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

fine art testTest your knowledge of fine art with regard to the elements and principles of good design.

Take this simple quiz by writing your answers on paper, then check your answers at the bottom of the webpage. Don’t peek!

Difficulty: Moderate

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 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 create 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, straight, curved, thick, or thin.

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

29. Shapes and 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

How did you do on this “Knowledge of Fine Art: Elements and Principles of Design” quiz? Check your answers below to find out.

Additional Reading

For more information on this subject, see:

Principles of Good Design

The Basic Elements of Art

More Quizzes to Test Your Knowledge of the Fine Arts

Below are more art-related quizzes.

Can You Name These Famous Paintings From History? — Name these 25 famous paintings to test your knowledge of art history. This is a challenging quiz.

Do You Know The Definition Of These Art Terms? — Multiple choice question and answers quiz on art terms and definitions used by artists. Difficulty: Moderate.

Test Your Knowledge of Art Appreciation — This is a 40-question quiz designed to assess your knowledge of art appreciation. Moderate difficulty.

Test Your Knowledge of COLOR Theory — A 50-question quiz covering color mixing, matching, contrast, and application in art and design. Difficulty: Moderately easy.

Test Your Knowledge of Fine Art: Elements and Principles of DesignYou are here. 

Test Your Knowledge of Fine Art: Painting — A set of 40 multiple choice and T/F questions that will challenge you knowledge of fine art painting. Difficulty: Moderately Easy

Who are the Artists of These Famous Paintings? — Test your knowledge of art by naming the artists who painted these 25 famous paintings. Difficulty: Challenging

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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

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Basic Art Element — Space

Basic Art Element — Space
A good example of positive and negative space. Painting by Teresa Bernard.

Space is a basic art element that refers to the distance between the area around and within shapes, forms, colors, and lines. Space can be positive or negative. It includes the background, foreground, and middle ground. Both positive and negative space can play essential roles in the overall success of a work of art. By understanding the difference between the two, you will:

    • Become better at designing unified compositions.
    • Be more successful in visually communicating your story.
    • Gain important clues about the meaning of an art piece.

Two types of space exist within art — positive space and negative space. Positive space is the actual objects or shapes within an artwork, and negative space is the space around and between those objects. An excellent way to demonstrate positive and negative space is by utilizing Rubin’s vase. (Refer to illustration.) As you can see, the vase occupies what would be referred to as positive space, and the space surrounding the vase is negative space. Notice how the negative space is forming silhouettes of two faces in profile.

Basic Art Element Space

Positive Space

Positive space is the area or part of the composition that an object or subject occupies. It is usually the main focus of the painting, such as a vase of flowers, fruit, or candle in a still life, a person’s face in a portrait, or an animal in a wildlife painting, or a building, trees, and hills in a landscape. When used skillfully, positive space will add interest by enhancing and balancing the negative space in a composition.

Negative Space

Negative space is that empty or open space that surrounds an object. It helps define the object, gives it some breathing room to prevent the painting from being too crowded, and significantly impacts how the art piece is perceived.

An interesting thing about negative space is that it can prompt viewers to seek out subtly hidden images within the negative space, causing your design to get more attention and be remembered while other less interesting works aren’t.

Why is negative space so important?

  1. It can add interest and is an excellent way to draw attention to your works of art. A good balance between great negative space and intrigue will cause the viewer to desire more time to look at your work of art.
  2. It can draw the viewer in, giving them a sense of inclusion because they discovered a subtle, hidden message or image in the composition. Even though it may be a simple composition, great negative space reveals there is more to the piece than first meets the eye, making it a more rewarding experience for the viewer.
  3. It gives the eye a “place to rest,” thereby adding to the subtle appeal of the composition. The equal amounts of both negative and positive are considered by many to be good design.

Questions

  1. Does a negative space have shape?
  2. In what ways is negative space important to the overall success of a composition?

