Principles and Elements of Design


Principles and Elements of Design


Whether you are creating a spread or creating a piece of art the principles and elements of design are the building blocks in creating a masterpiece. They are the things that make up a work of art.


The Elements of Design 


Line can be either the mark that is deliberately made with a tool, the edge of a form, or the edge created when two shapes meet.


A shape is an enclosed area typically defined by other elements such as colour or texture. There are positive shapes, those that occupy space, and negative shapes, the area surrounding the shapes


All lines have direction. A Horizontal line suggests calmness, stability and tranquility. Vertical lines give a feeling of balance, formality and alertness. Oblique suggests movement and action.


Is simply the relationship of one object to another or the space an object occupies in a composition. 


Is the surface quality of a shape, it can be rough, smooth, soft, hard, or even glossy. Texture can be physical or implied (visual). 


Value is how dark or light a colour is depicted (or how much black or white is added). Value is sometimes called tone, tint and shade.


The Principles of Design



A large shape close to the center can be balanced by a small shape close to the edge. A large light toned shape will be balanced by a small dark toned shape. The darker the shape the heavier it appears.


Contrast in opposite colours on the colour wheel – red/green

Contrast in tone or value- light/dark

Contrast in direction – horizontal/ vertical


Dominance gives a composition interest, counteracting confusion and monotony. It can be applied to one or more elements to give emphasis.


Gradation occurs when something changes incrementally. A gradation from dark to light will cause the eye to move along a shape, it can also add interest and movement to a shape.


Harmony can be created using adjacent colours on the colour wheel or similar shapes; it is a visually satisfying effect of combining similar related elements.


Repetition is when something is duplicated multiple times in sequence, with variations repetition can be interesting


Unity is created when the design elements relate to the idea in the painting or spread.

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