The Art Elements

The art elements are “building blocks” used to create and describe visual arts. Artists combine these elements with the principles of design to compose a work of art.

There are five art elements:


Color is produced when light strikes an object and is reflected back to the eye. Color has three qualities:

  1. Hue - the name of a color (red, yellow, blue, etc.)
  2. Value - the lightness or darkness of a color
    • Tint = hue + white
    • Shade = hue + black
  3. Intensity - the brightness or dullness of a color; the strength of a color

Colors can be related to each other in the form of a wheel.
Image of a color wheel
PRIMARY colors are:
red, yellow, blue

SECONDARY colors are produced by mixing two primary colors and are:
orange, green, violet

INTERMEDIATE colors are produced by mixing two adjacent (secondary + primary) colors

NEUTRAL colors are:
black, white, gray

Complementary Colors

Warm and Cool Colors


A line is a continuous mark made on a surface by a moving point. Lines can define a space, create an outline or pattern, imply movement or texture, mass or volume.

Lines can:


Shape is an enclosed space, the boundaries of which are defined by other elements (line, color, value, and/or texture). Shapes are limited to two dimensions – length and width. Shapes can be geometric, amorphous (free-form), or a combination.

A shape can have personality as influenced by: the lines that create it or the overall shape itself. For example, shapes with vertical and horizontal edges appear rigid and tense. Shapes with fuzzy, indistinct edges appear soft or relaxed. Shapes with soft curves appear flowing or imply movement, and shapes that overlap with other shapes create energy, tension, or rhythm, depending on how they overlap.


Space refers to the areas or distances around, between, or within the different components of an artwork. Space can be two-dimensional or three-dimensional. The feeling of depth in a drawing or painting is always an illusion. Artists combine the use of light and dark value with other techniques to create space. A space can be positive - shape, line or color that defines a subject(s) or negative - the area of the piece that surrounds the subject(s). How an artist uses space or chooses NOT to use space adds a great deal to a work of art.


Texture refers to the surface quality or "feel" of an object - smooth, rough, slick, soft, etc. Textures may be actual (felt with touch - tactile) or implied (suggested by the way an artist has created the work of art -visual).