Art Terms and Definitions — V

Value     |     Volume

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


The degree of lightness or darkness of any given color. Value is defined by the color’s proximity to white. For instance, lighter colors such as yellow will have lighter values than darker colors like navy blue. Adding white or black to a hue changes its value.

A good way to see the difference in color values is to look at the greyscale below. White is the lightest value, while black is the darkest. Middle gray is the value halfway between these two extremes.

color values greyscale

Adding white to a color creates a “tint” making its value lighter. When you add black to a color, its value darkens, resulting in a “shade” of that color.

color values

Vanishing PointArt Terms and Definitions -- V

In perspective, the point on the horizon line where all parallel lines appear to recede and converge; the point where visibility ends.


example of VanitasA style of still life painting made popular in the Netherlands during the 16th and 17th centuries. Vanitas is a Latin term meaning “vanity.” Compositions include objects or symbols of mortality to remind people that life is fleeting, and material things and worldly pleasures are temporary. A typical vanitas still life is characterized by and may contain symbolic images like skulls, extinguished candles, rotting fruit, bubbles, smoke, watches, hourglasses, musical instruments, wine, and books.


A transparent hard, protective coating or applied to paintings to seal and protect the surface, creating a barrier against moisture, dust, and pollutants. Varnish also acts to intensify the appearance of the colors on the painting surface making them look more saturated. For more information on this topic see blog article “The Importance of Varnishing Oil Paintings.”

Vector Graphic

A graphic made up of mathematically defined curves and line segments called vectors. Vector graphics can be edited by moving and resizing the entire graphic or the lines and segments that compose the graphic. Vector graphics can be reduced and enlarged (zoomed in and out) with no loss of resolution.


Art Terms and Definitions -- VA scarlet red pigment of variable color that is vivid red but sometimes with an orange tinge. Initially, the vermilion pigment was made from a highly toxic mineral called cinnabar, which contains mercury. However, a synthetic pigment called cadmium red was developed to replace vermilion because of the toxicity of mercury.

Vertical Balance

The distribution of visual weights in a piece, so that top and bottom seem to be in equilibrium.

Video Art

A genre of art involving moving imagery and audio-visual technology to produce videotapes for viewing on a television screen. This form of art gained rapid popularity in the ’60s and ’70s with the widespread availability of inexpensive videotape recorders.


viewfinder graphicA tool used to look through to compose an image. This tool helps select the most interesting composition to be found in a larger image by cropping out unwanted perimeters. In photography, a viewfinder is what the photographer looks through to compose, and in many cases to focus, the picture (see illustration). For more information, see the article titled Making and Using a Viewfinder to Compose Better Paintings.


An image or painting where the borders are undefined and seem to fade away gradually until it blends into the background.


violetOne of the secondary colors that is created when the two primary colors of red and blue are mixed. See “Secondary Colors.” The complement or opposite of the color yellow. The color of violet is named for the violet flower from which the color is derived.

Viridian Viridian

A darker blue-green pigment composed of more green than blue falling between teal and green on the color wheel. Viridian takes its name from the Latin Viridis, meaning “green.”

Visionary Art

Art that transcends what lies beyond the boundary of the physical and scientific world to portray a broader vision of awareness, including themes of spiritual, mystical, or inner awareness as seen or experienced in the images of dreams or trances.

Visual Art

A form of artwork, such as painting, drawing, photography, printmaking, ceramics, crafts, or sculpture, created primarily for visual perception and exists in permanent form.

Visual Artist

A practitioner of one or more of the visual arts.

Visual Communication

The communication of ideas through the graphical display of information. Primarily associated with two-dimensional images, it includes alphanumeric, art, signs, and electronic resources. Recent research in the field has focused on web design and graphically oriented usability.

Visual Economy (in art)

The removal of all non-essential or unimportant elements and details that do not contribute to the essence of the overall composition. Its purpose is to allow what is most important to be the main focal point. The concept of simplicity is that a good composition is the most simple or straightforward solution to the design problem. This design principle is also called “simplicity.”

Visual Texture

visual texture
A good example of visual texture in art. Click image for a closer look. Painting by Teresa Bernard.

Refers to the perceived smoothness and flatness of surfaces in photographs and paintings. Artists create the illusion of texture by using elements like line, shading, and color to create patterns. These textures are created by repeating lines, dots, or shapes, and can be varied in size, density, and orientation to achieve desired effects. Despite 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.

Visualization Design

A process that aims to make information more understandable and visually appealing by converting complex ideas into simpler representations. Visualization design bridges the gap between quantitative and qualitative data through visual means, transforming data into compelling visuals like charts and diagrams.

This process involves carefully selecting images, typography, spacing, layout, and color to improve the design’s aesthetic appeal and and usefulness. Key aspects of visualization design include charts, graphs, histograms, maps, plots, timelines, tables, word clouds, diagrams, and matrices. Effective data visualization improves communication and decision-making, going beyond aesthetics to optimize user experience and conversion.


The amount of space that a physical element or object occupies.

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!