The Elements Of Art

Design is made out of combination of different lines, thin or thick, shape, different forms, colors, textures etc. All visual designs may be reduced to elements, factors or dimensions. These elements are line, direction, shape, size, texture, value and color. According to Anna Rutt , the elements are as follows. Line, form, texture, pattern, light, space and color.

These elements are the building blocks of art structure. They are alphabet or scale or graphic expression. When an artist organizes these elements he creates, form which is design or composition. Art is manmade order or structure or form.

In representational art the elements of line, shape, texture, and color are used to describe, depict or illustrate solid objects in three-dimensional space. The effect of the subject matter of a picture relies on its appeal to reason, that is, upon our ability to recognize or perceive its meaning.

Representational art is a convention. Although habit, training and education have prepared us to accept this convention and respond to its appeal, we realize, nevertheless, that the object and space are merely an illusion and do not exist. We know that they are only flat colored patterns and a two-dimensional surface.

But a line, shape, texture or a color is a concrete actuality. These elements are more real that the objects that they represents. They make a direct visual impact, they evoke and immediate, vigorous response. The elements and the principles of design that govern their relationship are, therefore, real and powerful forces. If we would control and direct these forces, we must understand the elements and principles of design. The art elements serve as tools in conveying fundamental ideas in painting and in sculpture and also in creating objects which meet material needs of mankind architecture, home furnishing, handicrafts and industrial, commercial and related arts, opine Anna Rutt.

1) A dot, spot or a point

The fundamental element of the basic designing process is a point. A point can only show the existence of a plane surface and it becomes instrumental in starting one’s thinking process. The points create some kind of a sensation in one’s mind giving psychological relief, tension or stress depending upon its relationship with the rest of the plane and the surface around it. Its existence gives birth to foreground-background and also to proportion, composition, rhythm, balance and harmony.

When two points or more than two points are placed together on the plane or surface the expression of measurement and direction gets evolved. If points are used freely and in varied sizes, they create a variety of energies and tensions affecting the entire existing space (plane). A close chain of points between two extreme points is a line.


Line is a very important element in home planning and furnishing. Sometimes it is so much apart of form that it is difficult to consider separately. Lines have positive emotional significance, depending upon their direction and their quality. Lines may be used to create harmony or contrast, as the need may be.

Most designs are composed of many lines. Lines compel our eyes to follow them. Strangely enough, simple lines also evoke an emotional response and we associate certain feelings with different types of line.

The basic lines include –

Vertical – an erect, upward expresses a forceful or a rigidity. When a man is standing, he is at attention and ready to act; vertical line suggests life and activity.

Horizontal – the sideways line suggests response and relaxation. When a man lies down, he is resting or sleeping, therefore the horizontal line naturally suggests response, steadiness and duration.

Diagonal – since the angle or the direction of the oblique line may take on many variations, this type of line is more dynamic in that it carries the eye more forcefully. Compare diagonal lines that approach the vertical and the horizontal. They tend to take on the characteristics of each or compare the right and left diagonals. They seem to suggest forces pushing upwards or downwards. Because the man bends forward to run to pull things a diagonal line suggests decided movement and force.

Curves – the infinite variety of curved lines make them useful in expressing many different moods or ideas. In relaxation and play the body takes positions that are curved lines seem gracious and flexible. The circle or any full, curve may give a gaiety or buoyancy as for ex. in a wall paper with a motif of light bubbles or a circus scene with balloons etc. A softer type of curved line is found in the “S” curve which express gracefulness. Curved lines are flexible.

Angles – a wide variety of angular lines may be used for different effects. They are likely to be forceful, dynamic and sometimes disturbing.



Combinations of various lines are used in interior decoration such as features of room, the furniture designs, the room accessories and patterns. But all types of lines must be carefully considered to achieve the desired effects. If too much of one type of line is used in any composition or object it may become uninteresting and boring. But sometime emphasis on one type helps to promote the theme. For example, in a room which is meant for relaxation, horizontal lines should predominate. Both structural and decorative lines contribute to the theme when used in interior design. Some furniture is composed of all straight lines, other types combine straight and curved lines. Curves in furniture design range from soft, graceful lines to full and luxurious lines.


