What Are the Elements of Art?
The elements of art are line, shape, form, space, texture, value and colour. Artists manipulate
these elements, mix them in with principles of design and compose a piece of art. Not every
work has every last one of these elements contained within it, but there are always at least
two present. For example, a sculptor, by default, has to have both form and space in a
sculpture, because these elements are three-dimensional. They can also be made to appear in
two-dimensional works through the use of perspective and shading
Why Are the Elements of Art Important
Why are the elements of art important? The elements of art are important for several
reasons. A person can't create art without utilizing at least a few of them. Also, knowing what
the elements of art are enables us to describe what an artist has done and analyze what is
going on in a particular piece and then communicate our thoughts and findings using a
Knowing these elements will allow you to analyze, appreciate, write and chat about art, as
well as being of help should you create art your self.
Lines are not only those we draw with pens and pencils. In art they can be positions of bodies,
objects or images and even a glance seen in someone’s eyes
For example, can you see the invisible line coming from this girl’s eyes? Where does it point?
See how your eyes follow along this glancing line. There are three major categories of lines:
VERTICAL, HORIZONTAL, and DIAGONAL.
Our responses to them in art are often related to when our bodies are in those positions, or to
things we see and experience in nature. For example, we understand the rigid feeling of a
strong vertical line when we place our body at attention, or the calm, restful feeling we have
when we lie down horizontally.
VERTICAL lines imply that our body is stiff, dignified, formal or still. Consequently, when
we see a very upright figure in Egyptian art, we project our feelings and accurately envision a
regal, important figure
HORIZONTAL lines in art give us calm, quiet feelings, because they bring ideas of sleep
and rest. If an artist wanted to show a composed, peaceful setting, many horizontal lines
would help elicit this effect from the viewer.
DIAGONAL lines are the most active. They imply movement, tension, sometimes
violence. Imagine a jogger whose legs and arms are formed into zigzags by diagonals. The
whole thrust of a runner’s body is forward—on yet another diagonal.
Remember these qualities of the three types of lines as you view works of art. They’ll help you
get more in tune with what the artist is trying to express.
Colours have great appeal to us and can exert powerful forces upon viewers. Artists use that
power and appeal in many ways, so Colour is a complex element. Here are some basic
concepts that will help you deal immediately with this important component.
Purest colours are found in white light. White light, from the sun or artificial light sources,
contains within it all colours in their unadulterated form. The pure colours from light are
typified by the rainbow, sometimes referred to as the colours of the spectrum. They are red,
orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. You should be aware that these “prismatic”
colours from white light are not the same as “pigmental” man-made colours, and some
different properties and rules apply to their use.
People have not always been able to paint with light, so we have developed colours from
nature’s materials, or pigments. Pig mental colours can be arranged into the colour wheel so
we can see major colour relationships useful in art. Since almost all the colours you see in art
are pig mental colours, it will help you to know their unique properties and relationships.
Colours are described in art by three characteristics: hue, value and intensity. Hue simply
refers to a colour’s name—red, blue, pink, mauve, etc.
Value, or tone, refers to the colour’s lightness or darkness. You can achieve a range of
differing values from one colour by lightening or darkening it with other colours or the
neutrals, black and white. For example, a light value of red is pink; a dark value of red is
maroon or burgundy. (There is much more to say about Value in art. This will be discussed in
Intensity refers to a colour’s purity that is, how bright or dull it is. When colours are mixed,
like in creating different values, they lose their intensity.
All pig mental colours can be mixed from three primary colours—red, yellow and blue. Green,
orange and purple are “secondary colours,” and when used or mixed together with primaries,
they create even more colours called the tertiary colours. Placing the colours on a colour
wheel, you can easily see a variety of useful associations. For example, analogous colours
(those colours next to each other on the colour wheel), since they are “related,” by sharing a
colour, can create a restful, calm feeling in the viewer.
Colours at opposite points on the colour wheel, termed “complementary” colours, arouse a
very different reaction since they “contrast.” You can see how an artist could project the idea
of tension, aggression, or agitation simply by manipulating the colour choices in his or her
work. To test this attitude from an illusory image, place a large piece of green paper next to a
large piece of red and stare at them intently. Soon they will appear to vibrate, as the opposing
colours compete within your eyes.
Other illusions colours produce are created by the viewer’s response to them, sometimes
based upon his or her own experiences in nature or environmental circumstances. Some
colours “feel” warm and some “feel” cool, usually because we relate them to what we’ve
experienced in living, like the heat of the yellow sun or red flames. Warm colours seem to
advance toward our eyes and cool colours seem to recede. Red also seems active, vital and
exciting, perhaps because it’s the colour of blood, and reminds us of our early hunting
ancestry. Consider the fact that when we view nature, the backdrop behind the scene is often
a cool blue sky.
