Art Terms and Definitions — D

art terminologyA list of art terminology that begins with the letter “D”. It includes definitions for more than 20 terms commonly used in the art world to describe art. Words from DADA to DPI.

Quick links to more art terminology are located at the end of the list.


An avant-garde art movement that emerged during World War I in Europe in negative reaction to the atrocities and folly of war. Dada artists poked fun at all the established traditions and tastes in art with works that were deliberately satirical and nonsensical.


A resin used in varnishes and inks, derived from timber trees in Malaya and Indonesia, as well as coniferous and hardwood trees in Southeast and East Asia.

DayGlo Colors

Also called fluorescent colors and neon colors, are bright, clean materials with a unique “glowing” effect under ultraviolet or black light. They are widely used to attract attention, focus attention on objects, warn people of hazardous situations, and get an object or situation noticed. They are commonly used in traffic cones, detergent packaging, tennis balls, and fishing lures, and can be found in various media including oil and acrylic paints, inks, dyes, markers, and crayons. See also, “fluorescent colors.”

Dead Color Layer

A crucial stage in painting, consisting of a monochrome underpainting as the base layer before additional layers of paint are applied to create depth and vibrancy. This stage establishes the composition, as well as main light and dark relationships in the final artwork. Also referred to as the monochrome version of the final painting.


Artwork consisting of ten panels or parts where each panel depicts a different but related depiction. The panels can be hinged together or presented side-by-side to make one large image. Decaptych is not a widely used term, although it is used in the visual arts. It comes from the Greek words “deca” which means ten and “ptych” refers to a panel or segment of a larger work of art. See also “polyptych.”

Decorative Art
art terminology

A form of visual art that involves the design and decoration of objects that have both aesthetic and practical value. Ceramics, jewelry, enamels, furniture, glass, ivory, metals, and textiles are examples of decorative art forms, particularly when utilized as interior decoration.


A French word meaning “paste-up.” The Victorian craft of cutting out motifs from paper, gluing them to a surface, and covering the glued-on paper with as many layers of varnish as is required to give a completely smooth finish.

Depth of Field

In photography, the area in front of and behind the focused point that is sharp. A shallow depth of field is used in portraits to provide a soft backdrop, while a greater depth of field is useful for landscapes to ensure everything from the foreground to the background is in focus. Shorter (wide-angle) lenses and smaller apertures increase the depth of field.


The systematic arrangement of design elements to achieve a single effect, encompassing the organization and composition of a work. An effective design combines elements of art and design principles to achieve a sense of unity.


A designer is a person who plans the appearance and function of a product, structure, or system before it’s made. They work in various disciplines like architecture, engineering, urban planning, and industrial design. Designers communicate ideas through visual representations and use design tools like digital design and sketches to create artwork. Different types of designers include graphic, fashion, and interior designers.


The process of relating the elements, whether similar or contrasting, and visually arranging an interesting unity with them using the design principles.

Digital Art

art terminology
Computer Art

Artworks that are created using software on a computer platform. This includes images done entirely on a computer or photographs and hand-drawn illustrations that have been scanned into a computer and manipulated or finished using software programs like Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop. Other terms used to describe this art-making process include computer art, multimedia art, and new media art.


(Pronounced dip-tick). A work of art consisting of two painted or carved panels where each panel depicts a different but related scene. The panels can be hinged together or presented side-by-side. The term “diptych” comes from the Greek words “di” (meaning “two”) and “ptychē” (meaning “fold”).


The emphasis that is placed on a particular area or characteristic of a work, with other areas or aspects given subordinate or supporting roles.


A drawing that is made while a person’s attention is otherwise occupied. Doodles are simple drawings that can have concrete representational meaning or may just be composed of random and abstract lines.


To draw or sketch aimlessly, especially when preoccupied.

Double Exposure

A technique used in film and photography to expose two images onto one negative or sheet of photographic paper.

Double Loading

A painting technique that involves loading a brush with two colors side by side. This is a technique typical of tole and other kinds of decorative painting. Also known as “sideloading.”


The act of representing an image on a surface by adding lines and shades, as with a pencil, crayon, pen, chalk, pastels, etc. It also refers to a hand-drawn illustration.

Drip Painting

A style of abstract painting made popular in the 20th century by Jackson Pollock. Paint is dripped or poured directly onto a canvas. This style focuses on movement and spontaneity while creating dynamic and unique effects.


Stands for “dots per inch.” DPI is a measure of dot density that refers to the number of individual dots in a line across a 1-inch span. Higher DPI values result in better print quality and sharper images, affecting image clarity and detail. It characterizes the resolution of hard copy prints and digital prints.

Art Glossary Links

A     |     B     |     C     |     D     |     E     |     F     |     G

H     |     I       |     J     |     K     |     L     |     M     |     N

O     |     P     |     Q     |     R     |     S     |     T     |     U

V     |     W     |     X     |     Y     |     Z

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!

Thanks for reading this!