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Principles Of Composition


They cohesive wholeness of a composition. Every element in a unified composition is in harmony with the other elements.



The illusion of motion or movement created by repeating elements in a composition.


When elements of design create a push-pull or back-and-forth movement in a composition. The opposing elements compete for the viewer's attention.


When any of all of the elements of design occur several times within a piece of art, such as repeating lines, shapes, or colors. When an element is repeated constantly, it becomes a pattern.


The element in a composition that moves constantly through the entire space.


The illusion of motion and direction in a composition.

Center or Intrest:

The strongest most dominant part of the composition that demands the most tension or interest from the viewer.


Area of interest in a composition that attracts your attention. An area of emphasis is not as dramatic as the center of interest, and there may be several in a work.


When any of the elements in a composition are used in different ways. For example, geometric shapes of different sizes, different types of textures, different colors, or lines with different qualities.


The range of difference within an element or design. For example, light vs. dark, smooth vs. rough, small vs. large.


They equal "visual weight" of shape, lines, color, texture, or space on both sides of an imaginary center line.


Composition is different from the subject matter of a painting. Every painting, whether abstract or representational, regardless of subject matter, has a composition. Good composition is essential to the success of a painting. Done successfully, good composition draws the viewer in and then moves the viewer's eye across the whole painting so that everything is taken in, finally settling on the main subject of the painting.

In addition to subject matter, the formal aspects of visual composition are like the grammar of a language. In writing, a story is written with words - subject matter. Like good literature and good poetry is more than words and subject matter, art is more than pictures. The organization, the sentence structure, the style, and so on can make or break a good story. In art, the way the formal elements are arranged can make or break a good picture idea.

The use of design principles applied to the visual elements is like visual grammar. When children learn art, it is like learning to read and write the language of vision. When they develop a style of expressing visual ideas, it helps them become visual poets. Looking for the visual effects of design principles does not have to limit an artist's options. It can focus an artist's experimentation and choice making.

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