How to Analyze a Painting Using the Elements of Art: A Complete Guide to Visual Features for You

Analyze a Painting Using the Elements of Art

Many aspiring photographers who have just bought their first cameras are beginning to zealously explore the technical side of the art of photography. Of course, this is important, in order to produce photos with the correct exposure in the future, you need to know the technical basics. But having finished mastering the technical aspects, a person should pay attention to how compositional elements in the art should be built in order to get effective photographs. Spectacular photographs attract the attention of the viewer and convey to him some kind of emotion, thought, feeling. Capturing emotion and grabbing attention are tasks that require learning, practice, and experimentation.

Learning the basics of visual composition and understanding how they work will help you master composition skills. However, to be successful, it is not enough to blindly follow the rules. In addition, the viewer’s perception of the photograph presented to them depends on his past life experience, interests, and what he is trying to fend for himself. It is for this reason that the same photograph is very often responded to in very different ways. The photographer needs to understand how people perceive the different types of visual analysis elements.

Visual Elements of Art

Visual Elements of Art


The line represents the “path” between two points. The line can be straight, curved, vertical, horizontal, diagonal, or zigzag. The line implies movement and implies direction. The line can also be hidden, in which case it is built in the viewer’s imagination; for this, several “points” must be located in the frame in a certain geometric sequence.

Draw four connecting points for a square on paper, and your brain will draw the missing lines by itself, as it tends to search and find familiar patterns. The direction and orientation of the lines can also evoke certain emotions and feelings. For example, art formal elements mean calmness and serenity, while vertical lines symbolize strength and power. Slanting lines imply movement, action, and change. S-shaped curved lines are associated with calmness and silence. Converging lines indicate depth and distance.

The hedges on either side of the road or highway, the lines of which converge in the distance, give the illusion that a flat 2D image encompasses the three-dimensional depth of the elements of painting. The line is an effective element of visual art, as it can guide the viewer’s eye. To create effective photographs, look for such lines in the frame and line them up in a certain way to convey certain feelings to the viewer.


The form is the end result of the interaction of adjacent lines. But the form can be rendered without visible lines using colored elements of visual arts or objects organized in the frame. Some primary shapes, such as triangles, circles, squares, and hexagons, are found in one form or another in nature. Space is defined by shapes and forms. There is positive space that encloses shapes and forms, and negative space that makes up empty space around shapes and forms. In a balanced shot, negative and positive spaces should balance each other.

Light and Shade

Shape refers to the three-dimensional properties of an object and affects areas of light and shadow. When the light coming in one direction (for example, light from the Sun) hits an object, then part of that object remains in the shadow. The areas of light and shadow in the image give contrast and volume.

Factors that can affect our perception of photography are the direction of the light source and the sharpness or softness of mid-tones. The light emanating from behind an object can form a silhouette in the image, causing an almost black object to appear against a bright, illuminated background. Silhouettes are 2D shapes with no volume. Lack of color very often enhances our perception of form, as happens, for example, with black and white photographs. Light falling from above or from the side creates the so-called “Rembrandt illumination”. This type of lighting emphasizes boundaries and depth.


There have been many studies to investigate how color affects humans. Several studies have shown that women and men can perceive color differently. Color affects our emotional state, different colors can evoke a wide range of emotions. Roughly speaking, color can affect the human nervous system. That is why are the elements of art important for a person.

Terminology of Elements of Visual Design

Terminology of Elements of Visual Design
  1. Hue – defines the names of the primary colors, red, blue, and green.
  2. The combination of light and shadow is the amount of light or shadow in a color (in other words, the amount of black or white).
  3. Intensity is the purity and saturation of the color.
  4. Monochrome is the use of one color (often one color is used but in different tones).
  5. Analogous colors are adjacent colors on the color wheel, such as yellow and green.
  6. The combination of similar colors living side by side on the color wheel is considered one of the most harmonious visual features. Similar colors are used quite often in visual arts and have a calming effect.
  7. Complementary colors: Colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel, such as blue-violet and yellow. Complementary colors placed next to each other provide more contrast. For example, yellow looks more intense when placed against a blue or purple background.
  8. Green and yellow are similar colors that are in harmony with each other, while purple appears more intense against the background of complementary colors.
  9. Warm colors include yellow, red, and orange and are associated with blood, sun, and fire.
  10. Cool colors include purple, blue, and green.

We call colors cold and warm because they evoke in us associative rows with the corresponding natural phenomena. We consider red, yellow, and orange to be warm colors, while blue, purple, and green are referred to as cold colors. But this contrast is relative since the combination of green and yellow will seem colder relative to red and orange, but against the background of blue and purple, on the contrary, such a combination will seem warmer to us. Photographers can use different colors to enhance contrast or to convey perspective. Cold colors have the visual elements of art definition feature to move objects away, while warm colors, on the contrary, seem to bring them closer to the viewer.

Texture refers to the quality of the surface or the “feel” that an object conveys — it can be smooth, rough, soft, and so on. Texture can be factual (felt when touched) or implied (when an artist renders texture through visual art). The texture is especially emphasized when light hits an object at an angle. Now you know what are visual elements in art.

Compositional Devices Art

Compositional Devices Art


Composing various elements of composition in art in the frame of the viewfinder to get an expressive shot is not as easy as it might seem at first glance. The artist has the advantage here, he can arrange objects in the picture as and where he wants, but the photographer must search and organize the elements of the frame. And although sometimes the photographer can put his hand and position the objects in the frame himself in the way he thinks would be better (for example, leaves), but very often such intervention leads to extreme unnaturalness, and the frame loses its mystery, becoming artificial.


By unity, we mean the ordering of elements in the frame, as a result of which each element contributes to a single image and defines the symbolic expression. Why are visual elements of art important to symbolic expression? A photograph in which there is no unity between objects causes conflicting feelings in the viewer, and as a result, he simply turns away. There are several ways that you can help achieve this unity in the frame.


The artist or photographer must build the sequence in which the list of elements of art will be traced, and control the amount of attention that each of the elements will receive. You can make an element the main one in a photo using size or color. Large objects prevail over small ones, and warm colors prevail over cold ones. You can also draw the main attention to the subject by placing it in the frame.


Integrity refers to the harmony between visual form definitions, which should fit perfectly together. In reality, the elements of the image may not be connected in any way, but in the photograph their shape, color and size should form one whole. Visual consistency can be achieved by using similar colors and tones, similar shapes, textures, or sizes.

The concept of balance implies that all 6 elements of art in the photograph have their own “weight”. Large objects tend to weigh more than small ones, just as dark objects outweigh light ones. The position of the objects is of great importance. On a subconscious level, we perceive the center of a photograph or painting as a kind of axis of rotation.
Understanding the constituents of visual art and how they affect our emotions can help us create more dramatic photographs. But it should be understood that following the rules and guidelines does not guarantee success. Making a successful photograph depends on many things that must come together in the frame: time, light, color, composition, and the ability of the audience to feel what you were trying to convey. Probably, many creators rely more on their intuition and flair and arrange visual elements as they “should be”, while leaving all the basics and principles in the background. Now we hope you understand how to analyze a painting using the elements of art with the help of the information that we have prepared with the team for you.

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