The 7 Principles of Art and Design

Do you love art and design? If we talk about art and design, there are seven principles that we need to follow. These will guide us to create great composition or artwork.
In this article, we are going to talk about everything you need to know about these seven principles of art and design.
To understand the principles better, you may want to know the basic elements of arts and design first.

Elements of Arts and Design

The elements of art and design are the tools that are essential for the artist. These are line, shape, color, value, form, texture, and space.

On the other hand, the principles of art and design represent how an artist uses these tools to create visual art.

So here we go!

What are the 7 Principles of Art and Design

As an artist, you decide what principles you want use for your art and design. You may opt to use all these seven principles in one piece or not. But you have to understand that these principles are somewhat intertwined or interconnected to each other.

For example, when you want to create emphasis, you may use contrast, or vise versa.

Now, let’s take a closer look at each principle.

1. Balance

Balance refers to the visual composition of the piece. Every element carries weight. If you emphasize an element more than the others, this will result to unbalance art and design that creates undesirable outcome.

Here are 3 different ways to achieve balance.

  • Symmetry -  both sides of your composition have the same elements or subject in the same position, just like a mirror image, or the two sides of a face that create symmetry. You have to add the same amount of weight to each side to keep the balance.
  • Asymmetry - this can be achieved when your objects and elements are spread unevenly across your composition. How you will place them in your piece will create balance. Asymmetrical balance helps create movement and draws the viewer's eyes from one side to another side of your art piece.
  • Radial symmetry - your elements are equally spaced around a central point, like a Christmas lantern.

2. Emphasis

Emphasis is achieved when you create an area in your composition that is visually dominant and commands the viewer's attention. This is often achieved by contrast. For example, a basket of red apples with one green in the center.

You have to use visual elements like colour, space, texture, or line work to draw attention to a certain area which is usually the focal point in your artwork.

3. Contrast

There is contrast when your elements are noticeably different from each other. This commands the viewer's attention. You can create contrasting elements by using contrasting colours or by using contrasting shapes of objects.

For example, you arrange opposite colours - orange and green, next to each other.

You use contrast to create variety, drama, and visual interest in your artwork.

4. Unity

Unity, sometimes called harmony, is very important in every artwork. If there is no unity of your elements then there is chaos. Who wants to see chaos anyway? So in order to achieve unity in your composition, organize your elements of art such as your lines, colours, shapes, and the other elements mentioned above.

Find time to arrange your similar components and elements. Some prefer to use hues that close to each other or repeat geometric shapes on a neutral background.

5. Movement

Using visual movement in your artworks will help viewers feel what they are seeing. As if the piece is alive!

You can create movement by:

  • using bold and directional brushwork
  • contrasting smooth and refined texture against impasto texture to create interesting depth in your artwork
  • using rhythmic, or repeating elements
  • contrasting warm and cool color temperature

Be careful where you place your elements to create movement. You don't want to direct your viewer's attention out of your masterpiece. Practice how to vary your strokes and colours because variance is very helpful to attract viewers.

6. Pattern

Patterns are everywhere - not just in nature but also in art and design.

Patterns are uniformly repeated lines, shapes, or colours. Simply, a group of elements or motifs that are repeated in a predictable manner. You may choose how complicated your pattern would be.

If you want to set the stage for your other principles like contrast and emphasis, you can also use patterns.

7. Rhythm

Repeated elements with intervals create rhythm. Just like in music, musicians create rhythm by spacing between notes. But in art and design, designers use colours and shapes to create rhythm.

Here are 5 types of visual rhythm.

  • Random rhythm – these are repeated elements with no specific regular intervals. An example is falling snow.
  • Regular rhythm – it follows a regular interval repeatedly, like the beating of a heart or a song with a steady beat.
  • Alternating Rhythm - the black and white alternating colours in a chessboard is a good example for this. Alternating rhythm is a regular rhythm that has more complex motifs, or meta-motifs. 
  • Flowing Rhythm - you can create flowing rhythm by undulating elements and intervals in your artwork. This type of rhythm is often seen in beaches, rivers, wind-blown grasses, sand dunes, and rolling hills.
  • Progressive Rhythm - every time you repeat a motif or a pattern that change either in size or color as you repeat them, is called progressive rhythm. A good example is books arranged from largest to smallest and spirals.

Always keep those principles of art and design in mind. It's not important that you use all of them with each single piece of art you create. But knowing about these and using them when necessary is essential for a good designer.

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