Additional Information

Principles of Good Design: Space

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 — Line

Basic Art Element — Space — You are here

Basic Art Element — Texture

Basic Art Element — Value

More Art Lessons

Good Design Principle: An Introduction

Good Design Principle: Balance

Good Design Principle: Contrast

Good Design Principle: Emphasis

Good Design Principle: Movement

Good Design Principle: Proportion

Good Design Principle: Space

Good Design Principle: Visual Economy

Good Design Principle: Unity

Have a question?

If you have a question about this painting, please contact us, and we’ll be happy to answer any of your questions.

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UPDATED: 07 June 2021

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Basic Art Element — Texture

basic art element texture
A study in texture. Oil painting by Teresa Bernard.

Texture is a basic element of art. Anything that has a surface has texture. Texture is the way a surface looks and feels. It is experienced in two ways — with touch (tactile) and our eyes (visually). Fine artists often use texture in the following ways:

    • Create a focal point.
    • Add interest.
    • Provide contrast.
    • Visually balance their compositions.

Texture is essential in paintings to make objects appear to be real. Even in abstract paintings, texture can enhance the viewer’s experience by suggesting certain feelings or moods regarding the artwork. Texture can also serve to organize and unify various areas of a composition.

Texture can either add to or take away from the overall effect of the composition. When it is used haphazardly or in the wrong way, it can confuse or clutter the painting. However, when used with deliberate skill, texture will bring a composition together, creating the illusion of realism and unity.

The Two Types of Texture — Tactile and Visual

Tactile texture is the real thing. It is the actual way a surface feels when it is felt or touched, such as rough, smooth, soft, hard, silky, slimy, sticky, etc. 3-D art such as sculpture and architectural structures are tactile because they can be felt. Examples of natural texture would be wood, sandpaper, canvas, rocks, glass, granite, metal, etc.

Even the brush strokes used in a painting can create a textured surface that can be felt and seen. The building up of paint on the surface of a canvas or board to make actual texture is called impasto. Painters may choose to apply their paints thickly or thinly depending on the overall effect they wish to achieve.

texture in art
Tractor Tire, a Study in Texture by Teresa Bernard

Visual texture is not actual texture. All textures you observe in photographs and paintings are visual textures. No matter how rough objects may seem to appear in a picture, the image’s surface is always going to be smooth and flat to the touch.

Artists can create the illusion of texture in their paintings by simulation or implying it through the use of various art elements such as line, shading, and color. It is created by repeating lines, dots, or other shapes to create a pattern. Varying the size, density, and orientation of these marks will produce other desired effects as well.

Common Textures

Although there are hundreds, perhaps thousands of different textures, all textures will fall under two broad categories — rough and smooth. For example:

Rough Smooth
Course Fine
Bumpy Slick
Dry Wet
Flat Wrinkled
Scaly Silky
Glossy Matte
Sandy Slimy
Hairy Bald
Hard Soft
Prickly Velvety
Sharp Dull
Sticky Slippery

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 — Line

Basic Art Element — Space

Basic Art Element — Texture — You are here

Basic Art Element — Value

More Art Lessons

Good Design Principle: An Introduction

Good Design Principle: Balance

Good Design Principle: Contrast

Good Design Principle: Emphasis

Good Design Principle: Movement

Good Design Principle: Proportion

Good Design Principle: Space

Good Design Principle: Visual Economy

Good Design Principle: Unity

Have a question?

If you have a question about this painting, please contact us, and we’ll be happy to answer any of your questions.

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UPDATED: 29 April 2022

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Basic Art Element — Value

Basic Art Element — Value
Value is evident in this painting by Teresa Bernard.

Value is a basic element of art that refers to the gradual change of lightness or darkness of a color. It is created when a light source shines upon an object creating highlights, form shadows, and cast shadows.

Value is most evident on the grayscale, where black is represented as lowest or darkest, and white is represented as the highest or lightest value. Or, more simply said, they are the various shades of grey between white and black. Artists use them to create highlights and shadows (shading) in objects and create depth in their paintings or drawings.

basic art element value

 

Colors have value too. Changing the value of a color is as simple as adding black or white to it. Some colors, like yellow and orange, are naturally light in value.

