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Principles of Design




Balance is the overall visual weight of a composition. Without it, the composition looks awkward and unstable. When objects in an illustration are the same or similar on both sides of the composition, it has formal balance. Informal balance is the arrangement of diffrent forms such as one large shape may ballance out three small ones on the opposite side.

There are three different types of balance: regular, asymmetrical and radial. The butterfly has a regular or symmetrical balance, it looks the same on both sides like a reflection in a mirror. When something is asymmetricaly balanced parts of the picture are not equall on each side but their total picture is balanced. Think of the stem of a flower it looks balanced, even though one side may have two leaves and the other side only has one. Radial balance starts from the center, like a flower. All of the petals may not be exactly the same but they grow out from one point in the center.





Contrast is a suden, unexpected change in a picture. Artists can create contrast through value, color, texture, and shape. Color contrast can be achieved through hue, saturation, and value. Complementary colors like blue/orange seem to pop when they are placed together in a picture. By changing value from light to dark an artist can create a sense of depth. By varying the thickness and thiness of lines or combining horizontal and vertical lines an artist creates contrast. Contrast can also be created through shape.


3. Emphasis:

As work develops an artist may decide to stress certain elements of the design over others to create a focal point. They eye will be drawn to the focal point. An artist uses emphasis to direct and focus attention of the viewer on the most important parts of the art piece. An artist creates emphasis through size, color, texture, and shape. A design lacking emphasis will be boring.


4. Harmony:

Harmony and variety are closely related because both use the elements of art to give the picture intrest. Both harmony and variety convey meaning through repetition, location, and simplicity. It is the how each one is used that create the diffrence between the two. Harmony is the indirect way of putting the elements of art together to show their similarities. Variety adds interest and life to a drawing by suddenly changing an element. Variety, contrast, and harmony work together to give the drawing unity.


5. Movement:

Movement in a drawing guides the eye through the work, usually to or away from the focal point. An artist arranges compontents image to create a sense of motion by using lines, shapes, forms, and textures, or by combining elements of art fake the sense of movement. For example horizontal lines behind a drawing of a car causes the eye to move twords the car creating a sense of movement.


6. Rhythm:

Rhythm is the repetition of elements of art to produce the look and feel of movement. The repetition of the elements of art causes the eye to jump rapidly or glide smoothly from one element to the next. Elements spaced evenly create a calming rhythm but a sudden changes in location and/or size create a lively rhythm. Changes keeps rhythm exciting and active, moving the eye around the art work.


8. Unity:

Unity is how compleate the image is. In a unified work of art, all the parts come together to form a complete image. An artist gains unity in their picture by balancing all the aspects of the composition. You can achieve unity through repetition or by grouping objects closely together.


All work is copyright of Beth Mikulanis unless otherwise stated.