• Jessie Chang

8 Essential Elements of Design

The elements of design are the basic building blocks that make up any picture. Using these elements in different combinations will create a unique feeling for your piece. Have fun and experiment with these!

Want more in depth versions of these elements? Check out our other blogs on each of these elements in our resources for teachers section!


The first element is Line! Line is meant to define shapes and contours, and sometimes to imply volume and perspective. Line is utilized in multiple different ways, such as with leading lines, crosshatching, and just good old line art! There are also tons of different styles of line -- broken up, thick, thin, zigzagged, diagonal, horizontal, vertical -- the list goes on. Learning to be smart with how you use your lines is how you can really push your artwork to the next level!


The next element is Shape! Shapes are two dimensional and can be divided into two categories, geometric and biomorphic/organic. Geometric shapes are shapes that are more "regular" or precise. These are the shapes you're probably more familiar with since they're also very mathematical, such as squares, triangles and circles. Biomorphic shapes or more commonly called organic shapes are considered everything else, from the weird shape that a t-shirt is supposed to be to the shape of the bush in your garden.

All organic shapes can be broken down into more simple geometric shapes, and learning which geometric shapes to use to build up your organic shapes are key to illustrating objects and characters.


The third element is Form! Form is almost like shape, except now the shapes are three dimensional. Instead of working with circles, triangles and squares, we now work with spheres, pyramids and cubes. Forms are the next level to building up proper structure when we illustrate objects, and follow the same rules as shapes.

Geometric forms are the more mathematical and precise ones, like rectangular prisms and cylinders. Organic forms are less mathematical, don't usually have a name attributed to them, and are more irregular. These forms are still usually built up of geometric forms first, and then are given the needed details afterwards. For instance, a human arm can be seen as a couple of cylinders and a sphere for the elbow, but then adding more details on top of that give you the organic form of the arm.


Teachers: For a printer-friendly version of this post and more, visit our Resources page.

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