The Benefits of Values in an Oil Painting

Successful paintings have a full range of value. This means that there are ample amounts of both light values and dark values. Paintings that possess a full range of values tend to stand out more and are more pleasing to the eye.

emphasis in artValue creates contrast and adds emphasis.

The human eye tends to be drawn to areas of high contrast. High contrast occurs when lighter elements are placed directly next to much darker ones, creating a dramatic effect. This technique is used to draw attention to specific areas of a painting that the artist wants to emphasize, thus creating a focal point. For example, a light figure on a dark background will become the center of attention, and a dark figure on a primarily white background will command the eye’s attention as well.

Value creates the illusion of depth.

shading graphicValue is an important tool to suggest roundness or depth. It helps create depth within by making an object look three-dimensional, or a landscape appear to recede into the distance. Light values make elements feel like they are further away, and dark values make them seem closer.

Value creates an opportunity to set the mood.

    • Low Key — These are paintings that exhibit mostly dark values and very few lights. Low-key paintings have very little contrast and seem to communicate a depressing, sad, or mysterious mood. Paintings with predominantly dark values often convey a sense of the nocturnal and secretive, of things hidden just beyond sight.
    • High-key — These are paintings that feature mostly light values and very few darks. There isn’t much contrast in a high-key painting. Usually, these paintings possess a light, happy mood. Female portraits are often high key as they can convey delicacy, innocence, and dreaminess.

Using both high and low key colors in a painting can create contrast which often feels dramatic or exciting.

Additional Reading

Creating Depth in Your Paintings via Atmospheric Perspective

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 — Line

Basic Art Element — Space

Basic Art Element — Texture

Basic Art Element — Value — You are here

More Art Lessons

Good Design Principle: An Introduction

Good Design Principle: Balance

Good Design Principle: Contrast

Good Design Principle: Emphasis

Good Design Principle: Movement

Good Design Principle: Proportion

Good Design Principle: Space

Good Design Principle: Visual Economy

Good Design Principle: Unity

Have a question?

If you have a question about this painting, please contact us, and we’ll be happy to answer any of your questions.

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Creating Better Compositions In All Your Paintings

Every artist’s goal should be about creating better compositions in all their paintings. Composition is the arrangement of various elements within a painting. It can either be a good composition or a bad one. When done successfully, a good design will draw the viewer’s gaze into and around the painting’s surface. It will lead their gaze from one element to another, taking everything in, and finally resting on the main subject of the painting.

3 Ways of Creating Better Compositions

There are three techniques for creating better compositions that every painter should use. These are (1) the rule of thirds, (2) the rule of odds, and (3) the rule of space. Let me explain each one.

Rule of Thirds

Creating Better Compositions
Rule of Thirds

The rule of thirds is a helpful guideline used by many professional photographers to aid them when composing the subject matter of their photographs. It is also a useful technique that can be used by painters as well.

The idea behind this rule is to divide your painting surface into nine equal parts. Then position the essential elements in the scene along these lines or at the points where they intersect.

To create a landscape composition, follow these steps:

    1. First, divide your canvas into nine equal segments. This is done by drawing two vertical and two horizontal lines at the 1/3 and 2/3 measurements creating a grid.
    2. Determine where the horizon will be, either on the top horizontal line or the bottom line.
    3. Arrange the essential elements of your subject matter at one or more of the points where the lines intersect.

The rule of thirds states that a painting has a stronger composition when the focal point is not directly in the center of the canvas. If it is placed at one of the four intersecting points, it becomes much more interesting. Balance can be achieved in the composition by placing a secondary object at the opposite intersection.

In the diagram above, notice how the horizon is near the bottom grid line and how the tree is placed at an intersecting location on the left. It has served to give balance and intrigue to the composition by doing so.

When you use the rule of thirds in your work, it guarantees you’ll never have a painting that’s split in half (vertically or horizontally). Nor will you have one with the main focus right in the center creating a bull’s-eye leaving the rest of the painting to be ignored. Instead, the eye is drawn to the focal point and then around the artwork generating a flow from one element to the next.

