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DES 230 .


    The elements and principles of design are the building blocks used to create a work of art. The Elements of design can be thought of as the things that make up a painting, drawing, design etc. Good or bad - all paintings will contain most of if not all, the seven elements of design.

The Principles of design can be thought of as what we do to the elements of design. How we apply the Principles of design determines how successful we are in creating a work of art.

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Line can be considered in two ways. The linear marks made with a pen or brush or the edge created when two shapes meet.

A shape is a self contained defined area of geometric or organic form. A positive shape in a painting automatically creates a negative shape.

All lines have direction - Horizontal, Vertical or Oblique. Horizontal suggests calmness, stability and tranquillity. Vertical gives a feeling of balance, formality and alertness. Oblique suggests movement and action

The element of direction can have a powerful influence on the mood of a painting. It is something often overlooked, but making a conscience decision about the dominant direction in a painting can have a noticeable effect on the atmosphere of the work.

Sometimes the subject will dictate the dominant direction. Sometimes the subject will allow you to impose a direction on it.

In the paintings below the subject dictates the direction. The strong horizontal lines of the water, boats and buildings in the first example give a feeling of stillness and calm. In the second example, the diagonal lines of the shoreline and the rocks reinforce the feeling of movement. The third example has a dominant vertical direction which adds a static orderly influence to what might be a random chaotic painting.




In this subject it is possible to impose either a horizontal, vertical or oblique dominant direction. The drawings below show the effect of different treatments



A horizontal emphasis tends to make the buildings look sleek and clean and creates a fairly static atmosphere.

A diagonal dominance reinforces the chaotic nature of the subject

Emphasizing a vertical direction maintains the random chaos, but gives a solid formal feeling to the work

Size is simply the relationship of the area occupied by one shape to that of another.

Texture is the surface quality of a shape - rough, smooth, soft hard glossy etc. Texture can be physical (tactile) or visual.

Texture is an obvious and important element in a painting. To save confusion it can be broken into two parts.

Physical Texture is the texture you can actually feel with your hand. The build up of paint, slipperiness of soft pastel, layering of collage - all the things that change the nature of the papers surface.

Visual Texture is the illusion of physical texture, created with the materials you use. Paint can be manipulated to give the impression of texture, while the paper surface remains smooth and flat.

Traditional transparent watercolour makes little use of physical texture other than the roughness of the paper. Mixed media allows advantage to be taken of physical as well as visual texture.

This detail shows the use of visual texture.
The surface appears fractured and broken
but this is an illusion created with the paint.
The paper in this area of the work is
smooth and flat.

In this detail patches of Japanese rice paper,
gesso and thick swipes of soft pastel add a
strong three dimensional physical texture.

Understanding the difference between physical and visual texture helps us take full advantage of this element.

Things to consider

Texture is often something that finds its way into a painting in an accidental sort of way, particularly with mixed media. Lumps, bumps and scratches pop up all over the place, often bearing no relationship to the painting. Make it a habit to question whether these marks help the work or just add unnecessary confusion.

Some heavily textured watercolour papers can have an overbearing effect on a painting. Alwaystry and relate this type of paper to your subject

Texture can have more impact through variation and relief - contrasting rough, course areas with orderly patterned areas and providing smooth areas of relief will make a painting far more interesting than an even, unrelieved texture running from edge to edge.

Remember - creating textures is easy, it’s where and how you place them that makes the difference between a good painting and an ordinary one.

visual physical
click on each of these images for demonstrations of physical and visual texture

Also called Hue
see notes on colour

Value is the lightness or darkness of a colour. Value is also called Tone
see notes on tonal contrast


Balance in design is similar to balance in physics

A large shape close to the center can be balanced
by a small shape close to the edge. A large light
toned shape will be balanced by a small dark toned
shape (the darker the shape the heavier it appears to be)

Gradation of size and direction produce linear perspective. Gradation of of colour from warm to cool and tone from dark to light produce aerial perspective. Gradation can add interest and movement to a shape. A gradation from dark to light will cause the eye to move along a shape.

Repetiton with variation is interesting, without variation repetition can become monotonous
see notes on repetition

Contrast is the juxtaposition of opposing elements eg. opposite colours on the colour wheel - red / green, blue / orange etc. Contrast in tone or value - light / dark. Contrast in direction - horizontal / vertical.
The major contrast in a painting should be located at the center of interest. Too much contrast scattered throughout a painting can destroy unity and make a work difficult to look at. Unless a feeling of chaos and confusion are what you are seeking, it is a good idea to carefully consider where to place your areas of maximum contrast.