An individual can develop a sensitivity to the beauty of the element of line. Impressions for daintiness, boldness or gracefulness may be suggested by fine lines

These suggestions of line are everywhere about us f we will only open our eyes and enjoy their beauty. Following are only a few examples :

a) The irregular, dashing lines made by the waves as they lap the shore line.

b) The lines made by the branches of the trees as they reach upward toward the sky.

c) The undulating movements of waving grain and grasses as they sway in the breeze.

d) The lacy pattern of veins in a leaf.

e) The radiating lines made by a clump of leaves.

f) The pattern of lines in a picket fence, a venetio

n blind, a striped or plaid fabric.

g) The composition of vertical and horizontal lines made by the steel framework of a building under constructions.

h) The graceful stream of white vapour rail from a jet plane as it whizzes through space.

An individual can develop a sensitivity to the beauty of the element of line. Impressions for daintiness, boldness or gracefulness may be suggested by fine lines; heavy lines or curved ones respectively. Straight lines express force. The fact that a line has no curves or bends in it indicates a forcefulness and strength necessary to keep it straight. When we lie down to rest, we assume a horizontal position, therefore, horizontal lines suggest calmness. When we are standing or walking we are in a vertical position, and consequently vertical lines express activity. When we run, the legs, body and arms assume more of a zigzag position and the speed of running expresses more excitement and movement. The zigzag lines of lightning cannot help but make you excited as you view the rapid irregular line of light in the sky.

Persons who like to study handwriting like to suggest that it is possible to determine personality traits, state of one’s health, criminal tendencies and a host of other characteristics by the way in which we cross or “t’s” shape or “m’s” or run our letters together. The story is told that Abraham Lincoln, as he prepared to sign the Emancipation Proclamation, twice picked up his pen and put it down. Then he turned to William Seward, his secretary of state, and said, “I have been shaking hands since nine O’clock this morning and my right hand is almost paralyzed. If my name ever goes into history, it will be for this act; and my whole soul is in it. If my hand trembles when I sign the Proclamation, all who examine the document hereafter will say, ‘He hesitated’.” He then turned to the table, took up the pen again, and slowly, firmly, wrote “Abraham Lincoln”.

Kasu A.A. classifies the lines in the following manner. A line is one dimensional. There is nothing else one dimensional. Because of this quality, it point towards, indicates direction, leads eyes to. There are many types of line, but Kasu divides them into two types on the basis of their (A) position and (B) shape. Position wise, lines can either be – i) vertical, ii) horizontal, iii) diagonal. Vertical lines increase the apparent height, and horizontal lines increase the apparent width of an object. While diagonal lines make an object looks inclined. Vertical lines are elevating, horizontal reposing and diagonal dynamic. Symbolically vertical lines point toward God – so are divine, positive, active; horizontal lines point to the plane of earth – so are earthy, human, negative, passive; says Kasu Ahmed. He further explains that, the diagonal line gives visual excitement and movement like any other diagonal activity eg : mountain climbing. A diagonal running from the left hand bottom corner to the right hand top has an ascending quality; expressing optimism and joy. A diagonal from left hand top to the right hand bottom corner has a descending quality and is often interpreted as pessimistic, forbidding dangers, accidents, falling, misery etc. Shape wise lines can be divided into three types on the basis of their shape : (i) straight, (ii) curved, (iii) compound composed of straight and curved lines. The curved line has two types (a) regular and (b) irregular. Regular curved lines are drawn with a compass.


The continuous beat of a drum with its rapid and slow, loud and soft reverberations of sound might suggest to us a pattern of lines that could be planned for a border. Many lines close together with an occasional one spaced further away could indicate the rapid and slow beats on the drum. Broad and short lines could suggest the loud and soft beats. And so we develop a rhythmical border curved and straight lines, some overlapping, some basically parallel, some thick and thin can be obtained by varying pressures on the brush in different directions. The precise regularity of the lines in the circular pattern on the plate can present an exciting, but elegant and formal appearance. Lettering in itself is a combination of various types of straight and curved lines and line directions of vertical, horizontal and diagonal. The line designs may be enjoyed in the natural patterns in objects from nature, such as the grains lines in a piece of wood or branches of a tree or stems and leaves of a plant.