Rule of Odds

building Better Compositions
Rule of Odds

The rule of odds states that a composition is much more interesting when it contains an odd number of elements rather than even. An even number of elements will create symmetries that can quickly become boring.

When we see an even number of objects, our brain attempts to group them into pairs. This often leaves the center of a scene empty. The human eye is drawn to the center, and an even number of elements in that center create an open space. Having an odd number of elements in a composition means our brain can’t group them so easily. There’s always one thing leftover that keeps our eyes moving across the composition.

The rule of odds also applies when an even number of supporting objects surrounds a single subject. In this way, there will always be an element in the center “framed” by an even number of surrounding objects. Again, this framing is more comforting to the eye and thus creates a feeling of ease and pleasure.

Rule of Space

making Better Compositions
Rule of Space

The rule of space as it applies to art is a simple technique that creates a sense of motion, activity, or conclusion in a composition. It involves creating a negative space that relates to the focal point. Some things to keep in mind are:

    • When painting a portrait (whether a person or animal), if your subject is not looking directly at you, leave some negative space in the direction the eyes are looking, even if they are looking at something off-canvas.
    • When picturing a moving object, such as a runner or vehicle, placing negative space in front of the runner or object rather than behind creates a sense of direction or implication of eventual destination.
    • If your subject is pointing at something or aiming at an object, place some negative space where the subject is pointing or aiming.

These techniques can be beneficial to the artist in creating better compositions. They are, however, most effective when used together rather than separately.

Additional Reading

Principles of Good Design: An Introduction

Two Composition Techniques to Use in Your Paintings

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Principles of Good Design: An Introduction

An introduction to the principles of good design. Learning more about what it takes to create a great composition.

What exactly are the principles of good design?

an introduction to the principles of good design.Simply put, they are the tools every artist uses to create an effective composition. These tools are balance, contrast, emphasis, movement, proportion, repetition, simplicity, space, and unity. How well an artist understands and uses these tools will determine if the composition is weak or strong. The desired outcome should be a work of art that is both unified and aesthetically pleasing to look at. In a series of discussions, we’ll take a look at each one of these principles.

Anyone who studies design will soon discover there is no longer a clear-cut line between fine art and applied art anymore. Whether it is web or graphic design, architectural or industrial design, commercial or fine art, all art is subject to the same principles that make up all good design. Just as a fine artist arranges various elements within a painting to create a pleasing composition, it is also with the graphic artist.

For example, fine artists may use objects such as a vase of flowers, bowl of fruit, or a figurine to design a lovely still life composition in a painting, while graphic artists will use headlines, bodies of text, photos, illustrations, and clip-art images to compose a page for print or a webpage for the Internet. It’s not the objects in and of themselves that determine if the design is a good composition or not, it is their arrangement governed by the principles.

Defining the Principles

    • Balance – a feeling of equality of weight, attention, or attraction of the various elements within the composition as a means of accomplishing unity.
    • Contrast – the difference between elements or the opposition to various elements.
    • Emphasis – the stress placed on a single area of a work or unifying visual theme.
    • Movement – the suggestion of action or direction, the path our eyes follow when we look at a work of art.
    • Proportion – the relation of two things in size, number, amount, or degree.
    • Repetition and rhythm – repeating an element either regularly or irregularly, resulting in a rhythm of the repeating elements.
    • Simplicity (a.k.a. visual economy) – eliminating all non-essential elements or details to reveal the essence of a form.
    • Space – the interval or measurable distance between objects or forms (two-dimensional or three-dimensional).
    • Unity – the relationship between the individual parts and the whole of a composition. Unity is the desired result in all great art.

Good art always starts with an idea.

Before beginning any work of art, every artist needs to keep in mind that every composition starts with an idea. To use the design principles effectively, the artist must have an idea to express or an objective in mind. This is vital to the success of any artwork. Without a clear purpose, even the most conscientious attention to the principles of good design will result in uninteresting work. However, with an idea clearly in mind, a beautiful composition can emerge. Every artist’s goal should be to create a composition in their work that is both unified and interesting to look at.

