Principles of design and visual elements & Composition rules

The 8 Basic Principles of Design

  1. Balance – a state or equilibrium between forces
  2. Contrast – Interaction of contradictory elements, expresses the duality seen in opposites
  3. Emphasis – Establishing centers of interest which focus the viewer’s attention
  4. Direction – Both implied and actual, they help guide the eye and mind movement of the viewer. The can also bind the work into a single entity.
  5. Proportion – The size relationship of parts to the entire work, and each to the other. very often associated with figural art.
  6. Scale – Real apparent size seen in relation to other objects, people, its environment or the proportions of the picture plane.
  7. Rhythm – the recurrence of a design element couple with a certain order to the repetition. Provides continuity, flow, direction forces etc. (this is also important in music)
  8. Unity – The force operating in a work of art which can give it the appearance of oneness or resolution. The consistency of the concept.

Arts 6 Visual Elements

  1. Line
  2. Shape
  3. Form
  4. Tone
  5. Colour
  6. Space
  7. Texture



The rules and conventions of composition are:

  • Rule of Thirds- Divide the image into thirds, if the main components of the image lie on the lines then the image often tends to look ‘right’. Sometimes an image doesn’t follow the rule exactly but the main visual components are close to the third bisectors.
  • Rule of Even and Odds – An even number of things in an image can sometimes create a slightly ‘unnatural’ look. While an odd number of things can often create a feeling of harmony or balance. It gives the image a more ‘natural’ feel to it than an even number does.
  • Rule of Triangles – Triangles, with 3 sides, tend to form stable, solid looking compositions.
  • Space
  • Simplification
  • Symmetry
  • Pattern and Repetition

Rule of Thirds – The wasp sits comfortably on the lines, making this image ‘nice’ and ‘easy’ to look at

Rule of Evens and Odds – Is this image natural feeling or not? Would it have been nicer with just 2 trees?

Rule of Triangles – a solid, stable looking image?


Pattern and repetition



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