To divide space and create movement

Note in the section of proportion in chapter 4 how lines may be used to divide spaces. A striped fabric in which all the lines are of same thickness with the space between all the same express little imagination of designer. More exciting stripes and plaids are those that have more irregularity of spacing between the lines and in the lines themselves.

Difference between the Point and the Line


Comparison between Straight and Curved Lines



A line has direction. The four primary directions are – horizontal (H), vertical (V), Left oblique (L) and right oblique (R).

Adjacent directions such as V and VR or H and HL are similar harmonious. Directions at right angles to each other such as H and V or LV and RH are complementary, being in opposition or contrast.


The term form is generally considered to apply to two dimensional areas or shapes as well as to three dimensional volumes or masses. Form is the most important element in house planning. This element of design refers to space relationships. The forms are defined by lines without beauty of form, excellent color, texture, decoration are of no use. Utilitarian articles may be so beautiful that they are able to inspire man much as the fine arts do. These are two essentials of good form. One is that the form of an object should suit its function and another is that the form of an object should be strongly influenced by the material from which it is made.

Whenever more than two similar elements are brought together they end into some kind of a form. These forms whether symmetrical or asymmetrical and they create an interest in the designing process.


GRID : Whenever modules are arranged in a specific regular interval they form a GRID FORM. It is very easy to achieve success if one decides to work on a GRID.

Centralized Forms : Several forms grouped together considering the focal point form a composition which has very strong and dominant focus as the main theme of the project.

Most of the towns in the past are settled along the banks of rivers in a linear manner. Similarly modern towns which are coming up grow faster along the highways in a linear manner. Forms planning in a line or a vector direction are “Linear Forms”. Any growth extending away from the focal point is an example of a radial form. The growth of New Delhi is the best example of radial development.

Elements grouped together asymmetrically but together having an inter relationship form a cluster. The relationship of clustered forms can be well judged as a nice rhythmic visual flow.


When the word ‘texture’ is mentioned we think of touching something. But texture is visual as well as tactile, because we associate past sensations when we look at objects that are smooth and rough, hard or soft. The word ‘texture’ now generally refers to the tactile quality of the surface of any objext, although originally it applied to textiles only.

Textures that are smooth and fine are more likely to suggest formality and elegance. Textures is an element of art that is valuable in giving character and beauty to objects, interiors, buildings and landscape gardening. Architects make good use of textural qualities of building materials. The roughness and smoothness of material makes it absorb or reflect light therefore its visual characteristics as well as its texture must be considered both in exterior and interior architecture. Landscape architects, employ texture as a valuable tool. Repetition of dominant plant textures unifies a plan, whereas contrast of texture at corners and focal points gives emphasis.

Woods vary in texture quality to such an extent that they must be selected and combined with great care. Those are fine grained are not likely to harmonize easily with those that are of coarser open grain. A lovely figured walnut, therefore, would probably look uncomfortable in the company of rough, sturdy oak.

Modern use of texture is creative. Rooms are now composed in which areas of various textures on walls, floors and furnishings are organized to produce rich, subtle effects. The texture of any single article is not considered separately but as a contribution to the total effect of the room. There are no hard and fast rules about relationships of color and texture, certain textural qualities are easier to emphasize with particular colors. Dark red, green, purple and gold suggest luxury and elegance of texture. The “earthy” colors of brown, mustard yellow, burnt orange and yellow-green seem to be more suitable with less refined textures. But one should not feel restricted by any definite rules in reference to texture and color. The overall effect is the most important consideration.


The term pattern here refers to any sort of extrinsic surface enrichment and applies to both two-dimensional and three-dimensional objects. In interior decoration it is wise to use the word pattern rather than decorative design as it is easy to understand the meaning of the adjectives ‘patterned’ or ‘figured’ as opposed to plain.

