Basic structural elements of art

The elements of a work of art are the instruments available to the artist to materialize his works. Knowing them allows you to better express what you see in a work, analyze it or plan a project.

In culinary terms, it is equivalent to the ingredients, to the raw material from which it is divided in a specific proportion, while the organizational factors would be the steps of the recipe.

The traditional list of fundamental elements has focused on plastic arts tools such as painting and sculpture. More modern disciplines such as video-art, performance, sound art, etc. They also use the basic elements of other types of arts with which they are closely related, such as the performing or musical arts.

What are the basic elements of traditional visual and plastic arts?

The line

The line is a continuous longitudinal succession of points. Lines in art can be visible, like the ones drawn, or suggested. In this second case, the line is not explicitly material in the work, but its direction is perceived as a whole.

The line in art: Types and characteristics

The color

Colorful wallpaper. DC

According to physics, color is a sensation dependent on the wavelength of light. In art, pigment colors and light colors are a language.

Quotes: Artists and color
What is color and what is it for in art?
Theories and tips on the use of color
Tastes and colors

Applied theory of color (decoration)
Optics and color (photography)


Simple flat geometric figures. Henrique Conzatti / Wikimedia Commons

The contour is the figure, silhouette or profile that is represented as a flat and closed shape.

Basic flat geometric figures

The space

The space deals with the combination of positive spaces (the full, the occupied) and negative spaces (the empty) in an area. Real space is three-dimensional, but a sense of space and depth can also be generated on a two-dimensional plane.

The volume

Basic geometric bodies. Elisabethd and Mysid / Wikimedia Commons

The volume, unlike the outline, is represented by a three-dimensional shape: height, width, and depth. It is one of the most characteristic elements of sculpture.

Geometric Bodies: Polyhedra and Round Bodies

The value

Grayscale or 10-step value. Northshore School of Art

The value is the scale of degrees of luminosity existing between white (maximum light) and black (maximum darkness).

Related terms:

The texture

Texture is the tactile quality of a surface. It can be real or imitated with a visual illusion.


The point is the record that remains of the encounter between an instrument (such as a pencil) and a plane (another example, a sheet of paper). It is irreducible, the most basic visual element.

The scale

Understood as size and not as proportion


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