize form. The degree of lightness or darkness of any given color within a piece of art. Adding white to lighten the color is called “tint” while addition of black is called “shade”.

An artist will skillfully use these elements, mixing them in with the principles of design to compose a sensational piece of art. Not all of the elements have to be utilized, however, there will always have to be at least two present.


Why are the elements of art so important?

Your Next Art Lesson

If you enjoyed this lesson, be sure to check out another one in this series.

The Basic Elements of Art

Basic Art Element — Color, Part 1

Basic Art Element — Color, Part 2

Basic Art Element — Form

Basic Art Element — Line

Basic Art Element — Shape

Basic Art Element — Space

Basic Art Element — Texture

Basic Art Element — Value