Repetition of particular design or motif is termed as pattern in architecture. Pattern always has rhythms and this rhythm is created by the use of elements at fixed intervals in a repetitive manner. In architecture patterns are more than just simple decorative elements. Any pattern in the designing and planning process can be converted into a modular unit thus becoming the basic element of modular planning. It is easier to get success in planning if a pattern or modular system is adopted. Generally the pattern is the extension of any basic geometrical form.

Beauty in surface pattern is produced by –

a) Excellent design in individual motifs or units.

b) Fine arrangement of the units in a repeat pattern.

c) Harmony of line between an article and its decoration.

d) Definite character or personality.

e) Honesty in technique.

f) Evidence of joy of the designer.

a) (General types of motifs or units of design, naturalized, stylized, geometric and abstract are explained in chapter no. 1)

b) Arrangement of the motifs : Beauty in pattern depends not only on having well-designed motifs but also on arranging them well. Arrangement is very much important. The units may be grouped in borders, stripes, checks.

c) Harmony of line : The lines of the pattern should usually follow the lines of the article that it decorates. For ex. a circle fits better than a square on a round plate.

d) Definite character : The most interesting patterns are those that had definite expressive quality. A design may have feelings of dignity, speed or whatever quality the designer wishes it to have. The character of a pattern is determined by the direction of the lines and by the sizes, the shapes and relation of spaces.

e) Honesty in technique : is an important factor in pattern. Proper regard for the medium insures honestly in technique. For ex. : patterns for textiles should look cloth-like.

f) Joy of the maker or designer : This quality is seen most commonly in the work of children and primitive people. Their work has charm, playfulness, directness and ease of execution. Many designers of today produce results that speak of work done with joy. A design should appear to be a joyous expression of the creator, and not a labored, forced piece of work.

We may use different shapes in the same patterns as suggested above, but keep a feeling of unity by using related shapes to tie the whole design together.

The size and shape of an object or any form of an art or any composition plays an important role in decoration. Every form and shape that you introduce new area relationships. Furniture groups, pictures on the wall, draperies at the windows, floor covering and accessories will all contribute to the space division.

Size of the room, object, composition, furniture or any decorative piece plays an important role.


Space is nothing until an area of reference is established, says Beitler and Lockhart. They further add that, to establish this area if reference, we need to enclose or limit the space surrounding of the said area. We may plan a certain size enclosure, or let it be the edge of the canvas on which an artist is painting, or the walls of the room that we are furnishing. Space is all of the area within the enclosure of the outer fringe of our vision. Special organization may be two or three dimensional in character. This organization represents an inter-relationship of the whole area; whether the area is flat or three dimensional. Special organization includes the design of the shapes, the textures, and the colors within the space in relation to the whole space. If we were planning the furnishings for a room, there would be many ways in which we could study the total space, such ways might consist of the following.

a) The floor space and the relative amount of area that each piece of furniture would occupy.

b) Each wall space with its relative amount of area that various pieces of furniture and accessories occupy when placed against the wall; plus any architectural features such as doors and windows.

c) The ceiling space with its division, and with beams or lighting fixtures.

d) The smaller areas of space in open shelves and on table and desk-tops.

Two-dimensional space

One must begin with the study of two-dimensional space. The problems of placement of shapes involve all the principles of design, but more specifically the problem of proportion. We can plan the floor space and locate the various pieces of furniture to scale. Correct planning of this kind will aid one in selecting the right scale of furniture and the correct number of pieces to fit the available space. The diagram of wall area will allow us to visualize architectural and decorative features which would need to be considered in relation to the furnishings. A high ceiling or a long wall space might be broken by strips of walnut to add color and distinction to the room.

Three-dimensional space

The appearance of a third dimension, that of depth, may be evidenced in the placement of shapes within a space. Contrast of size intensifies the illusion of depth. One may create the illusion of volume by means of the placement of planes in space; or keep the space open. In some fields of architecture the walls seem to enclose space in a compact way, whereas in others the glass walls cause the interior and exterior walls to blend together and suggest open space.

Study of Relationship between two spaces is very important and essential in the development of any architectural design.

Spaces are generally related with each other in four major ways.


