by | Dec 11, 2018 | Graphic Design

As an artist, when designing creative, painting an image, snapping a picture, or drawing an illustration, you must take careful consideration what goes where in your composition. It is a lot like building a house. The elements of art (line, shape, form, value, space, color, & texture) are your building materials and the principles of art (balance, proportion, emphasis, variety, movement, rhythm, and harmony) are the building codes you must follow, so your structure is stable.


Balance is the sense of stability in your composition. In other words, it is the visual weight in a work of art. There are three types of balance or symmetry:
  • Symmetrical: The two sides of the composition are the same. This can be split either horizontally or vertically.
  • Asymmetrical: The two sides of the composition are different, but visually weigh the same. This can also be split either horizontally or vertically.
  • Radial: The design is arranged around a central point in all directions.


Proportion is the size relationship of the individual elements within the composition. For example, if you were drawing your friend sitting in a chair, you would want your friend to be the right size for the chair. On the other hand, scale refers to the size of the composition to a constant, like the human body. For example, a large scale work of art will be visually imposing to the viewer.


To prevent a composition from feeling stagnant and to keep the viewer engaged, movement is vital. It is the path the viewer’s eyes follow and is created through diagonal or curvy lines, elements extending beyond the picture plane, the texture of marks on the page, and changing values. The goal is to get the viewers eye moving through every inch of the composition.


Rhythm takes movement a step further. Through the repetition in a non-uniform yet organized way, there is a sense of flow, which creates a mood like music. Irregular rhythm feels natural like trees growing in a forest, while regular rhythm feels organized and intentional like railroad ties evenly spaced.


Emphasis is when one area or element of a composition is dominant and commands attention. When emphasis is used correctly, it creates a sense of importance and draws the viewers eye towards what you deem the most significant. By using contrast, isolation, convergence, location, and color, you can control how your visual story unfolds.


Unity is achieved when the element of an artwork are perceived as harmonious, while variety is the complement to unity and is needed to keep it interesting. Without unity, an image feels chaotic. Without variety, it is uninteresting. Good design is achieve when unity and variety are balanced, creating areas of interest and places for the eye to rest.


Harmony creates cohesiveness by stressing the similarities of the distinct elements of a composition. That means colors relate according to color theory principles, textures are consistent across the composition, and balancing the organic and the geometric shapes.

What do you think makes a good work of art? What makes it suck? Place your comments below.


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