Art Terms and Definitions — P

Paint-by-Numbers Art     |     Pure Symmetry

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

Paint-by-Numbers Art
Art Terms and Definitions -- P
Paint-by-Numbers Kit

A painting process whereby the artist uses a canvas that has been previously imprinted with specified areas and each area is numbered. Each number corresponds to a paint color that is to be painted in the specified area. Once each area is painted, the artist will have a complete painting. Paint-by-numbers art usually comes in a kit that consists of canvas, paint, and brushes. This process involves no originality of thought or creativity on the part of the artist. Click the image for a closeup view showing numbered areas.

An essential tool used by visual artists to apply paint, watercolor, or ink. Paintbrushes come in various sizes, shapes, and materials. For more information on paintbrushes, see the following articles:
All You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Artist Paintbrushes and Then Some
Anatomy of The Artist Paintbrush
A painting technique characterized by the openness of form, in which shapes are defined by loose brushwork in light and dark color areas rather than by outline or contour. Click for more information about the painterly art style.
The act or process of using a brush to apply pigment, color, or other medium to a surface such as canvas to make a picture or other artistic composition; also refers to a painted representation or composition.
A thin piece of glass, wood, or other material, or pad of paper, that is used to hold the paint to be used in painting; also, the range of colors used by a particular painter. Click to learn more about the artist’s palette.
Palette Knife
Art Terms and Definitions -- PA tool originally used by artists for scraping up and mixing paint from the palette. This implement was adopted for the application of heavily impacted paint which is spread thickly like butter. Click the link for more information about palette knives.
Pantone Matching System (PMS)
An internationally recognized system of over 3000 pre-mixed colors representing shades on both coated or uncoated stock, along with the precise printing formulas to achieve each color. Each PANTONE color has a specified CMYK equivalent that is numbered and listed in the swatch guide for quick reference when choosing colors for printing purposes. This system is highly accurate and produces consistent results.
Paper Filigree 
The craft of making decorative designs out of thin strips of paper. Also called quilling paper. See “Quilling.”
Paper Mâché
A technique for creating forms by mixing wet paper pulp with glue or paste. The form hardens as it dries and becomes suitable for painting. Although paper mâché is a French word that means “chewed paper,” it was originated by the Chinese – the inventors of paper.
The predecessor of modern paper made from the pith of the papyrus plant used by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans.
An early paper material highly valued during the middle ages. Originally made from goat or sheepskin, parchment today is made from organic fibers and affords artists such as calligraphers a crisp, smooth, high-quality surface on which to write.
A crayon made from pigment mixed with gum and water and pressed into a stick-shaped form; a work of art created from pastels; a pale color.
(Pronounced pen-tap-tick). A work of art consisting of five panels or sections where each panel depicts a different but related composition.
Permanent Pigment 
Refers to any pigment expected to last or remain without essential change and is not likely to deteriorate under certain atmospheric conditions, in normal light, or in proximity to other colors.
perspectiveThe art of composing objects on a flat surface to give the appearance of distance or depth. Click for information on perspective drawing.
A style of painting in which an image is created in such exact detail that it looks like a photograph; uses everyday subject matter, and often is larger than life. Click for more information about photorealism art.
A professional image-editing and graphics creation software from Adobe. It provides a large library of effects, filters, and layers.
oil paint pigment

Any coloring agent, made from natural or synthetic substances, used in paints or drawing materials; the substance in paint or anything that absorbs light, producing (reflecting) the same color as the pigment.

A shape which is essentially two-dimensional but whose relationship with other shapes may give an illusion of the third dimension.
Plein Air
French for “open-air,” referring to landscapes painted outdoors with the intention of catching the impression of the open air. Plein air is when an artist goes out on location to paint.
Pocket Art 
An art movement that combines art and craftsmanship with small items. ACEOs and ATCs are examples of this. See “Art Cards, Editions and Originals (ACEO)” and “Artist Trading Cards (ATCs).”
Point of View 
The position from which something is seen or considered, for instance, head-on, from overhead, ground level, etc.
A painting technique in which pure dots of color are dabbed onto the canvas surface. The viewer’s eye sees these dots merge as cohesive areas of different colors and color ranges when viewed from a distance.
(Pronounced pol-ip-tick). An artwork, such as altarpieces in churches and cathedrals, created using multiple canvas, sections, or panels. The sections are attached or displayed next to each other to make one large image. A polyptych consists of five or more panels and is characterized by one larger central or main panel with attached side panels or wings.
Pop Art 
example of pop art
Pop Art

A style of art that seeks its inspiration from commercial art and items of mass culture (such as comic strips, popular foods, and brand name packaging). Specific works of art created by Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein are examples of pop art. Click for more information about pop art.

Portfolio (in art)
Also called an artist portfolio; a collection of an artist’s best works that demonstrates their style, artistic skills, creativity, personality, abilities, and commitment.
A painting, photograph, or other artistic representation of a person.
Positive Space
Space that is occupied by an element or a form.
A craftsman who shapes pottery on a potter’s wheel and bakes them in a kiln.
Potter’s Wheel 
A flat disk revolving on a spindle and carrying the clay being shaped by the potter.
A form of ceramic technology, where wet clays are shaped and dried, then fired to harden them and make them waterproof.
Primary Colors 
primary colors on the color wheelRed, yellow, and blue colors used in painting. With these three colors (and black and white), all other colors can be made. The primary colors can not be made by mixing other colors.
Primitive Art 
Art that has imagery of folk art, places emphasis on form and expression and often looks child-like.
Principles of Design
The basic aesthetic considerations that guide the organization of a work of art. They include balance, movement, emphasis, contrast, proportion, space, and unity. See the discussion on Good Design Principles for more information.
The process by which a work of art can be recreated in great quantity from a single image usually prepared from a plate.
Prismatic Colors
The colors that can be seen when white light passes through a prism.
A sense of appropriateness in the size relationship of different parts of a work. For more information about proportion, see the article Principles of Good Design: Proportion.
Public Art 
Art in any media that has been planned and executed with the intent to be staged in the physical public domain, usually outside and accessible to all.
Pure Symmetry
An equilibrium created by identical parts equally distributed on either side of a real or imaginary central axis in mirror-like repetition.

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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: 23 March 2021

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