Harmony in painting is the visually satisfying effect of combining similar, related elements. eg.adjacent colours on the colour wheel, similar shapes etc.

Dominance gives a painting interest, counteracting confusion and monotony. Dominance can be applied to one or more of the elements to give emphasis

Relating the design elements to the the idea being expressed in a painting reinforces the principal of a painting with an active aggressive subject would work better with a dominant oblique direction, course, rough texture, angular lines etc. whereas a quiet passive subject would benefit from horizontal lines, soft texture and less tonal contrast.

Unity in a painting also refers to the visual linking of various elements of the work.

After studying these notes on the elements and principals of design,
try this exercise



Decorating with Color
Color Wheel Lessons

Content provided by              Better Homes


Color wheel

Color Wheel Lessons

Choosing color combinations is one of the most intimidating steps for beginning decorators. To make the job easier, you can rely on the interior designer's most important color tool: the color wheel. Here's a look at four basic color schemes built using this time-honored device.

Room arrangement using primary colors
A Strong Foundation: Primary Colors
For rooms that come off feeling strong and solid, a scheme of primary colors—red, blue, and yellow—is an ideal choice. Each is a pure color that can't be created by mixing other hues. Use them in pairs or combine all three; they work equally well in country, traditional, and modern rooms.

Room arrangement using secondary colors
The Next Step: Secondary Colors
Secondary colors—green, orange, and purple—are created by mixing two primaries in equal amounts. Like all colors, each secondary hue can be tinted with white or shaded with black for variations. If you can't envision a bold orange and green room, think about pairing up their paler tints of peach and sage. The primary and secondary colors illustrate that you can make a compatible triadic scheme by choosing any three colors equidistant on the wheel.

Color wheel showing tertiary colors
Intermediate Players: Tertiary Colors
These colors are an equal mix of a primary and its closest secondary color: blue-green, yellow-green, red-orange, red-purple, and blue-purple. Combine these colors for a sophisticated look.

Room arrangement using monochromatic colors
Single-Shot Color: Monochromatic
What prevents a monochromatic scheme from being bland is subtle variation of a single color's intensity. For instance, orange, coral, and peach offer variety within the same family.


How Color Affects Mood

Relying strictly on the color wheel to make decorating decisions leaves an important factor out of the equation: the moods that colors can create. The colors you live with really do influence your emotions. Some palates lighten and brighten your mood while others pacify or purify. We respond to color with our hearts, not just our heads, so it's important to choose wisely. Understand that colors behave in three basic ways—active, passive, and neutral—and you can easily match every room's colors to your personal desires and taste and to the room's purpose.

A room with active colors
Active Colors
On the warm side of the color wheel, active colors include yellow, orange, and red. Extroverts, these advancing hues step out in the room to greet and sometimes dominate. They inspire conversation and an upbeat attitude. Red, the most intense, pumps the adrenaline like no other hue. Small doses of the fire-engine hue wake up an entry or turn up the heat on a hearthside den. Golden or lemony yellows—good for home offices and kitchens—unleash creative juices.

A room with passive colors
Passive Colors
The cool colors—blue, green, and purple—will pacify, staying quietly in the background to calm and restore depleted spirits. They're ideal for bedrooms or private retreats, but if yours is a cold climate, you may want to work in some sunny accents for warmth and contrast.

Neutral Colors
Neutralizers are the "uncolors": browns, beiges, grays, whites, and taupes. They neither activate nor pacify but combine and cooperate, bridging together different rooms and colors. They're good transitions on woodwork, trim, hallways, and functional spaces like kitchens and baths, but even living rooms can benefit. Darker neutral stone down other colors; crisp white intensifies them.

Color Language
Curious about how color influences mood? Here are a few examples:

Pink: soothes, acquiesces; promotes affability and affection.
Yellow: expands, cheers; increases energy.
White: purifies, energizes, unifies; in combination, enlivens all other colors.
Black: disciplines, authorizes, strengthens; encourages independence.
Orange: cheers, commands; stimulates appetites, conversation, and charity.
Red: empowers, stimulates, dramatizes, competes; symbolizes passion.
Green: balances, normalizes, refreshes; encourages emotional growth.
Purple: comforts, spiritualizes; creates mystery and draws out intuition.
Blue: relaxes, refreshes, cools; produces tranquil feelings and peaceful moods.