The Seven Elements of Art


 The Elements of Art are the tools of the artist.  Together with the Principles of Design, they form the visual language that the artist uses to communicate ideas in a work of art.


Click here for a printable handout of terms and definitions.

Elements of Art Word Web Handout


LINE is a continuous point in space. 

  • Types of lines: STRAIGHT and CURVED

  • Directions of lines: VERTICAL, HORIZONTAL and DIAGONAL

  • Lines can have VARIATIONS: length, width, space between the lines.


SHAPE is an area defined by an outline or edge.  It is two-dimensional: length and width.

 There are 2 kinds of shapes: GEOMETRIC and IRREGULAR.

  • GEOMETRIC SHAPES are triangles, squares, rectangles, circles or other polygon figures that can be measured mathematically.

  • IRREGULAR SHAPES are non-geometric and can’t be measured mathematically.


FORM is an object with three-dimensions – length, width and DEPTH

  •  It is defined mass which occupies and contains physical space

  •  Geometric shapes become forms when depth is added: circles become spheres, squares become cubes, and triangles become pyramids.

  •  Irregular shapes become “free” or “organic” forms.

SPACE  is the open parts between, inside, or surrounding shapes or forms. In two-dimensional art it can refer to the feeling of depth. 

  • There are two kinds of SPACE in a work of art: POSITIVE and NEGATIVE

  • POSITIVE SPACES are the area of a surface occupied by a shape or form – the main idea of the artwork

  • NEGATIVE SPACES are the spaces surrounding the forms - supports the main idea

VALUE is the lights and darks of a color.  There are:

  • TINTS – the light values, when white is added to a color

  • SHADES – the dark values, when black is added to a color

TEXTURE is how the surface feels or looks like it would feel if we could touch it.  There are two types or texture in art:

  •  ACTUAL TEXTURE – how something actually feels

  • VISUAL or IMPLIED TEXTURE – how it appears to feel, or looks like it would feel if we could touch it.

COLOR is derived from reflected light.  Light waves are reflected from objects to your eye.  As an artist we use pigments in the form of powder or liquid paints to create color.

  •  HUE refers to the name of the color

  •  INTENSITY is the brightness or dullness of a color

  • NEUTRAL colors represent earth tones, grays and browns

  •  The COLOR WHEEL is a tool used to organize color.  It is made up of:

  • PRIMARY COLORS – Red, yellow, blue are the traditional primaries.  (Magenta, cyan and yellow are the new color wheel primaries) These colors are the basic foundation colors from which others are formed.

  •  SECONDARY COLORS – Orange, green and violet.  These colors are made by mixing primary colors.

  • INTERMEDIATE or TERTIARY COLORS – red-orange, yellow-green, blue-violet, etc.  These colors are made by mixing a primary and an intermediate color.


  • MONOCHROMATIC is where one color is used but in different values and intensities.

  • COMPLEMENTARY colors are OPPOSITE each other on the color wheel.  When placed next to each other they contrast.  When mixed together, they neutralize each other to form a brown.

  • ANALOGOUS colors are colors that are NEXT to each other on the color wheel that share at least one common color.  For example: red, red-orange, and orange are analogous colors.


Click on the links below to find out more about the Elements of Art & Principles of Design

Websites about the Elements of Art

Arts Connected ToolKit Elements of Art, Principles of Design

The Elements of Art from the Getty Museum.  This site is missing the Element VALUE!

Learn about Color at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Elements of Art defined from

A Lifetime of Color defines the Elements of Art

Principles of Design

The Principles of Design from A Lifetime of Color