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Gr6 Elements-Principles of Design

Page history last edited by Frank Curkovic 7 years, 3 months ago

Visual Elements & Principles of Design


Finding an agreed upon set for the Elements and Principles of Art & Design, can itself be a challenge.

The elements and principles help us create, discuss & evaluate art and design.

For our purposes, we will focus on the ones below.


Try to also keep colour, space, form/shape in mind too.

In photography, especially at Tiamon, also consider how you fill the frame, where you place the horizon line, the rule of thirds, zooming in and perhaps abstract composition.


If you wish, you may download a PDF version of the info below here: UWC-Gr6 Art Visual Elements & Principles of Design.pdf




Definition & Examples


Line can be considered in two ways:

  1. The linear marks made with a pen or brush
  2. or the edge created when two shapes meet

There are many types of lines & different tools can also make different lines.


"Lines have many uses in a photograph. They can divide, unify, or accent certain parts of a composition." (source)


(Photo by Frank Curkovic)


An element that occurs over and over again in a composition.

You can repeat the element in a consistent pattern.

You can repeat the element in a variation of the pattern.

Repetition works with pattern to make the work of art seem active.

The repetition of elements of design creates unity within the work of art.


"Patterns, both natural and man-made, bring a sense of visual rhythm and harmony to photographs that, like a series of repeating notes in a melody, capture the imagination. Patterns appear whenever strong graphic elements—lines, colors, shapes, or forms—repeat themselves." (source)        

(Photos by Frank Curkovic)


Texture is about how things feel to the touch.

There are several different types of textures:

  • rough

  • smooth

  • jagged

  • soft

  • shiny

  • etc

Textures can be real or implied as in the paintings below. Implied means it is painted to look like a certain texture.



"Look at a close-up photo of a weathered old barn board and you almost wince at the imagined pain of catching a sharp splinter. Our memories of how things feel are so ingrained in our consciousness that the mere sight of them brings a vivid sensation of touch. By exploiting textures you can bring a tactile dimension to your photographs.

Framing is important, too, especially when you want to give texture a leading role. By moving in close to an old, weathered face, either physically or with a long lens, you focus the viewer's attention on the wrinkles and crevices." (source) 


(Painting/photos by Frank Curkovic)


Contrast is using elements that conflict with one another.

Contrast can create interest in a work, or direct the viewer's attention to a particular point of interest within the piece.

Some examples could be:

  • Using complementary colours (opposite colours on a colour wheel)
  • Value (light vs. dark)
  • Size (large vs. small)
  • Texture (smooth vs. rough)
  • Age (old vs. new)
  • Space (positive vs. negative)
  • Line (thick vs. thin / long vs. short)
  • Shape (organic vs. geometric)
  • Subject matter (pleasure vs. pain)


An example of op art, this painting has such a strong contrast in colors that it plays with visual perception and makes it seem as if the shapes are moving. There is also a contrast in shapes, in that positive shapes becomes negative shapes, and vice versa. (source)

Charles Sheeler Golden Gate, 1955


The title of this artwork, "The GIft", belies its content and presents a contrast between our idea of what a gift is and what this object represents. An iron, normally used to press clothing, is lined with tacks that would prevent normal use of the object. Man Ray offers us a visual pun and a Surrealist viewpoint of life.

Emmanuel Rudnitsky (Man Ray) Gift 1921


A repetition of elements to produce the look and feel of movement. 

Movement is the path the viewer’s eye takes through the work of art, often to focal areas.

Such movement can be directed along lines, edges, shape, and color within the work of art.


In photography, the repetition of similar shapes sets up a rhythm that makes seeing easier and more enjoyable. Rhythm is soothing and our
eyes beg to follow rhythmic patterns. To be effective, rhythm also requires some variability - rhythm that is too similar or perfect may be boring.

Therefore when composing your images look for repetition with variation.

For instance if you are photographing a fence - one that is perfect will not hold a viewer's interest for long, but one in which some of the posts are bent, broken, larger or smaller will generate more viewer interest. (source)


(photo source)


The arrangements of elements so that no one area overpowers.

(symmetrical, asymmetrical and radial)

Balance includes how all the elements are arranged to create stability in a piece of work.


(Photos by Frank Curkovic)



The focal point in a composition. Where one area stands out or draws the viewer's eye.

The artist decides to do this through various techniques.

This can be done through framing, composition and by contrast.

Obvious contrasting elements create focal points, meaning: places to which one's attention cannot help but be drawn.

All worthy works of art employ emphasis. If they didn't, a piece would seem monotonous and boring to the eye.

A photographer can show emphasis through framing choice, whether he uses a vertical or horizontal format.

Or he might show emphasis by the placement of the subject, governed by the rule of thirds.


(Photos by Frank Curkovic)


An easy way to create emphasis, balance and interest in your work, is by using the rule of thirds.

"The basic principle behind the rule of thirds is to imagine breaking an image down into thirds (both horizontally and vertically) so that you have 9 parts. As follows.

The theory is that if you place points of interest in the intersections or along the lines that your photo becomes more balanced and will enable a viewer of the image to interact with it more naturally." (source)


Can you spot how the rule of thirds was used in the following examples:


(Photos by Frank Curkovic)

Look at this work of art by Paul Cezanne - "Still Life with Apples and Peaches", 1905

What principles of design are utilised?

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