Formal Elements + Principles

Form (The Art Elements + Principles)

This page is designed to provide you with some concepts about how to create successful compositions. Since this Foundations program doesn't require a textbook you should use these videos to comprehend the general concepts about the Elements and Principles and then reinforce what you have learned with the in-class lectures/exercises provided by your instructors.

The most important thing for you to do is memorize all of these and be able to recognize them in your own work and the work of others.

The Elements: The techniques and materials  we use to create visual imagery.

  • Line
  • Shape (2-D) and Mass (3-D)
  • Light (Value)
  • Color
  • Texture and Pattern
  • Space
  • Time and Motion

The Principles: The strategies we use to create successful compositions.

  • Unity
  • Variety
  • Balance
  • Emphasis
  • Subordination
  • Scale
  • Proportion
  • Rhythm


Pay special attention to artworks that are particularly successful (and also keep an eye out for examples where artworks fail). You should get in the habit of creating "Formal Analysis" drawings of good (and bad) examples. This will help you learn to identify successful strategies (kind of like revealing the tricks of a really good chef/magician) and then you will be able to practice these things in your own work.

Here is a good example or two of completed Formal Shape Analysis diagrams. There is no right or wrong way to do this, you just want to go deep into the Elements/Principles/Subject Matter of the piece you are analyzing and find some way to communicate your insights to the viewer.







Design Principles: Compositional, Symmetrical And Asymmetrical Balance