DESIGN AND COLOUR
elements and principles of design are the building blocks
used to create a work of art. The elements of design can
be thought of as the things that make up a painting,
drawing, design etc. Good or bad - all paintings will
contain most of if not all, the seven elements of design.
Principles of design can be thought of as what we do to
the elements of design. How we apply the Principles of
design determines how successful we are in creating a
work of art.
note - the hyperlinks within the text of this page will open
information in a new browser window. After you have read
that information the window can then be closed leaving
this window open.
ELEMENTS OF DESIGN
Line can be considered in two ways. The linear marks made
with a pen or brush or the edge created when two shapes
A shape is a self contained defined area of geometric or
organic form. A positive shape in a painting
automatically creates a negative shape.
All lines have direction - Horizontal, Vertical or
Oblique. Horizontal suggests calmness, stability and
tranquillity. Vertical gives a feeling of balance,
formality and alertness. Oblique suggests movement and
see notes on direction
Size is simply the relationship of the area occupied by
one shape to that of another.
Texture is the surface quality of a shape - rough,
smooth, soft hard glossy etc. Texture can be physical
(tactile) or visual.
see notes on texture
Also called Hue
see notes on colour
Value is the lightness or darkness of a colour. Value is
also called Tone
see notes on tonal contrast
PRINCIPLES OF DESIGN
Balance in design is similar to balance in
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 to be)
Gradation of size and direction produce linear
perspective. Gradation of of colour from warm to cool and
tone from dark to light produce aerial perspective.
Gradation can add interest and movement to a shape. A
gradation from dark to light will cause the eye to move
along a shape.
Repetition with variation is interesting, without
variation repetition can become monotonous.
The five squares above are all the same. They can be taken in and
understood with a single glance.
When variation is introduced, the five squares, although similar, are
much more interesting to look at. They can no longer be absorbed
properly with a single glance. The individual character of each square
needs to be considered.
If you wish to create interest, any repeating element should include
a degree of variation.
Contrast is the juxtaposition of opposing
elements eg. opposite colours on the colour wheel - red /
green, blue / orange etc. Contrast in tone or value -
light / dark. Contrast in direction - horizontal /
The major contrast in a painting should be located at the
center of interest. Too much contrast scattered
throughout a painting can destroy unity and make a work
difficult to look at. Unless a feeling of chaos and
confusion are what you are seeking, it is a good idea to
carefully consider where to place your areas of maximum
Harmony in painting is the visually satisfying effect of
combining similar, related elements. eg.adjacent colours
on the colour wheel, similar shapes etc.
Dominance gives a painting interest, counteracting
confusion and monotony. Dominance can be applied to one
or more of the elements to give emphasis
Relating the design elements to the the idea being
expressed in a painting reinforces the principal of
unity.eg. a painting with an active aggressive subject
would work better with a dominant oblique direction,
course, rough texture, angular lines etc. whereas a quiet
passive subject would benefit from horizontal lines, soft
texture and less tonal contrast.
Unity in a painting also
refers to the visual linking of various elements of the