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Re:elements and principles


Date: Sun Mar 09 2003 - 14:21:14 PST

These are the things I teach for the elements and principles of design.

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 is the contrast
between 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

Size- refers to variations in the proportions of objects, lines or shapes.
There is a variation of sizes in objects either real or imagined.

These elements are used to create the Principles of Design. Principles are
the results of using the Elements. When you are working in a particular
format (size and shape of the work surface) the principles are used to create
interest, harmony and unity to the elements that you are using. You can use
the Principles of design to check your composition to see if it has good

Principles of Compositional Design-

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 design.

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 or evenly balanced or asymmetrical and un-evenly
balanced. 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 recurs regularly. Like a dance
it will have a flow of objects that will seem to be like the beat of music.

The Principles of design 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

These are the things I teach for the elements and principles of design.

Ken Schwab

Art teacher, Leigh high school, San Jose, CA
website: Leigh Art