Elements of Art (EOA)

A design is an arrangement, a way of organizing something. In arts and crafts, even though we use many different materials, the visual appearance (that is what our eye sees and our brain decodes) can be reduced to six ELEMENTS of ART (EOA). They are line, shape, form, space, color, and texture. They are what we organize. They are the tools.

EOA and POD should be part of every artwork you create – they are the foundation of the “underpinnings of artistic expression.” Understanding and using these in your planning, your artworks and your art writing are ESSENTIAL to our art course.  Check out this slide show for a quick overview.


indexLines are everywhere. You can see lines in the grain of a piece of wood or in the cracks on a sidewalk.

In art, Line is an element of art that is the path of a moving point through space.

Lines are used to:

  • Create boundaries between shapes
  • Create boundaries between colours, textures or values
  • Lead the eye from one space to another
  • Create textures
  • Suggest emotional qualities

senatus_Z0QoLD_displaywideLines can VARY in 5 ways:  length, width, texture, direction and degree of curve.

An Outline is a line that shows or created the outer edges of a shape

Implied lines are a series of points that the viewer’s eyes automatically connect.  Implied lines are suggested rather than real lines; a series of dots or dashes or a trail of wet footprints can create an implied line.711992_2222829_lz

 The 5 Basic Kinds of Lines are: vertical, horizontal, diagonal, curved and zig-zag

  • Vertical and Horizontal lines are considered static.  Vertical can show dignity and formality.  Vertical express feelings of peace and stability.
  • Curved, Diagonal and Zig-Zag are considered active. Curved lines express activity. The larger the curve, the calmer the line appears.  A spiral can be hypnotic.
  • Diagonal lines express instability, tension and excitement.  Zig-zag lines can create confusion and intensity.

SHAPEartwork 2010 002

Rocks, puddles, flowers, shirts, houses, chairs, and paintings are all shapes and forms.

A Shape is a two dimensional area that is defined in some way.  It may have an outline or a boundary around it or you may recognize it by its area.

Shapes are geometric or free form (organic)

Geometric forms are precise shapes that can be described using mathematical formulas (square, rectangle, triangle, circle, hexagon)

Free form shapes are irregular and uneven shapes.  They often occur in nature.  We can also call them organic; a leaf, a puddle.



A form is an object that has 3 dimensions.  Like shapes, forms can be geometric or free form.   Like shapes, they have length and width, but forms also have depth.


steel objects in the sea There are many categories of forms.  Architectural forms refer to buildings.   Natural formsoccur in nature.  Geometric forms have a geometric shape as a base.  Abstract forms can also be called free from or geometric and have no reference to any geometric shape.  Realistic formsa18a_MyOriginalBasicFormsFromLesson1re 3D objects which may be geometric or freeform, but is a recognizable form, such as a chair.

Shapes can become Forms with shading or perspective.  A circle can become a sphere or a cylinder.  A square becomes a cube.  A triangle becomes a pyramid or a cone.



Rockets move through outer space.  People move through inner space of rooms and buildings.

Space is the element of art that refers to the emptiness or area between, around, above, below or within objects. All objects take up space.  You, for example, are a living, breathing form moving through space.

In 2D and 3D art, we call the shape or form positive space.  The empty spaces around the shape are called negative space. In 2D art, artists use space to create an illusion of depth.

  • Changes in value: the closest area is the b1154017345rightest while the shaded or dark areas show areas farther away.
  •  Colour: the brightest is the closest, the dullest or lightest further away.
  • Detail: objects with clear sharp edges and visible details seem closer than blurred or hazy forms in the distance.
  • Overlapping: when objects are partially obscured by other objects in front of them, we think they are further back.index3
  • Perspective: 1 point, 2 point and 3 point defines space using a horizon line and a vanishing point.



hennah - texture.spiritualhealinTexture refers to how things feel or look as if they might feel if touched.

Some adjectives used to describe textures are smooth, soft, fine, rough, fuzzy, sharp, prickly, billowy, hard, bumpy.

When you actually touch something it is called tactile or actual texture.  You can touch the texture of a smooth surface or an uneven rough surface of a painting.  A collage is a picture created with many different types tactile texture.textureCollageSongForgottenMemory

When you see something and you can guess or remember how those objects feel, that is visual, implied or simulated texture; the illusion of a three dimensional surface.

2364540555_573aebc6e4The artist tries to draw or paint objects so that they appear to have texture.  He/she will attempt to make the silk look shiny or a rock look rough and coarse.  Artists do this in 2D art using various types of marks, techniques, tools and media.  Some ways of creating texture are:


Tennis Shoes Value Drawing, Feb. 2010Value is the amount of light reflected from an object’s surface and is represented by varying amounts of lightness and darkness.

It can be controlled by either adding white or black to create tints or shades or by adding its complement to a colour to reduce its brightness.

Shading_Techniques_by_Yukina_Kun62Value can be used to change a flat 2D shape into a 3D form.  Objects are generally lightest at the part closest to the light source, and become darker as they recede from the light.  If an object is rounded, the value will gradually change from light to dark.

In drawing, Value can be added by using shading: hatching, cross hatching, smudging, stippling, smudging, scribbles, etc.

Value Scale can be used to test a medium for range of values.  To lighten add WHITE, this is called TINTING.  To darken add BLACK, this is called SHADING



Colour is everywhere.  We see it in the blue of the sky, the yellow, reds and oranges of the changing autumn leaves, the green of the grass, and the black of the night.  Colour is derived from reflected light.

colour_wheel-artyfactoryThe Colour Wheel is an effective way of organizing colours.

 Primary colours are pure colours and  cannot be made by mixing from any other colour.  Red. Blue. Yellow.

Secondary colours are created by mixing two of the primary colours together. Orange. Green. Purple.

Mix each primary colour with its neighbouring secondary, and the result is a Tertiary colour; yellow-green. yellow-orange.

BLACK is the combination of ALL colours.  WHITE is the ABSENCE of colour.

Colour-Swatch4-Warm-Colourshue is the name of a colour in the colour spectrum, such as red, blue, or yellow.   A shade is a colour with black added to darken it.  A tint is a colour with white added to lighten it.

    • Warm colours have a root of red, suggesting heat: mixtures ofred, orange or yellow.
    • Cool colours have the root of blue, suggesting coldness: mixtures of blue, green or purple
    • Colour-Swatch5-Cool-ColoursMonochromatic is one colour plus white and black.
    • Complementary colours are opposite each other on the colour wheel.  Red and Green.  Yellow andPurple.
    • Analogous colours are a group of colours beside each otheron the colour wheel.  Blue, green and yellow.  Yellow, orange and red.


For more information you can check out the Getty Museum’s explanation of EOA