Art Terms and Definitions — V

art terms wordlist

VALUE     |     VOLUME

Quick links to more art terms and definitions are located at the end of the list.


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

Value Contrast (in art)

Refers to the difference between light and dark. It is based on the relative lightness or darkness of a color, regardless of hue. It plays a crucial role in creating depth, three-dimensionality, and visual interest. Value contrast can be used to make an object appear closer or further away, as well as to convey drama or movement.

Value Relativity

In art, refers to the placement of different values next to each other creating a contrast between them.

Value Scale

In the art world, a value scale is an essential tool for artists. It assists in organizing and comprehending tonal values by representing them on a grayscale. For information on how to create a value scale, click the link.

Vanishing Point

art terms wordlist

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


example of Vanitas

A 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.

Variety (in art)

Refers to the use of different elements, techniques, and design to create visual interest and intrigue. It prevents an artwork from becoming monotonous and boring and is essential for maintaining a rich visual experience. The principle of variety in art involves the use of different forms, textures, colors, and other elements to create interest and contrast. By incorporating a variety of shapes, textures, colors, and other elements, art becomes more dynamic and eye-catching, attracting viewers and enhancing the overall quality of the artwork.


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 are editable through the manipulation of their lines and segments, allowing for the resizing and repositioning of the entire image. They can be scaled up or down without any degradation in resolution, maintaining clarity at any size.


(Italian for “view”; pl: vedute) refers to a highly detailed, typically large-scale painting, drawing, or etching that portrays a cityscape, township, or other urban scene. These pieces of art offer accurate depictions of urban landscapes, skillfully capturing streets, buildings, and other details, as well as the overall ambiance of a location.


Refers to painters who specialize in creating “vedute.” Also see the art term “venduta.”


art terms wordlist

A 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.

Victorian Classicism

See “Classicism.”

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 graphic

A 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.

Viking Art

An art form that flourished during the Viking Age (8th to 11th centuries CE) and was created by Scandinavian Norsemen. Viking art, which consists primarily of objects, shares design characteristics with Celtic, Germanic, Romanesque, and Eastern European traditions. Current knowledge of Viking art is primarily based on archaeological discoveries such as jewelry, weapons, and runestones. Also known as “Norse art.”



A secondary color formed by mixing the primary colors red and blue. 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.



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 marine
A good example of visual texture in art, Boat Fenders 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.

Visual Weight

An important concept in the realm of art and design, visual weight refers to the amount of attention a specific element or area in a composition attracts to itself. Contrast, color, size, and shape all have an effect on visual weight because it affects the balance and harmony of an image making some elements may appear heavier or lighter than others. Thus, visual weight is essential for achieving balance, harmony, and visual hierarchy in artistic works.

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 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.

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This art terms wordlist is provided as a valuable resource for art enthusiasts. If you like the information here and find it helpful, please consider purchasing a painting. Your support helps to cover the cost of keeping this art thesaurus online. Simply click or tap the thumbnail link of any Teresa Bernard oil painting to view additional details.

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Van Gogh’s Church
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Lightning Strikes
12″ w x 9″ h

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Contributing to The Art Dictionary

The art terms wordlist 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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