August 28, 2016

Shape, Form & Pattern

Shape, Form & Pattern
Artwork by Christy Olsen

Are all related concepts but have nuances that set them apart within the visual arts.


1. an enclosed area or figure.
2. a dimensional form, defined by a line or a change in value or color.

One of the Elements of Design, shape, is a potent tool for visual communication.

When looking at an object or image, 'shape' is the first retinal impression the human eye registers before color, texture, space, or anything else.


  • Contours are the outlines or outer edges of a shape.
  • Contrast is the difference in value, luminance, or color that makes a shape distinguishable.
  • Length is the measurement or extent of something from end to end, the greatest of other dimensions of a shape.
  • Proportion is a shape considered in comparative relation to a whole.
  • Silhouette is a shape filled with a single tone or a color, usually black.
  • Width is the measurement or extent of a shape from side to side.

Types of Shapes

Most works of art contain multiple types of shapes.

Geometric Shapes

These two-dimensional shapes may be manipulated with mathematics but lack three-dimensional visual information about their location, scale, or orientation within space. They have uniform measurements and are usually man-made.

Geometric Shapes

Graphic Shapes

Are visual images or designs that serve as a pictorial representation or may give the viewer information when written words are not adequate. Symbols stand for ideas, beliefs, or actions. Logos are emblems or symbols commonly used by commercial enterprises, organizations, or individuals to aid and promote instant public recognition.

Graphic Shapes

Organic Shapes

They are associated with the natural world and may or may not have a name. These free-form shapes have very few straight lines, such as leaves, plants, trees, or animals.

Organic, Free-form, or Natural Shapes


1. the structure of something.
2. the visible configuration of something.

Form is an actual, three dimensional shape or is used to conveys three-dimensional information to the viewer. Form differs from shape because it includes visual information regarding location, scale, or orientation.

Elliptical distortions, curvatures, or angles suggest perspective. Forms provide information to the viewer, so they know how that object sits in space. It is well understood if they are looking up or down upon an object. Forms may be geometric or organic.

Forms include location, scale, or orientation.


1. a repeated shape or decorative design.
2. something designed or used as a model.

A pattern will consist of repeating shapes. Patterns are pleasing, and the concept of repetition is one of the Principles of Art. 

  • Geometric Patterns are based on mathematics and use geometric shapes. They repeat predictably.
  • Organic Patterns are formed in nature. They often have slight variations or never repeat themselves exactly.
  • Spiraling Patterns are circular, winding in and around themselves, similar to ocean waves.
  • Branching Patterns are the repetition of forking lines or the deviation of lines or cracks.

Patterns are repeated shapes.

Putting it All Together

Understanding the nuances between shape, pattern, and form will help improve your drawing skills and help you look for the differences. If your contours are stiff or have straight lines, they will feel more like geometric or man-made objects instead of organic shapes or forms. If your shapes look more like graphic symbols than a realistic interpretation of what they represent, your drawings will look more stylized. If you have repeating shapes, they may look more like a pattern than texture or random flowers in a field.

August 7, 2016

Introduction to Color Theory

Color Adds Excitement to Our Lives!

'Color' is all around us. It adds excitement and emotion to our lives. Everything from the clothes we wear, the pictures we paint, and the environment we live in revolves around color. Without color, the world would be a much less attractive place.

Color Theory is a set of guidelines that uses the element of color to create harmony, communicate ideas, or invoke an emotional response in the viewer.

We call it "theory" because we use generalizations to create aesthetically pleasing results.

It relies on using six colors or 'hue families' that follow the visual spectrum of light "ROYGBV." These color families can be further broken into tertiary colors, making 12 color families on the traditional color wheel system. Most importantly, they are all in the same order around the wheel.

Primary Colors

Are YELLOW, RED, and BLUE. When mixing pigments (subtractive color method), secondary colors are created by combining these together. Note that these three make a beautiful color scheme on their own, which is later introduced below as a "triad."

Primary Colors

Secondary Colors

Are ORANGE, GREEN, and VIOLET. They are created by mixing two primaries. For example: ORANGE = RED + YELLOW. They also create a "triad" color scheme.

Secondary Colors

Tertiary Colors

They are formed by mixing two secondary colors together. For example, they include YELLOW-GREEN, BLUE-GREEN, and YELLOW-ORANGE.

Tertiary Colors

Now that we have all of the twelve essential color families in order around the wheel, the following color schemes are based on their relationships to each other as we go around the wheel.


Are the colors directly opposite from each other on the color wheel. Compliments together are incredibly eye-catching and vibrant.

Red & Green Complement

Purple and Yellow Complement

Split Compliments

Split compliments are less vibrant than compliments. Complements with an additional split complement are also eye-catching but more varied than a simple complementary scheme.

Orange & Green Split Complement

Color Compliments with Split Complement


Are any three colors with a specific relationship on the wheel, with three colors between each. This combination creates a colorful yet balanced scheme.



Also known as a "square" combination, are any four colors with a specific relationship on the wheel that creates an "X" shape if connected by lines. It makes a colorful yet balanced scheme but is more complex.




Is a single color with variations that change in lightness or darkness. "Tints" are created by adding white to a single color which lightens it. "Shades" are created by adding black to a single color which darkens it. 'Monochromatic' lack variety; however, they are quiet and soothing.



Are colors right next to one another on the wheel. They feel natural, calm, or soothing and have little more variety than the monochromatic scheme. 



Are colors that have been diminished or "neutralized" by adding gray, black, earth tones., or their own color complement. Most of the colors found in plants or nature are neutral colors.

Neutrals or Low-Intensity Colors


Means no color or void of any color, also referred to as a "monotone achromatic." This scheme consists of black, white, and gray combinations only.


Clash of Polychrome

Of course, clashing colors will work if you do not want to create color harmony. Color on either side of its complement or a mixture of many contrasting colors will create a polychrome or color clash.

Clashing Colors

Putting it All Together

Let's recap these color combinations. Notice how they are all about relationships on the wheel...

Color Theory Relationships