The elements of art are the building blocks used to create a work of art. They are: Line, Shape, Form, Color, Value, Texture and Space.
A line is an identifiable path created by a point moving in space. It is one-dimensional and can vary in width, direction, and length. Lines often define the edges of a form. Lines can be horizontal, vertical, or diagonal, straight or curved, thick or thin. They lead your eye around the composition and can communicate information through their character and direction.
Shape has only height and width. Shape is usually, though not always, defined by line, which can provide its contour. There are two main types of shape / form: geometric and organic. Geometric shapes and forms include mathematical, named shapes such as squares, rectangles, circles, cubes, spheres, and cones. Geometric shapes and forms are often man-made. However, many natural forms also have geometric shapes. Organic shapes and forms are typically irregular or asymmetrical. Organic shapes are often found in nature, but man-made shapes can also imitate organic forms.
Form has depth as well as width and height. Three-dimensional form is the basis of sculpture and decorative arts. Just like with shapes, forms are either geometric or organic. Adding depth to a shape makes it a form. For example, a triangle is two-dimensional and is a shape, but a pyramid which is three-dimensional, is a form.
Color has three main characteristics: hue (red, green, blue, etc.), value (how light or dark it is), and intensity (how bright or dull it is). Color is a unique language with its own vocabulary. Just like words, color emits emotional energy. The meaning can be changed completely, simply by changing the tone or intensity. Every hue, tint, shade and tone influences our thinking and makes us react in some way. When selecting color schemes, think about how the palette makes you feel and about how you want your viewer to feel.
Value describes the brightness of color. Artists use color value to create different moods. Dark colors can often convey a sense of mystery or foreboding. Light colors often describe a light source. The terms shade and tint refer to value changes in colors. In painting, shades are created by adding black to a color, while tints are created by adding white to a color.
Texture is the surface quality of an object that we sense through touch. Artists can also convey texture visually in a two-dimensional work of art. Texture gives a visual sense of how an object depicted would feel in real life if touched: hard, soft, rough, smooth, hairy, leathery, sharp, etc. Repeating a line or shape is one way to imply texture.
Space in a work of art refers to a feeling of depth or three dimensions. It can also refer to the artist's use of the area within the picture plane. The area around the primary objects in a work of art is known as negative space, while the space occupied by the primary objects is known as positive space.
The Principles of Art represent how the artist uses the elements of art to create an effect and to help convey the artist's intent. The principles of art and design are: balance, contrast, emphasis, movement, pattern, unity and variety. The use of these principles can help determine whether a work of art is successful, and whether or not it is finished.
Balance refers to the equal distribution of weight or force among visual units. It is a sense that the painting feels stable and "feels right." Imbalance can cause a feeling of discomfort in the viewer.
There are 3 main ways balance can be achieved:
Symmetrical Balance: Where the art elements in the composition are balanced in a mirror-like fashion. (it does NOT have to be exact but close)
Asymmetrical Balance: The composition is balanced due to the contrast of any of the elements of art. It could be something as simple as a large gray circle on one side of the composition that is balanced by a small red square on the other side. Here are a few more complex examples:
Radial Balance: A kind of balance where the elements branch out or radiate from a central point.
Contrast is the difference between elements of art in a composition, such that each element is made stronger in relation to the other. Contrast can be achieved by juxtapositions of any of the elements of art. Contrast is one of the best ways to create a focal point or emphasis. Complementary colors placed side by side is an example of contrast.
Emphasis is when the artist creates an area of the composition that is visually dominant and commands the viewer's attention. This is often achieved by contrasting size, color, value, style or shape. Converging lines and isolation can also create emphasis.
Movement is the result of using the elements of art such that they move the viewer's eye around and within the image. A sense of movement can be created by diagonal or curvy lines, by edges, by the illusion of space, by repetition, by energetic mark-making.
Pattern is the uniform repetition of any of the elements of art or any combination thereof. Anything can be turned into a pattern through repetition.
The arrangement of elements to give the viewer the feeling that all the parts of the image form a coherent whole. However, too much unity can create monotony, so make sure to balance unity with variety.
The use of different elements in an image to create visual interest. Just remember that too much unity creates monotony and too much variety creates chaos, you need both. Ideally you want areas of interest in your composition along with places for your eye to rest.