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Elements of Art – What are they?

The elements of art

Are you an elementary art teacher looking to take your students’ creativity to the next level? If so, incorporating the elements of art into your lessons can be a game-changer. Teaching these fundamental building blocks of art, such as line, shape, color, texture, and form, not only enhances students’ artistic skills but also fosters their cognitive and emotional development.

Some art teachers are hesitant to teach the elements of art because they seem so formal and far from creative. But I believe it’s worth the time to introduce students to the elements of art in a fun and creative way. Students will understand and remember the elements of art best when you use them as you talk about famous works of art and as you introduce students to a new art-making lesson. So have a little fun with the elements of art!

But first, I’d like to help you understand each element of art, the advantages of teaching the elements of art, how the elements of art relate to other subject areas, some easy ways to use the elements of art in your lessons and some resources to make teaching the elements of art easier.

Overview of the elements of art – line, shape, color, form, texture, value, and space

The elements of art are the basic components that artists use to create visual compositions. Each element contributes to the overall look and feel of an artwork. By teaching students about these elements, educators provide them with a toolkit that enables them to understand and appreciate art.


Line is one of the most basic and essential elements of art. It is the foundation of all drawings and can be used to convey movement, shape, and texture. Lines can be straight, curved, wavy, or jagged, and they can vary in thickness and direction. By experimenting with different types of lines, children can develop their drawing skills and express their creativity.

Lines can be used to create shapes, define boundaries, convey movement, and evoke different emotions.


When a line meets and encloses a space, it forms a shape. Shapes can be two-dimensional or flat, and they can be categorized as geometric or organic. Geometric shapes have straight lines and angles, such as circles, squares, rectangles, and triangles. Organic shapes, on the other hand, have irregular and free-flowing forms, often found in nature. By exploring shapes, children can learn about composition and create interesting visual arrangements.


Color is perhaps the most expressive and evocative element of art. It can communicate emotions, set the mood, and create visual impact. Colors can be categorized into primary (red, yellow, blue), secondary (orange, green, purple), and tertiary (a combination of primary and secondary colors) hues. By understanding color theory and the relationships between different colors, children can create harmonious compositions and convey their intended messages through their artwork.


Form refers to three-dimensional objects or the illusion of three-dimensionality in a two-dimensional artwork. It can be represented through the use of shading, perspective, and modeling techniques. Forms can be organic (such as a human figure) or geometric (such as a cube or sphere).

 By understanding form, children can bring their artwork to life and create the illusion of depth.


Texture refers to the surface quality or feel of an artwork. It can be actual (tactile) or implied (visual). Texture adds depth, interest, and tactile sensations to an artwork, making it more engaging for the viewer.

Texture can add visual interest, evoke emotions, and create a sense of realism in art. Children can experiment with different materials and techniques to create textures, such as using paint, collage, or mixed media.


Value refers to the lightness or darkness of an object or color. It helps create contrast, define form, and establish a sense of depth in an artwork. By understanding value, students can create realistic and visually dynamic compositions.


Space refers to the area within and around objects in an artwork. It can be positive (occupied by objects) or negative (empty or void). Understanding how to use space effectively allows students to create a sense of depth, perspective, and balance in their compositions.

How teaching the elements of art enhances creativity and self-expression in young children

Teaching the elements of art allows students to break down complex visual images into their fundamental components. By analyzing and understanding how artists use lines, shapes, colors, and other elements, students can appreciate the thought and intention behind each artwork. This knowledge not only enhances their visual literacy but also inspires them to create their own meaningful and impactful artworks.

Developing critical thinking skills through the elements of art

When students learn to analyze and interpret artworks, they are encouraged to think critically and make informed judgments. They learn to observe and identify the elements of art used by the artist, such as the type of lines, shapes, and colors. This process enables students to analyze the artist’s intentions, the composition’s overall effect, and the message conveyed. By engaging in this critical analysis, students develop their ability to think critically, evaluate information, and make informed decisions.

The connection between the elements of art and other subjects

Teaching the elements of art not only enhances artistic skills but also strengthens the connection between art and other subjects. The elements of art can be integrated into various disciplines, enriching students’ learning experiences and promoting cross-curricular connections.

Here are just a few ways students can connect art to other subjects through the elements of art.

Line in Music

  • In music, “line” can be related to melodic lines or musical phrases. Melodies consist of sequences of notes akin to a line in visual art. Learning about line can help students understand the structure and flow of melodies.

Form in Architecture

  • Form is fundamental in architectural design, as it relates to the spatial and structural aspects of buildings and structures.