Questions

  1. In its simplest term, what are the principles of good design?
  2. What is the end result when these principles are effectively applied?

Your Next Art Lesson

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

Good Design Principles: An Introduction — You are here

Good Design Principles: Balance

Good Design Principles: Contrast

Good Design Principles: Emphasis

Good Design Principles: Movement

Good Design Principles: Proportion

Good Design Principles: Space

Good Design Principles: Visual Economy

Good Design Principles: Unity

More Art Lessons

Basic Elements of Art, The

Basic Art Element — Color, Part 1

Basic Art Element — Color, Part 2

Basic Art Element — Line

Basic Art Element — Space

Basic Art Element — Texture

Basic Art Element — Value

Have a question?

If you have a question about this painting, please contact us, and we’ll be happy to answer any of your questions.

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“I have known about the Good Design Principle lessons by artist Teresa Bernard for several years, and I am continually impressed. Recently I have shared several of them with my graphic design students.” — Dr. Richard D. Sheridan, Assistant Professor Wilberforce University, Ohio.

“I just had to email you to let you know how grateful I am for your principle of good design lessons. I am studying for a big art exam and your lessons are a great study aid. So clear and concise with great visual examples. I consider myself very lucky to have come across your website. Thank you so very much.” — Alice B.

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UPDATED: 15 August 2021

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Principles of Good Design: Balance

principles of good design balanceBalance is one of the basic principles of good design. It is a significant design element because, without it, a composition will look off. In two-dimensional art, balance is all about the visual weightiness and not the physical weight.

Defining Balance in Art

Balance is defined as a sense of equilibrium created when the visual weight of objects within a composition is distributed evenly. A sense of visual balance is achieved when no single aspect of the design may dominate or appear heavier than another section of the same composition.

Elements that affect the degree of visual balance are:

    • Lights and darks — light colors will appear lighter in weight than dark colors.
    • Brightness — brilliant colors appear to weigh more than neutral colors
    • Warmth and coolness — warm colors, such as yellow, tend to enlarge or expand an area in size, while cool colors like blue tend to contract or shrink an area
    • Transparency — Transparent areas seem to weigh less than opaque areas visually

Horizontal, Vertical, and Radial Balance

Balancing the components within a painting is best illustrated by visualizing weighing scales or a playground see-saw. As you can see, balance is established by the observer’s visual judgment rather than through a physical weighing process. In this respect, balancing a 2D composition requires a skillful distribution of its components so that the viewer is satisfied the piece is not about to topple over.

principles of good design horizontal balance

Horizontal balance is achieved when components are balanced left and right of a central axis. They are said to be vertically balanced when they are balanced above and below. Radial balance is defined as when components are dispersed around a central point or burst out from a central line.

good design principles vertical balancegood design balance

Types of Balance

There are two types of balance — symmetrical or asymmetrical.

Symmetrical balance is symmetry or formal balance. Asymmetrical balance is asymmetry or informal balance. Of these two types, symmetrical balance is the most stable visually.

Symmetrical Balance

symmetrical balanceSymmetrical balance is when the weight is equally distributed on both sides of the central axis. Symmetry is the simplest and most prominent type of balance. It creates a secure, safe feeling and a sense of solidity. Symmetrical balance is achieved in two ways. One way is by “pure symmetry.” The other way is by “approximate symmetry.”

In pure symmetry, identical parts are equally distributed on either side of the central axis in mirror-like repetition. An excellent example of pure symmetry is the human face. It is the same on both the right side and the left side of the nose. Pure symmetry has its place in particular artworks; however, because of its identical repetition, pure symmetry for a composition can quickly become too monotonous and uninteresting to look at.

Approximate symmetry, on the other hand, has greater appeal and interest for the viewer. The two sides of a composition are varied and are more interesting to view. Even though they are varied somewhat, they are still similar enough to make their repetitious relationship symmetrically balanced.

