Page Contents:     Composition   Balance   Proportion    Repetition   Dominance   Harmony   Contrast   Unity   Variety

 Principles of Design

Guidelines to Composition and Design

 

Composition

The way that an artwork is composed or assembled.
Composition

COMPOSITION is about the way an artist composes or combines the elements of the work to give clarity and order to their ideas. Composition is about the way our eyes are guided around the artwork.

COMPOSITION is involved with UNITY, how the elements of the artwork go together to form a oneness, a wholeness, which satisfies the eye.

COMPOSITION is involved with and governed by the principles of design.

Composition is about VISUAL ORGANISATION

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Balance

 
Balance

BALANCE involves the distribution of elements in a work of art.

BALANCE is the control of the elements in attracting attention.  This attention must be evenly or unevenly spread over the area to make sure interest in kept up, all the way through the art work, without being static or chaotic.

BALANCE can be symmetrical or asymmetrical

BALANCE can create movement, tension or calmness.

BALANCE of the pictorial elements can act like a see-saw or lever.  

The elements can be balanced around a VERTICAL, HORIZONTAL or DIAGONAL AXIS  with enough variety so that the artwork has rhythm and energy.

 

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Proportion

 
 

Proportion

 

PROPORTION involves the relationship between sizes - scale.

PROPORTION is about realistic relationship or ratio.  As an illustration, the ideal human proportion is eight heads high and the shoulders are two heads wide so artists can change these relationships or proportions for dramatic or comic effect or to emphasise a feature or quality. In cartoons the head and hands are emphasised by enlarging then beyond realistic scale.

PROPORTION is familiar to us all so artists can use the warping or normal proportions to suggest emotions or affect the status of a subject.

 

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Repetition

 
Repitition

REPETITION is the use of similar or connected pictorial elements.  For example, similar shapes, colours or lines that are used more than once

REPETITION can be regular or irregular and even or uneven.

REPETITION can be in the form of RADIATION where the repeated elements spread out from a central point.

REPETITION may be in the form of GRADATION where the repeated elements slowly become smaller or larger.

RHYTHM is about the rate the eye moves throughout the work of art.  This is usually because the eye moves, jumps or slides from one similar element to another in a way similar to music.

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Dominance

 
Dominance

DOMINANCE is about the focus given to a part of a work of art.

DOMINANCE helps to create UNITY as the eye is attracted to a key point then led around the image by pictorial elements.

DOMINANCE can be created by contrasting pictorial elements such as line, shape, tone, texture, direction, size or colour.

DOMINANCE and BALANCE work together to bring out UNITY.

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Harmony

 
Harmony

HARMONY means pictorial elements of the same type that “go” together. 

HARMONY can be made where the eye is used to seeing objects together, so they form a group eg. flower pot and plants.

HARMONY can create feelings, similar elements can seem calm and pleasing eg. Blues and greens, rectangles and squares or groups of organic shapes, while contrasting elements create energy, vitality, tension or anger eg. triangles with circles and squares

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Contrast

 
Contrast

CONTRAST means pictorial elements that stand out because they are not alike eg. squares and circles and triangles. Red, yellow and blue contrast as they are so dissimilar. 

CONTRAST can be made by putting objects together that do not normally “go” together and therefore make each other stand out more, than they would separately.

CONTRAST gives variety and makes the elements more lively.

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Unity

 

UNITY is the sense of ONENESS, of things belonging together and making up a coherent whole. 

Artists do this by repeating elements, overlapping shapes and directing the eye of the viewer around the work from one similar element to the next or along a line or shape 

The eye is directed by the principles of design and composition so that the artwork has UNITY

The main function or job of the principles is to organise the elements into a unified artwork. 

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Variety

 

VARIETY gives an artwork interest and vitality, as the elements are repeated with enough change or difference to enhance each other. 

VARIETY, contrast and harmony work together to give unity.

Too much VARIETY leads to confusion and disunity. Too little leads to  boredom.

 

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