Basic Terminology in Drawing and Painting


Before you start with your art lessons, here are the key terms you need to learn first.


Composition is the arrangement of all the elements in your piece. The eight elements are balance, contrast, focus, movement, pattern, proportion, rhythm and unity. You need to take all these into consideration when brainstorming for a project.


Elements refer to the elements of art. These are color, composition, direction, line, shape, space, size, texture, tone, and time and movement. They are not to be confused with the elements of composition listed above.


Perspective creates the depth and space in the artwork. Two-dimensional art is boring, so artists try to create an illusion of three-dimensional spaces. Beginners are sometimes instructed to use lines and points to figure out where to place objects.


Depth could mean the intensity of the color or the distance (nearness or farness) created in the artwork by using perspectives.


Blending is when one color runs or is placed on another layer with different color. This also means that two colors meet smoothly. This is commonly found in water color and oil paintings.


Bleeding is employed when the hard edges are softened when blending oils and acrylics. A dark color slowly passes through a light color.


Chiaroscuro is the use of light and shadow as contrasts on an artwork. The tones of the shade and light are strong without consideration of the color. It is used to express a mood. The word comes from two terms meaning clear and obscure.


Shade is darkening an area using black or other dark colors. In color theory, shading is done when a lighter color is mixed with a dark color. Tint is the opposite of shade. A tint is a color mixed with white to make it lighter. The tone creates something in between a shade and a tint. Tone is created when a color is mixed with gray.


Value creates the illusion of light by using the different grays between the black and white colors. This is also used to create the illusion of space. This is useful when  shading and creating shadows of objects on the piece.


Grading is applying the light and dark portions of colors in successive stages. The artist manipulates the hue and saturation for different effects on the piece. Saturation refers to whether the color is mixed with white so that it isn’t diluted. Hue means the basic colors that are not mixed with others.


Highlight is the technique of illuminating an area in the drawing to create the illusion of light and how it reflects on surfaces. Highlighting is done when the final touches on the details are applied.


Texture is creating the illusion of a tactile quality in an artwork. A piece may suggest what it feels (rough, smooth and others) or it can actually be felt. The artist uses the lines, shapes and colors to create texture.


Wash is a diluted colored portion of the piece, usually employed in water colors. The color is almost transparent.