Our feelings about colour even “colour” our speech. We’ve all heard, “I was so mad I could see
red!” But why are we “green with envy?” Why is truth “blue?” Artists know what strong
emotions colours evoke and some artists use colour as a powerful vehicle to express and
release their own deep feelings. Whatever the rationales for our responses to colours, we’re
touched psychologically, and artists through the ages have manipulated our emotions by their
use of colours.
Now that you know the basics about Colour, click here to practice what you know.
Important Colour Relationships
When you understand colour relationships, you’ll begin to have fun expressing just the right
message using colour in any creative project. Use the colour wheel to find these:
These colours are opposite from each other on the colour wheel and are very vibrant and
active when used together because they stimulate our eye and get our attention. Perhaps
that’s why we use red and green for traffic lights, for example. To find complementary
colours, draw a line from one colour directly across the center of the colour wheel to its
complement. You’ll see that a line from red will lead to green. Now find the complements of
yellow and blue.
Analogous colours are next to each other on the colour wheel. If you wanted a more subdued
colour scheme, you’d want to select colours that have something in common, like yellow,
yellow-green and green, rather than the vibrancy of the complementary colours. Circle
another group of analogous colours using the colour wheel.
Colour always has three characteristics, which are hue, value, and the intensity.
Hue means the shades, value refers to the lightness or the darkness and intensity refers to the
brightness or dullness of the work of art.
PRIMARYAND SECONDARY COLOURS
Primary Colours - These are colours that cannot be created through the mixing of other colours. They are c
their own right. The three primary colours can be seen below RED - YELLOW - BLUE.
What is a secondary
Answer: Orange, green, and purple are secondary colours. They are created
by mixing two of the three primary colours together
secondary colors are made by mixing two primary colors together: red and
yellow to get orange, yellow and blue to get green, or red and blue to get
purple. The secondary color you get depends on the proportions in which
you mix the two primaries. If you mix three primary colors together, you get
a tertiary color. Secondary colors are made by mixing two primary colors
together. Red and yellow make orange; red and blue make purple; yellow
and blue make green.If then these secondary colours are mixed, they
produce what are called 'Tertiary Colours'
Secondary colours are what can be made from mixing two of the three
primary colours. This is more easily explained below:
Red + Blue = Purple
Red + Yellow = Orange
Blue + Red = Purple
Blue + Yellow = Green
Yellow + Red = Orange
Yellow + Blue = Green
THE COLOURS WHEEL
The Color Wheel shows the relationships between the colors.
The three primary colors are red, yellow, and blue; they are the only colors that
cannot be made by mixing two other colors.
The three secondary colors are green, orange, and violet; they are each a
mixture of two primary colors. Their hue is halfway between the two primary
colors that were used to mix them. On the color wheel, the secondary colors are
located between the colors they are made from.
The six tertiary colors (red-orange, red-violet, yellow-green, yellow-orange,
blue-green and blue-violet) are made by mixing a primary color with an
adjacent secondary color. On the color wheel, the tertiary colors are located
between the primary and secondary colors they are made from.
Black, white and gray are not true colors (or hues). They are considered to be
neutral, achromatic colors.
Value refers to how light or dark a color appears. To make a color lighter in
value, white is added. A light color is called a tint of the original hue. For
example, pink is a tint of red. To make a color darker in value, black is added. A
dark color is called a shade of the original hue. Maroon is a shade of red.
Confusion sometimes arises from the terms “shape” and
“form.” A “shape” is an area which stands out because of a
defined boundary or change in colour, value or texture. A shape
implies a flat, two-dimensional surface
Here we see some circular shapes combined with curving and diagonal
lines. By applying charcoal in varying degrees of value (chiaroscuro), an
artist can create the illusion of a three-dimensional form where none
When an artist adds illusion is tic features such as chiaroscuro
(value) to the shape, the illusion of a surrounding space or
atmosphere is created. Then we use the term “form,” since the
artist is implying three-dimensions.
Shapes and Forms have interesting relationships to each other,
and to the surrounding area. A good way of describing these
relationships is by looking at the “figure / ground” or
“positive / negative” interplay.
The area surrounding the image is the “ground,” while the
image itself is the “figure.” “Negative” space refers to the
“ground” while “positive” space refers to the “figure.”
Some artists, like Matisse, delighted in playing with “figure /
ground” or “positive / negative” relationships in their works.
You can see how appealing this play would be by looking
carefully at the cut outs to the left. See how the red hearts
become positive shapes against the white table, but how they
become negative shapes where they’ve been cut out of the red
In this example, the background moves into the figure and helps