Asymmetrical Balance

asymmetrical balanceAsymmetrical balance is when both sides of the central axis are not identical yet appear to have balance. The way to use asymmetry is by balancing two or more unequal components on either side of the fulcrum by varying their size, value, or distance from the center. Suppose the artist can skillfully feel, judge, or estimate the various elements and visual weight. In that case, this should allow him/her to balance them as a whole, and as a result, achieve a more interesting composition.

The artist will quickly discover that asymmetry allows for more freedom of creativity because there are unlimited arrangements that may be devised by using asymmetrical balance.

Some Examples of the Effective Use of Balance

Radial Balance

example of radial balanceradial balance sample

Horizontal Balance

horizontal balance, sample ofexample of horizontal balance

Vertical Balance

example of vertical balancevertical balance, sample of

Do you see the vertical balance suggested in the painting on the left? Look at where the foreground ends, and you will quickly see how balance is implied by the visual weightiness of the building in the background.

The painting on the right is a little more evident in its vertical balance. Notice how the three objects in the top part of the painting balance the apparent heaviness of the one object (the plate of pancakes) in the lower part of the painting.

Questions

  1. Why is balance so important in a good composition?
  2. In what way is asymmetry beneficial to the artist?

Your Next Art Lesson

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

Good Design Principle: An Introduction

Good Design Principle: Balance — You are here

Good Design Principle: Contrast

Good Design Principle: Emphasis

Good Design Principle: Movement

Good Design Principle: Proportion

Good Design Principle: Space

Good Design Principle: Visual Economy

Good Design Principle: Unity

More Art Lessons

Basic Elements of Art, The

Basic Art Element — Color, Part 1

Basic Art Element — Color, Part 2

Basic Art Element — Line

Basic Art Element — Space

Basic Art Element — Texture

Basic Art Element — Value

Have a question?

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UPDATED: 07 June 2021

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Principles of Good Design: Contrast

Principles of Good Design: ContrastAnother essential element of the principles of good design is contrast. This principle is often applied when an artist wants to add visual interest, excitement, and drama to an art piece.

Defining Contrast in Art

Contrast is the positioning of opposing components in a work of art. It occurs when two or more related elements are strikingly different—the greater the difference, the greater the contrast.

Opposing Elements in Art

The key to working with contrast is to make sure the differences are apparent. The most common ways of creating contrast are by creating differences in:

    • Color — complementary colors on the color wheel, i.e., red vs. green, blue vs. orange, yellow vs. violet
    • Hue — saturated vs. muted colors
    • Movement — fast vs. slow
    • Shape — organic vs. geometric shapes
    • Size — large vs. small shapes
    • Space — positive vs. negative
    • Temperature — warm vs. cool
    • Texture — rough vs. smooth
    • Value — light vs. dark

The Significance of Contrast

Contrast is significant because it adds variety to the total design and creates unity. It draws the viewer’s eye into the painting and helps to guide the viewer around the art piece.

Contrast also adds visual interest. Most designs require a certain amount of contrast; if there is too much similarity of the components in any design, it will become monotonous—too little contrast results in a design that is bland and uninteresting to view. However, please don’t overdo it, as too much contract can cause the design to be confusing. It takes just the right amount of contrast to engage the viewer’s participation in comparing various artwork components. For instance, the viewer will compare light and dark areas of a painting, wide lines and thin lines, light-weight forms and heavy forms, filled spaces, and unfilled spaces, etc.

Some Examples of the Effective Use of Contrast

contrast in artThe contrast in the illustration of a coffee pot and cups is quite apparent. Notice the contrast of the light background (wall) with the dark foreground (table cloth) and the contrast of the dark shadows on the teapot and cup against the wall and with the lights of the same objects against a dark window.

There is also a contrast of thin and thick lines in the napkin, straight and curved lines, and don’t miss the contrast created by geometric shapes (coffee pot and cups) with organic forms (steam and clouds). The dark steam is also contrasted with the light clouds off in the distance.

design elementThe illustration of the lady and parrot is an excellent example of the contrast between lights and darks. A contrast of color exists between the red parrot and white dress. Also, notice the contrast in the roundness of shapes in the foreground against the flatness of the dark background. Contrast of texture is also implied by the softness of the silk dress and the bird’s soft feathers against the hard, flat background.

