Art Terms and Definitions — C

Calligraphy     |     Cyan

A dictionary of art terms and definitions that begin with the letter C.

Art Terms and Definitions -- C

A distinctive style of artistic handwriting created by using special pen nibs that allow a calligrapher to vary the thickness of a letter’s line elements. An elegant, decorative writing style, developed as an art form itself, used to enhance the artistic appeal and visual beauty of handwritten papers and manuscripts.

A heavy, closely woven fabric; an oil painting on canvas fabric; the support used for an acrylic or oil painting typically made of linen or cotton, stretched very tightly and tacked onto a wooden frame. Linen is considered far superior to heavy cotton for a canvas. Click for more information on the different types of canvas available for painting.
A rendering, usually a portrait, of a real person showing the features of the subject in a simplified or exaggerated way but still retaining a likeness.
Center of Interest 
An emphasized area of the composition. Also called the focal point.
The art of making objects of clay and firing them in a kiln. Wares of earthenware and porcelain, as well as sculpture, are made by ceramists. Enamel is also a ceramic technique. Ceramic materials may be decorated with slip, engobe, or glaze, applied by several methods, including resist, Mishima, and snag gam. Pots can be made by the coil, slab, some other manual technique, or a potter’s wheel.
Compressed burned wood used for drawing.
An artistic technique that employs strong contrast between areas of light and shade in a composition to define three-dimensional objects.
Pertaining to colors or color; being or having or characterized by hue. A color perceived to have a hue saturation greater than zero.
A city landscape; a painting of a city; in art, it is the urban equivalent of a landscape. Also called urban landscape. Click for more information about cityscapes.
A form of art derived from the study of Greek and Roman styles characterized by harmony, balance, and serenity. In contrast, the Romantic Movement gave free rein to the artist’s imagination and the love of the exotic.
process colors - cyan, magenta, yellow, black
Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black

The abbreviation for cyan (C), magenta (M), yellow (Y), and, black (K). These are the four primary colors used in process printing.

Introduced by the Cubists, the technique of creating a work of art by adhering flat articles such as paper, fabrics, string, or other materials to a flat surface such as a canvas whereby a three-dimensional result is achieved.
A visual attribute of things that results from the light they emit or transmit or reflect; the visual response to the wavelengths of light, identified as red, blue, green, etc.; primary and secondary colors; warm, cool, and neutral colors, color value; hue; and intensity. For more information about color, see Basic Art Element — Color.
Color Groups
Groupings of colors of a particular hue; sometimes called color families.
Color Harmonies
Colors or color groupings that look aesthetically pleasing side-by-side, as opposed to colors that clash with one another.
Color Permanence
Refers to a pigment’s lasting power. Tubes and other paint containers are sometimes labeled with a code indicating a color’s degree of permanence.
Letter Code Degree of color permanence
AA Highest
A Standard
C Less than permanent, though fairly durable
C Fugitive
Color Properties
The three primary qualities of color: Hue (the name of the color), Chroma (the purity and strength of the color), and Value (the lightness or darkness of the color). Also called hue, saturation or intensity, and lightness.
Color Scheme
The overall selection of colors used in a design or artwork.
Color Separation 
A traditional photographic process of separating artwork into component films of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black in preparation for printing to ultimately create a full-color printed product. Recent computer innovations have obviated the need for separated film negatives in specific applications.
Color Theory
Practical guidelines that govern the ideas, principles, and applications of color in art and design. Color theory consists of three components: the color wheel, color harmony, and color application or context, which can all be used by visual artists to create logical structures in their designs and compositions.
 Color Wheel
Art Terms and Definitions -- C
Color Wheel

A round diagram that shows the placement of colors in relationship to each other. It is from the color wheel that “color schemes” are defined. For more information on the color wheel.

Commercial Art 
Refers to art that is made for commerce. The term is somewhat obsolete and is currently being replaced in many colleges with the term “Visual Communication.”
Refers to the act of hiring someone to execute a specific work of art or set of artworks.
Complementary Colors
color opposites
Complementary Colors

Two colors directly opposite one another on the color wheel. When placed next to one another, complementary colors are intensified and often appear to vibrate. When mixed, brown or gray is created. Red and green, blue and orange, and yellow and violet have the most significant degree of contrast. Red-violet and yellow-green, red-orange and blue-green, and yellow-orange and blue-violet are also complementary colors.

The arrangement of the design elements within the design area; the ordering of visual and emotional experience to give unity and consistency to a work of art and allow the observer to comprehend its meaning.
Computer Graphics
Refers to visual images made with the assistance of computers. Computer graphics are often made with drawing, painting, illustrating, and photographic programs or applications.
The difference between elements or the opposition to various elements. A principle of good design. See more info.
Cool Color
Cool colorsColors whose relative visual temperatures make them seem cool. Cool colors generally include green, blue-green, blue, blue-violet, and violet.
The cutting out of extraneous parts of an image, usually a photograph, excluding part of a photo or illustration to show only the portion desired to fit a given space requirement.
A 20th-century French art movement that uses two-dimensional geometric shapes to depict three-dimensional organic forms. A style of painting created by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque whereby the artist breaks down the natural forms of the subjects into geometric shapes and creates a new kind of pictorial space.
C is for CyanOne of the four process colors used in printing, or CMYK, the C is for cyan. Cyan is also a primary color, along with magenta, yellow and black.

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Contributing to The Art Dictionary

This art dictionary is a work in progress. New terms and definitions are added on a regular basis. If you know of an art term and definition that isn’t already listed in it, but you believe it should be, send it to us and we’ll consider adding it. We’ll let you know if we do. Thanks!

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UPDATED: 13 March 2023

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