top of page

The Elements of Art & Design

The elements of art are the foundational building blocks that artists use to create visual expressions. These essential components, including line, shape, form, color, value, texture, and space, serve as the vocabulary of visual communication, allowing artists to convey emotions, ideas, and stories through their creative works + Challenge.

Learning the elements of art enhances creativity and visual literacy.


Line is a fundamental element of art, characterized by a continuous mark made on a surface, often created with various tools such as pencils, brushes, or digital devices. Lines can vary in length, width, texture, and direction, and they play a crucial role in defining shapes, creating patterns, and expressing movement. Artists use lines to outline forms, provide structure, and convey emotions or concepts. Whether straight, curved, jagged, or flowing, lines are versatile tools that guide the viewer's eye, establish composition, and communicate the artist's intentions. In art, lines can be used expressively to evoke a wide range of emotions and visual experiences.


Colour, a foundational element of art, is the visual sensation produced by light as it interacts with objects. It comprises three primary characteristics: hue (the name of a colour), value (lightness or darkness), and saturation (intensity). Artists utilize color to evoke emotions, convey meaning, and create visual interest. Colour theory explores relationships between colors, such as complementary, analogous, and triadic schemes, enabling artists to harmonize or contrast hues for desired effects. Whether bold and vibrant or subtle and muted, colour profoundly influences the viewer's perception and emotional response, making it a powerful and expressive tool in the artist's palette.


Form is a fundamental element in art that relates to the three-dimensional quality of objects. It encompasses the physical volume, shape, and structure of an artwork, whether it is a sculpture, installation, or the illusion of depth in a two-dimensional piece. Form gives artworks substance and presence, allowing them to occupy space and interact with light, shadow, and surrounding objects. Artists manipulate form to convey depth, dimension, and texture, creating a visual and tactile experience for the viewer. The interplay between positive and negative space, as well as the arrangement of forms, contributes to the overall composition and impact of an artwork.


Texture is an essential element of art that refers to the tactile quality of a surface or the illusion of texture in a visual artwork. It encompasses both the physical sensation of touch and the visual impression of roughness or smoothness. Artists manipulate texture through various techniques, such as layering paint, applying different materials, or using brushwork to create raised or recessed areas. Texture adds depth, interest, and dimension to an artwork, inviting viewers to engage not only visually but also through touch. It contributes to the overall sensory experience and plays a significant role in conveying mood, realism, and the artist's intended message.



Shape is a fundamental element of art that pertains to the two-dimensional outline or area created by the boundaries of an object or form. It can be geometric, organic, or abstract, defined by lines, colors, or the interaction of elements within a composition. Shapes are the building blocks of art, serving as the foundation for representing objects, patterns, and visual concepts. Artists employ shapes to create structure, balance, and rhythm within their works, allowing viewers to discern and interpret the forms presented. The manipulation of shapes, whether simplified or intricate, is a powerful tool in conveying artistic ideas and stimulating visual engagement.



Tone, an important element of art, encompasses the variations in lightness and darkness within an artwork. It is often referred to as value or shading and is created by manipulating the intensity of light and shadow. Tone plays a pivotal role in rendering depth, form, and volume in two-dimensional artworks, making objects appear three-dimensional. Artists use various techniques, such as hatching, cross-hatching, or blending, to control tone, enhancing the illusion of space and dimensionality. Tone not only influences an artwork's visual impact but also sets the mood, creates contrast, and guides the viewer's perception, contributing to the overall composition and storytelling within the art.



Space, a fundamental element of art, refers to the area or distance between, around, above, below, or within objects and forms in an artwork. It encompasses both positive space (occupied by objects) and negative space (empty or unoccupied areas). Artists use space to create a sense of depth, perspective, and dimensionality within a two-dimensional surface or to define the relationship between objects in three-dimensional works. Manipulating space influences the composition's balance, rhythm, and focal points, allowing for the organization of visual elements. Space also plays a crucial role in setting the overall mood and guiding the viewer's perception and engagement with the artwork.



  1. Look at a chosen object and draw its outline without looking at your paper.

  2. Draw the same object using a single line without any breaks in it.

  3. Use different media, (charcoal, markers, fine line pens) and explore different line types.


  1. Use your favourite medium to create a colour wheel mixing each colour from just the three primary colours. 

  2. Explore warm and cool primary colours to create more colour wheels for each.


  1. draw a 3 dimensional object and pay close attention to the tones and shapes that give it form. Use an artificial light to accentuate the shape.

  2. Observe shadows and tonal changes in your form and identify and draw the soft and hard edged shadows.


  1. Set up a still life with different textures (e.g. soft fur, shiny metallic tins and rough textured bark). Find an equivalent for these surfaces with their mark-making.


  1. Using paint and different types and sizes of brushes to create both geometric and organic shapes.

  2. Look at Dali and see how he has changed the shape of regular objects such as clocks and distorted them, or created another image from the form of another. He also puts obscure objects together in his paintings. Look around the room choose an object to draw in a Dali style, distorting the shape to make an interesting image but still be recognisable.


  1. Create a grayscale tonal scale from pure white to pure black, demonstrating a smooth transition of values in 20 steps.

  2. Using only three tones (light, mid, dark), depict a simple object with emphasis on contrast and tonal balance.


  1. Look at colour to see how it can give a sense of space. For example, often a blue sky will become washed out as it gets close to the horizon and trees get browner as they recede (colour gradation). Draw or paint three trees giving the appearance of receding into the distance. 

  2. Create a shape by painting the area around the shape instead of the shape itself ie the background. Leave the shape blank.

Download Printable Document

Article created by Linda Forrester

Download Document
bottom of page