Contrast in this painting is much more subtle. There is a contrast in texture. Notice the rigid texture of the fence in the background compared with the softness of the butterflies and kittens. Also, a contrast exists between the soil and the foliage. The kittens themselves have a contrast depicted in their colors versus the color of the fence in the background and even with each other. And the red flowers versus green grass promote a contrast of complementary colors.

Questions

  1. Why is it important to include contrast in a composition?
  2. How can contrast be used to create unity in a design?

Your Next Art Lesson

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

Good Design Principle: An Introduction

Good Design Principle: Balance

Good Design Principle: Contrast — You are here

Good Design Principle: Emphasis

Good Design Principle: Movement

Good Design Principle: Proportion

Good Design Principle: Space

Good Design Principle: Visual Economy

Good Design Principle: Unity

More Art Lessons

Basic Elements of Art, The

Basic Art Element — Color, Part 1

Basic Art Element — Color, Part 2

Basic Art Element — Line

Basic Art Element — Space

Basic Art Element — Texture

Basic Art Element — Value

Have a question?

If you have a question about this painting, please contact us and we’ll be happy to answer any of your questions.

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Principles of Good Design: Emphasis

Principles of Good Design: EmphasisAnother important element of good design principles is emphasis. It’s used when an artist wants to draw attention to a specific feature or area of a painting by giving it dominance and making it stand out.

Defining Emphasis in Art

Emphasis is when the artist gives dominance to or stresses a particular area or element of focus in a painting. Without it, a composition is nothing more than presenting a group of details with equal importance. When a composition has no emphasis, nothing stands out, as demonstrated in the illustration below. However, the effective use of this design principle calls attention to the important areas of the painting; thus creating elements of interest, causing the eye to return again and again.

Good Design: Emphasis
no emphasis added

Adding Emphasis

The way of achieving emphasis is by creating a focal point, also called a center of interest. A focal point is an area where the viewer’s attention is drawn to and where the eye tends to center. It is created by making one area or element in the painting stand out while all other parts contribute but are subordinate.

Subordinates are other compositional elements that have been minimized or toned down to bring attention to the center of interest. The focal point may be the largest, brightest, darkest, or most complex part of the whole, or it may get special attention because it stands out for some other reason. No more than one component should vie for primary attention. When more than one component gets equal billing, emphasis is canceled out.

Some ways to create emphasis might include:

    • Contrast — the more strongly an element contrasts with its surroundings, the more it stands out and draws attention to itself. See the discussion on Contrast for information about how to use this design principle.
    • Isolation — similar to placement, isolating an element from a group of other features will make it stand out.
    • Line — an arrow, line, or other similar objects can indicate movement or direction and lead the eye towards an element. Where lines converge also creates a focal point. See discussion on Movement for about this good design principle.
    • Placement  — elements centered on the canvas will command the viewer’s attention; however, artists tend to avoid putting the focal point in the center of the canvas. It is best to off-center it a bit and still achieve the same effect. Off-center placement is much more pleasing to the eye.
    • Size or Scale — this refers to how something seems in scale or size as it is compared to the objects around it. The larger the scale, the more it will stand out and attract the eye. Smaller elements tend to recede into the background.

No matter what element is chosen for emphasis, it should never demand all the attention. It is important to note that emphasis is necessary, but a good composition is one in which all the elements work together to unify.

Examples of the Effective Use of Emphasis

principles good design emphasis

In this painting, it is easy to see how the artist used light to emphasize the chef. He stands out as the main focal point of the entire painting.

design element

The artist creates emphasis in this painting through the use of color. By painting the cowboy’s shirt red, he was able to create a center of interest. Your eye is drawn right to his shirt.

