J O H N   C H I A P P O N E

Elements of Art  |  Principles of Art  |  Definitions  |  Guide

Download Printable Summary


The Elements and Principles of Art Video




The elements of art are a set of techniques that describe ways of presenting artwork. They are combined with the principles of art in the production of art.

The elements of art include: shape, form, line, point, color, value,  texture, and space.



Shapes are not to be confused with forms. Forms are three-dimensional.

Shapes are two-dimensional representation of objects. Shapes have height and length only.

Here are some examples of shapes:



Form is the three-dimensional counterpart to shape. There are two types of form: Illusionary form is created through the use of concepts such as perspective in order to show form on a two-dimensional work. Real form is the form seen in sculpture and other three-dimensional art.


Here are some examples of forms:







In geometry a line has no thickness. If a line had thickness, it would be a rectangle. No such lines exist in nature because they cannot be perceived.  This is not what we mean by a line in art. In art there are many types of lines:

  1. Actual line: In art a line is drawn by pen, pencil, or other implement. It has thickness, length, and is a continuous mark. It may be straight, curved, or dashed.

  2. Contour line: an outline, or internal line, that defines the shape or form of an object.

  3. Implied or Psychic line: This is not an actual physical line; it's suggested or psychological. When pointing at something, the eye travels from the hand to the object as if on a line. This is an example of an implied line.


How many different lines do you see?




A point is a pixel of color - not to be confused with the point in geometry. In geometry a point has location - but no extension. Since this notion of a point cannot be perceived, it has nothing to do with art.



Light and Color




Synesthesia is a neurological condition. The stimulation of one sensory pathway or cognitive pathway leads to an involuntary experience in a second sensory or cognitive pathway. People who have synesthesia are called synesthetes. They might see sounds, letters, and numbers as having specific colors.


0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Scriabin's Keyboard


 Complementary colors are opposite on the color star.

 Complementary colors mixed 50/50 make gray.

 Adding white to a color is a tint.

 Adding black to a color is a shade.



Primary Colors

The primary colors are red, yellow and blue. These colors are used to create secondary and tertiary (intermediate) colors.

Secondary Colors

Secondary colors are made by mixing two primary colors together - 50/50. The secondary colors are:

  1. Orange - made by mixing red and yellow

  2. Green - made by mixing blue and yellow

  3. Violet - made by mixing blue and red

Intermediate or Tertiary Colors

Tertiary colors are made by mixing a secondary and a primary color together. Some examples are blue-green and red-violet.

Warm, Cool, and Neutral Colors

Warm colors are the different shades of red, yellow, and orange. They convey the feeling of warmth.


Cool colors are shades of blue, green, and violet. They convey feelings of coolness and quiet.


Neutral colors are also called earth tones. They're the colors of black, white, gray, brown, beige, and tan. These colors can be made by either mixing the complimentary colors, all of the primaries, or mixing black and white.

Complementary Colors

Complementary colors are on the opposite sides of the color wheel. They contrast each other, and make each other appear brighter - adding energy to an artwork. The complementary colors are:

  1. Red and Green

  2. Yellow and Violet

  3. Blue and Orange


Sometimes combined with color, value describes the lightness (tint) or darkness (shade) of a color.


Value is often the single most important element in painting and drawing. It is the changing values in pictures that make two-dimensional shapes look like three-dimensional forms.







Texture can be either real or perceived. Tactile texture is how an artwork actually feels, while implied texture is how an artwork appears to feel.


Jennifer Maestre




Margaret Wertheim - Hyperbolic Space




Ikebana Floral Design  Japanese culture places a strong emphasis on negative space.

Positive space is the space occupied by objects. Negative space is the area around objects, between objects, above, below or within objects. Space can be described as either two-dimensional or three-dimensional. View Michael Heizer's work.

The space in two dimensional artworks such as paintings, drawings, prints and photographs (flat space) is essentially limited to height and width. While there is no actual depth or distance in such works, artists have created techniques to create the illusion of depth or distance on flat surfaces. The following represents some of those techniques:

  • The most prominent of these techniques is the application of linear perspective. Through this application distant objects are rendered proportionately smaller than closer ones. The determining factors of this space depends upon the horizon line and vanishing points.

  • Another of the more prominent techniques is known as atmospheric perspective. This application renders distant objects and spaces with less detail and intensity than closer objects. For example, the use of bluer colors for distant shapes can suggest space between the viewer and the shapes.

  • The placement of objects can give the illusion of space. Distant shapes are higher and closer shapes are lower in the picture plane.

  • Overlapping of objects on the picture plane can suggest space.

Through these techniques, the artist appears to destroy the flatness of the picture plane, transporting the viewer into what appears to be a world of actual space.

Three dimensional space is recognized as having height, width, depth, and is referred to as actual space. This would include sculpture, furniture, architecture, ceramics and jewelry. In the setting of a three dimensional work of art the viewer can freely move around and (in the case of architecture) through it. Three dimensional art may use both positive and negative space as a means of revealing content and meaning. For example, in sculpture the spaces in and around the form can be described as negative space. Whereas the form itself may be described as occupying a positive space. Another way to consider distinctions of positive and negative space can be equated as the presence of physical material = positive; or in the absence of it = negative. The consideration of how the artist uses both positive and negative space in the articulation of their expression is an important factor.


What elements dominate these paintings?


Student Gallery


Copyright © 2018