s.arts elements+principles

theory topics


design elements

the building blocks of art works


Colour communicates both optically, and emotionally.


Identify primary or secondary, warm and cool colours, and harmonious or complementary colours. Discuss tonal values creation of depth.


Consider the symbolic meanings of colours and how they make us feel. Consider the role of colour in Hierarchy.



Shape refers to a two dimensional enclosure.


Identify organic, natural or biomorphic shapes that remind us of nature. Geometric, rectalinear, sharp, hard edged or man-made shapes remind us of mechanical things.

Shapes express different emotions, explain them.



Identify a kind of line. They can be organic or straight, natural geometric. They can also be light, thick, sensitive, textured, flowing, jiggered or regular. They can be make by a pen, brush or mechanical instrument.


Lines are used for outlines and lines of composition.



Tone usually emphasises form. Tone creates subtle or dramatic effects. When we shade a drawing to make it look three dimensional we are applying tone.

Tone also describes both light direction and style of light. We can create a harsh or soft light in renderings.



Texture represents the surface. Identify texture as rough and smooth.

We have real texture; that is texture that you would feel with your fingertips, and visual texture; like a lion's coat in a photo.



Identify forms such as a cube, a pyramid and a sphere. Form is created by design elements; shape, tone, line and point. In analysing visual communications we talk less about the role of form and more about the role of these other elements in creating form.



Sound is used in multi media art installations to evoke atmosphere.


Identify the kind of the sound; natural, mechanical, human, animal, music.


Identify the aesthetic quality of the sound; short, long, loud, soft, repeating, sharp, flowing.


Discsuss how sound is used; to narrate, to act as an ambient background, as sound effect - like flowing water.



Contemporary art works including video, screen or multi media installations use refletive or productive light.


Identify the source; natural, flourescent, etc, and the appearance of the light. Is it soft, subtle, constant, repeating, strobe, contrasting, bright or blendng.


Reflected light in paintings is referred to as 'tone'.



Movement in an art workcan be actual or implied.


Actual movement is created by moving parts of an art work or by a sequence of frames in a movie or animation.


Implied movement is created by blur in a photo or horizontal 'speed' lines in an illustration.


Movement is expressive.



Time can refer to a duration of moments seen within one picture, a period that the viewer may be engaged for when interpreting an art work or a reference to 'another time' in a picture. Fusion of time is created when an artwork shows different periods of time in the same picture. Like a 'joiner' picture.

Passage of time is created by a movie that begins and ends at a different points in time. A reference can be another image.





design principles

the strategies of art works


Balance refers to a relationship between two or more components on a vertical or horizontal axis. An axis can be created by lines, shapes, type or images.

Identify symmetrical balance; creating an orderd and stable composition or assymetrical balance; creating a vibrant, dynamic composition.



Contrast is the difference between two or more components of a visual communication.

Identify contrasts between shape, colour, line, form or other elements.



Space is the implied/ created or actual depth in an art work.


Implied or created depth is made through angled lines, shapes, overlapping components, atmospheric perspectve or perspective drawing systems.


Actual depth is created by real 3d components in sculpture or installations. Depth has a relationship with scale. Form also relates with void.



Refers to repeated elements or components within an art work or repeated art works within a bigger art work.


Repeated elements create patterns or units.


Contemporary art works often use an ordered grid of repeated (but slightly different) images to comment on the repeditive nature of human existance.



Scale refers to the relative sizes of similar or same objects in visual communications.


Using differently sized objects together helps create of depth in a composition.


Describe the size of relative components of a composition.

focal point


Related to emphasis, a focal point is a point in a composition that has been emphasised. It can be an actual point made promiment by the use of colour, shape or contrast or an implied point in a composition emphasised by shape, or lines of axis.




Unity is a visual techniqe where strictly chosen desing elements and/ or components of an picture, photograph, film, website or animation work together to create visual consistency and order within the composition.


The use of colour, shape, type, sound, and/or visual style can create unit.



Harmony is related to Unity. Harmony refers to aesthetically pleasing combinations of shapes, line, tones, colours or other components.


Harmonious color refers to colours adjacent each other on the colour wheel. Other harmonious components refers to ones which share similar aesthetic characteristics.



Rhythm refers to the regularity of repetition of marks, colours, shapes or other components within a static artwork, and to the repetition of lights, sounds, movements within a time structure of a kinetic sculpture video and/ or installation.


An artist can create a regular or random/ irregular rhythm according to their intention being expressed.