Questions

  1. What are some ways emphasis can be added to a painting?
  2. What happens when too many elements are emphasized?

Your Next Art Lesson

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

Good Design Principle: An Introduction

Good Design Principle: Balance

Good Design Principle: Contrast

Good Design Principle: Emphasis — You are here

Good Design Principle: Movement

Good Design Principle: Proportion

Good Design Principle: Space

Good Design Principles: Visual Economy

Good Design Principle: Unity

More Art Lessons

Basic Elements of Art, The

Basic Art Element — Color, Part 1

Basic Art Element — Color, Part 2

Basic Art Element — Line

Basic Art Element — Space

Basic Art Element — Texture

Basic Art Element — Value

Have a question?

If you have a question about this painting, please contact us, and we’ll be happy to answer any of your questions.

Thanks for reading this art lesson!

Feel free to share this with your friends.


UPDATED: 26 October

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Principles of Good Design: Movement

Principles of Good Design: MovementMovement is one of the principles of good design, which gives the artist control over what the viewer sees next. Using this principle, the artist can create the path our eyes will travel as we look at art. For example, our attention is first captured by the main focal point, and then it proceeds to move around the composition as one element after another catches our attention.

Defining Movement in Art

Movement shows action and creates a feeling of motion within a composition. It also serves as a guide to direct the eye from one element to the next. An artist controls and forces the progression of the viewer’s eyes in and around the composition of the painting using eye travel. For instance, the eye will travel along an actual path, such as a solid or dotted line. It will move along more subtle paths such as from large to smaller elements, from dark to lighter elements, from color to non-color unusual color to usual shapes.

Repetition and Rhythm

Movement also contributes to the overall unity in a piece by creating a relationship between various artwork components. This relationship can be developed in a variety of ways, including through repetition and rhythm.

Good Design MovementThe use of repetition to create movement occurs when elements with something in common are repeated regularly or irregularly, creating a visual rhythm. Repetition doesn’t always have to mean exact duplication, either. However, it does require similarity or near-likeness. Slight variations to a simple repetition are good, as this will add interest. Repetition tends to relate elements together, whether they are touching or not.

Rhythm is the product of repetition, which guides the eye in a direct, flowing, or staccato movement from one place to another. It can be made using continuous repetition, periodic repetition, or a regular alternation of one or more shapes or lines. A single form can be slightly different each time it is repeated, or it can be repeated with periodic changes in size, color, texture, or value. A line’s length, weight, or direction may change on a regular basis. Color may also be repeated in various parts of the composition to unify the multiple areas of the painting.

Movement Through Action

implied movement in artMovement can also be created by action. In two-dimensional works of art, action must be implied. Implied action in a painting creates life and activity. This is best illustrated by the direction the eye takes along an invisible path created by an arrow, a gaze, or a pointing finger. The “freeze-frame” effect of a moving item, such as a bouncing ball poised in mid-air, a jogger poised to take the next step, or a swimmer plunging, can also imply action. You get the idea.

Examples of the Effective Use of Movement

 

Movement is created in several ways. You see it as your eye travels from the little girl on the blanket and moves up the stairs. You will also see repetition in color. The color of the building is very similar to the covering the child is sitting on. In addition, the stairs create a repetition effect.

repetition in design

 

Repetition also creates movement. The color of the gowns is repeated, leading the eye into the painting. The pattern on the floor also creates repetition. You also get the feeling of movement created by implied action.

Questions

  1. What are some specific ways movement can be created in a composition?
  2. In what way does movement create unity in a work of art?

Your Next Art Lesson

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

Good Design Principle: An Introduction

Good Design Principle: Balance

Good Design Principle: Contrast

Good Design Principle: Emphasis

Good Design Principle: Movement — You are here

Good Design Principle: Proportion

Good Design Principle: Space

Good Design Principle: Visual Economy

Good Design Principle: Unity

More Art Lessons

Basic Elements of Art, The

Basic Art Element — Color, Part 1

Basic Art Element — Color, Part 2

Basic Art Element — Line

Basic Art Element — Space

Basic Art Element — Texture

Basic Art Element — Value

Have a question?

If you have a question about this painting, please contact us, and we’ll be happy to answer any of your questions.

Thanks for reading this art lesson!

Feel free to share this with your friends.


UPDATED: 26 October 2020

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