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Re: Elements and Principles - My 2 cents


Date: Thu Apr 22 2004 - 19:19:09 PDT

An orderly arrangement of elements using the principles of design
The principles of design help you to carefully plan and organize the elements
of art so that you will hold interest and command attention. This is
sometimes referred to as visual impact.
In any work of art there is a thought process for the arrangement and use of
the elements of design. The artist who works with the principles of good
composition will create a more interesting piece of art it will be arranged to
show a pleasing rhythm and movement. The center of interest will be strong and
the viewers will not look away, instead, they will be drawn into the work. A
good knowledge of composition is essential in producing good artwork. Some
artists today like to bend or ignore these rules and therefore are experimenting
with different forms of expression. We think that composition is very
important. The following will assist you in understanding the basics of a good
Elements of Art
Line- is a mark on a surface that describes a shape or outline. It can create
texture and can be thick and thin. Types of line can include actual,
implied, vertical, horizontal, diagonal and contour lines.
Color- refers to specific hues and has 3 properties, Chroma, Intensity and
Value. The color wheel is a way of showing the chromatic scale in a circle
using all the colors made with the primary triad. Complimentary pairs can produce
dull and neutral color. Black and white can be added to produce tints (add
white), shades (add black) and tones (add gray).
Texture- is about surface quality either tactal or visual. Texture can be
real or implied by different uses of media. It is the degree of roughness or
smoothness in objects.
Shape- is a 2-dimensional line with no form or thickness. Shapes are flat and
can be grouped into two categories, geometric and organic.
Form-is a 3-dimensional object having volume and thickness. It is the
illusion of a 3-D effect that can be implied with the use of light and shading
techniques. Form can be viewed from many angles.
Value- is the degree of light and dark in a design. It contrasts black and
white and all the tones in between. Value can be used with color as well as
black and white. Contrast is the extreme changes between values.
Size- refers to variations in the proportions of objects, lines or shapes.
There is a variation of sizes in objects either real or imagined.

Principles of Composition
The Principles of design are the recipe for a good work of art. The
principles combine the elements to create an aesthetic placement of things that will
produce a good composition. You can use the principles to check your
composition to see if it has good structure.
Center of interest- is an area that first attracts attention in a
composition. This area is more important when compared to the other objects or elements
in a composition. This can be by contrast of values, more colors, and
placement in the format.
Balance- is a feeling of visual equality in shape, form, value, color, etc.
Balance can be symmetrical (even balance) or asymmetrical (un-even balance).
Objects, values, colors, textures, shapes, forms, etc., can be used in
creating a balance in a composition.
Harmony- brings together a composition with similar units. If your
composition was using wavy lines and organic shapes you would stay with those types of
lines and not put in just one geometric shape.
Contrast- offers some change in value creating a visual discord in a
composition. Contrast shows the difference between shapes and can be used as a
background to bring objects out and forward in a design. It can also be used to
create an area of emphasis.
Directional Movement- is a visual flow through the composition. It can be the
suggestion of motion in a design as you move from object to object by way of
placement and position. Directional movement can be created with a value
pattern. It is with the placement of dark and light areas that you can move your
attention through the format.

Rhythm- is a movement in which some elements recur regularly. Like a dance
it will have a flow of objects that will seem to be like the beat of music.
The Principles of Composition are the results of your working with the
Elements of Art. Use them in every piece of art you do and you will be happy with
the results.
Ken Schwab

Art teacher
Leigh High School
San Jose CA