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FINE ART/A/5: Principles of art and design;

This unit focuses on the principle of art and design


Definition; These are the rules or guidelines that artists use to organize the elements of art in an artwork.


Help us organize elements of art during the process of making an art work. Help in planning an art work so it conveys a message.

Establishes a way for people to react towards or appreciate art work.

Add to the technical language used in art and design.

list of the principles of art
summary of the principles
  1. Balance, Is achieved when the artist arranges the elements of art to create a state of equilibrium with visual weight in his/her art work.

State of equilibrium; is achieved when no part of a given artwork overpowers or seems to be heavier than the other part.

Types pf balance
asymmetrical,symmetrical, radical balance

(a) Symmetrical balance (Formal balance)

Here the opposite parts of a given article in respect to a vertical or horizontal axis are exactly or nearly the same.

It’s common in pottery and basketry, yet inappropriate in sculpture where varieties of features are created as one moves around an article to avoid boredom.

(b)  Asymmetrical balance; (Informal balance).

Doesn’t weigh equally on both sides of the article and is as such assessed by looking in totality. It’s used to create variety in an art work.

(c) Radial balance;

Here elements of art are equally distributed from a center point of a given article. It is Common in weaving baskets.

  1. Contrast

Is the effect of juxtaposition of different elements as lines, shapes, texture and color. Elements used have to be carefully planned to avoid conflict in an artwork.

Contrast creates excitement and interest often drawing the eye to certain areas in an art work.

using color to create contrast
  1. Proportion; is the relationship in size, amount and location of something compared to another.

We often follow proportions in artworks based on how different forms relate to each other in a natural setting e.g. A human being compared to the human leg. Artist creativity and foreshortening can cause adjustments in size and shape.

example using human figure
  1. Rhythm; is visual movement observed in a work of art, achieved by repetition of such elements as line, form, texture and color and creation of patterns. It gives the feeling of motion and to guide the viewers’ eyes through the art.

    using lines to create rhythms

Rhythm is achieved by;

  • Repetition of shapes, lines, color, and texture in an artwork.
  • Varying sizes of shapes and lines.
  • Using shapes and lines that suggest movement e.g. lines.
  • Manipulating the pose portrayed especially if the forms relate to the dynamism of the natural setting.
  1. Unity;
created using colour and composition

The wholeness achieved through the effective use of the elements and principles of art. It’s achieved when everything in a given art work seems to be working together. Elements seem to visually fit together allowing the whole to become greater than its parts. It creates a cohesive quality that makes an art work look complete and finished.

Achieved by

Repetition of lines, shapes and color to make a composition.

Continuation of lines, patterns together in a composition tending to appear unified.



Here color, shape or lines are repeated over and over to create an impressive work.

Patterns increase visual excitement by enriching surface interest in an article.

in this image, pattern is achieved by repeating shapes and color
  1. Emphasis

Creation of dominance and focus in an article .It’s the act of developing points of interest in a given work of art to pull the viewer’s attention to those particular parts.

in this image, emphasis is achieved by slightly tilting one box

Achieved by;

  • Visual emphasis; using bigger shapes to dominate smaller ones.
  • Value; Stronger contrast between light and dark tones dominates areas with a weaker contrast.
  • Color; Brighter colors tend to dominate the cool colors.
  • Lines; Thick and dark lines dominate thin and lighter lines.
  1. Variety

Is use of differences in an art work in terms of shapes textures, color, and lines. It creates interest in an artwork reducing boredom.

using color and shapes

Note; an artist should avoid overcrowding and aim at achieving harmony.

  1. Hamony

Is the use of similar elements throughout a given artwork i.e. when similar lines, shapes, color and texture appear simple and tend to agree with each other. It’s the use of related but different elements of art to create an interesting piece.

Harmony is achieved by combination of principles of pattern and rhythm.


Elements are building blocks or tools;

1. Space5. form
2. Line6. Texture.
3. Shape7. Structure.
4. Tone8. Color.
Principles are rules followed;
1. Balance.5. Contrast.
2. Rhythm.6. Emphasis.
3. Proportion.7. Variety.
4. Unity.8. Harmony

Watch the video below to learn more about this topic


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