Light is an important art element. Light is stimulating while darkness is depressing. The purpose of light is obviously not only to provide a comfortable cheerful atmosphere but also to give light for various activities carried on in the room. Good lighting is required for certain tasks ex. : sewing.

Daylight is such an important factor in the appearance of a room that no plan of decoration be made without considering the exposure, the number and size of windows, the amount of sunshine that enters the room, the trees that shut out light. The quantity of light can easily be controlled by using movable curtains or partitions.

Modern artificial light , is not only a remarkable functional utility but also a marvelous flexible art medium. It should be used in a room as an artist used light in a picture. Artificial light may produce unity by its diffusion through the entire room. It may show contrast and emphasis by bringing bright light to important areas while subordinate areas remain in the shadows. The shadow element too is an important decorative factor both indoors and out. Architects use shadows for emphasis, in the front door, under porch roofs, under siding boards etc.


Lighting can be divided into the following major types.

a) Direct b) Indirect
c) Semi-direct d) Semi-indirect

Direct light indicates that all the light is thrown downwards and practical none upwards and refers to open bottom fittings made of opaque material and shaped so as to give very little upward light.A light source may be said to be semi-direct or semi-indirect when it is partially obscured above (semi-direct) or below (semi-indirect) by some transparent material. A light source is called when the light is completely hidden from below and the light obtained entirely by reflection from the ceiling and upper walls. This can be used as a decorative effect.


Color is an important art element, and it is considered separately in chapter (5) and it includes value of color.


The elements of art are line, form, texture, pattern, size, shape, light, space and color. When and artist organizes these elements he creates, form, which is design or composition.

Line – vertical or upward line expresses a forcefulness. It suggests life and activity. Horizontal line suggests rest and relaxation. Diagonal and angular lines suggests force and movement. Curved lines express different moods and ideas. They seem gracious and flexible.

Direction – adjacent directions are harmonious. Directions at right angles to each other are complementary.

Form – the term is generally considered to apply to two dimensional areas or shapes. Form of an object should suit its function and it should be strongly influenced by the material by which it is made.

Texture – texture is visual as well as tactile. Some textures that are smooth suggest elegance. It gives character and beauty to objects, interior, buildings.

Pattern, size, shape, space are important elements of arts.

Light – is stimulating while darkness is depressing. Daylight and artificial light both play an important role in interior and exterior decoration. Direct, indirect, semi-direct, semi-indirect and diffused are some the types of lighting.


1. What is meant by elements of Art? Mention various art elements and write about line and form.

2. ‘Texture and color plays an important role in interiors’ – Explain.

3. Write short notes on –

a) Light as an art element

b) Pattern – as an art element

c) Directions of line


Following are exercises that are planned to help you as a student in your understanding and appreciation of the elements of lines. The written information should stimulate your ability to see and to create pleasing organizations of lines. Nature offers us excellent keys to good organization in design. Man’s reorganization of nature into stiff and regimented designs so often violates the natural beauty of nature.

(1) Find examples of various types of lines in magazines illustrations. Ask yourself the following questions.

a) In what ways do the lines reflect the character of the illustration?

b) In what ways has variety been expressed in the lines? (thickness, thinness, length of lines, direction of lines, straight versus curved)

(2) Find examples of suggestions of line in nature such as veins in a leaf, grain of wood, branches of a tree.

(3) Collect examples of actual materials that have a linear quality – string, yarn, bamboo, matches, toothpick, wire etc.

The following experiments may help you to create your own designs with special emphasis on the element of line.

(1) Make an assortment of kinds of lines – straight, curved, zigzag, wavy with various tools such as pencil, pen, brush, crayon, chalk, tongue-depressor, cord.

(2) Work with tools in many ways – free hand, with a ruler, or using different amount of pressure on the tool. eg. use of brush with varying amounts of pressure produce different thickness of lines : parallel, continuous, overlapping lines, straight, angular lines to produce continuous borders.

(3) Make a border or all over pattern with materials such as yarn, toothpick etc.

(4) Think of words that could be expressed with line – anger, sadness, boldness, daintiness, select tool and a medium. Try combining dainty with bold, angry with happy, to determine what factors are involved in using these combinations harmoniously together.