Shape in Geometry

  • Shapes and their properties are central to geometry. Learning about different shapes, angles, and dimensions is crucial for solving geometric problems.

Space in Virtual Reality

  • In the development of virtual environments and simulations, understanding how to create the illusion of depth is essential for immersing users in a convincing virtual space.

Texture in Literature

  • Literature: Texture can be used metaphorically in literature to describe the sensory quality of writing, enhancing the reader’s experience.

Value in Music & Photography

  • In music, “value” can be connected to dynamics, which represent the variation in loudness and intensity. Concepts like crescendo (gradually getting louder) and diminuendo (gradually getting softer) can be thought of as changes in value. Understanding dynamics enhances students’ interpretation of musical expression.
  • Photography: In photography, understanding value is crucial for achieving the right exposure, balancing light and shadow, and creating visually appealing images.

Color in Physics & Psychology

  • Physics: Color is a manifestation of light and can be understood through the study of wavelengths and the electromagnetic spectrum.
  • Psychology: Color is used to explore psychological and emotional responses, with different colors being associated with various moods and feelings.

Incorporating the elements of art into lesson plans and activities

Integrating the elements of art into lesson plans and activities is an effective way to engage students and enhance their artistic skills. Here are some ideas for incorporating the elements of art into elementary art education:

Line exploration:

Introduce students to different types of lines, such as straight, curved, thick, and thin. Have them experiment with creating lines using various tools, such as pencils, brushes, and markers. Encourage them to create artworks using only lines, exploring different line qualities and their expressive potential.

Shape collage:

Provide students with a variety of shapes cut out from colored paper. Ask them to create collages using these shapes, focusing on composition, balance, and visual impact. This activity helps students understand how shapes can be combined to create interesting and visually appealing compositions.

Color mixing:

Teach students about primary, secondary, and tertiary colors. Provide them with the primary colors and ask them to mix and create secondary colors. Encourage them to experiment with color combinations and explore the emotional and visual effects of different color schemes.

Sculpting with form:

Introduce students to the concept of three-dimensional form by engaging them in sculpting activities. Provide them with clay or other sculpting materials and guide them in creating forms such as animals, objects, or abstract shapes. This activity allows students to understand how forms can be manipulated in space and how different techniques can create texture and surface qualities.

Value studies:

Teach students about the concept of value by exploring light and shadow. Provide them with objects or images and ask them to create drawings or paintings that depict the varying values. This activity helps students understand how value can create depth, form, and contrast in an artwork.

Spatial exploration:

Engage students in activities that explore positive and negative space. For example, ask them to create drawings or collages that focus on the relationship between objects and the space around them. This activity helps students understand how space can be used to create balance, rhythm, and visual interest.

By incorporating these activities and others that focus on the elements of art, educators can provide students with hands-on experiences that deepen their understanding and mastery of these fundamental concepts.

Resources and tools for teaching the elements of art in elementary art

Teaching the elements of art in elementary school is made easier with the availability of various resources and tools. I’ve developed some resources that can support you in teaching the elements of art, which you can find in Expressive Monkey’s shop and my TPT store.

Elements of Art Sketchbook Activities

Interactive Elements of Art

Elements of Art & Principles of Design Bundle

Abstract Elements of Art

By utilizing these resources and tools, educators can ensure that they have the necessary support and materials to teach the elements of art in a comprehensive and engaging manner.

Summing It Up

In conclusion, integrating the elements of art into elementary art education offers numerous advantages for students, encompassing artistic growth, cognitive development, and enhanced communication skills. By teaching the elements of art, educators enable students to analyze and understand the components that make up a visual masterpiece. This knowledge empowers students to create and appreciate art on a deeper level, fostering creativity and self-expression.

So why not harness the power of these fundamental concepts to reach your students’ artistic potential? By teaching the elements of art, educators can inspire and empower the next generation of creative thinkers and artists.

mannequin standing next to a white frame with the 3 rules to break inside the frame
Click on the image to get your free download of this infographic!

This infographic is a good reminder that kids, especially reluctant drawers, are in a special place that requires nurturing from their art teachers to cultivate confidence and a love of drawing. This is the perfect time to celebrate their ideas more than their technique and reward their efforts more than their finished product.

You can read more about 3 Rules to Break to Encourage Reluctant Drawers in this blog post.

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The elements of art
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Stacey Peters

I create engaging drawing resources that help students build confidence and express themselves through art. I'm a former elementary art teacher of 25 years turned business owner. Giving you the tools you need to bring more drawing into your classroom brings me joy.

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