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Art Vocabulary

2D and 3D

3D (Having or appearing to have height, length, and depth) and 2D (Having or appearing to have height and length but no depth)

2D Animation

Moving pictures in a two-dimensional environment

6D Animation

Moving pictures in a three-dimensional environment; Objects can be rotated and moved like real objects

Abstract art

Art that does not attempt to represent an accurate depiction of a visual reality but instead uses shapes, colors, forms, and gestural marks to achieve its effect. Learn more.

Abstract Expressionism

A term applied to new forms of abstract art developed by American painters such as Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Willem de Kooning in the 1940s and 1950s. It is often characterized by gestural brush-strokes or mark-making, and the impression of spontaneity. Learn more

Acrylic paint

A fast-drying paint, acrylic paints are water-soluble but become water-resistant when dry. Learn more.

Action painters

The term action painter is applied to artists working from the 1940s until the early 1960s whose approach to painting emphasized the physical act of painting as an essential part of the finished work. Learn more


The process of adding material to an artwork (ex. drawing with charcoal on paper)

Aerial Perspective

The effect of distance or atmosphere that creates haziness or changes in color


Ideas about what makes a work of art beautiful or satisfying.


A small, air-operated tool that sprays various media, most often paint but also ink and dye

Analogous colors

Colors that sit next to each other on the color wheel


A way of making a movie from many still images. The images are put together one after another and then played at a fast speed to give the illusion of movement. Learn more


A person who creates animation.


A collectible object such as a piece of furniture or work of art that has a high value because of its age

Applied art

Design principles applied to functional objects such as furniture and metalwork


A design made by stitching pieces of colored fabric onto a larger piece of cloth. Appliqué is used for wall hangings and as decoration on clothing, quilts, and pillows


A decorative technique that uses curving plant forms; frequently used in Islamic art


A curved structure over an opening such as a door or window. An arch may either stand alone or support the walls around the opening

Archaic Art

Greek sculpture or vases from 620 to c. 500 BC; ancient art


A person who designs and draws plans for buildings


A metal framework on which a sculpture is molded with clay or other material ​

Art criticism

The process of looking at, thinking about, and judging an artwork.

Art Deco

Applied design from the 1920s and 1960s derived from French, African, Aztec, and Chinese motifs

Art gallery

A building or space for the display of art ​

Art history

The study of art created in different times and cultures. ​

Art media

The materials used by artists. ​

Art museum

A building or space for the display of art.

Art Nouveau

An 1890s asymmetrical decorative style featuring sinuous forms based on objects found in nature


An object made by a human being, typically of cultural or historical interest


A skilled craft worker who makes or creates things by hand


A person who practices any of the various creative arts (ex. Painter, sculptor, filmmaker, photographer, poet, etc.) ​

Arts and Crafts Movement

A return to the hand-made decorative arts during the 1960s ​


A work of art, artwork, art piece, piece of art or art object is an aesthetic physical item or artistic creation


That part of the lowercase letter that rises above the body of the letter, as in b, d, f, h, k, l, and t


A work of art made by grouping found or unrelated objects

Asymmetrical balance

Balance created when elements on each side of a design are different, but still creates a sense of balance

Atmospheric perspective

A phenomena in which distant objects appear lighter in tone, less detailed, and bluer or cooler in color

Avant garde

New and unusual or experimental ideas, especially in the arts, or the people introducing them


The area or scenery furthest back in a picture


The equal distribution of weight in a design


Usually associated with the printmaker of Japan. A slightly convex hand tool, about 5 inches in diameter, for burnishing the back of the paper when printing from an inked relief block. Many Western artists use an ordinary household tablespoon for the same purpose, though the results are not necessarily equal in quality


A projecting image with a shallow overall depth, for example, used on coins, on which all images are in low relief


A technique of hand-dyeing fabrics by using wax as a dye repellent to cover parts of a design, then dyeing the uncovered fabric


The horizontal supporting unit of a structure, usually made of steel or wood

Birds-eye view

An elevated view of an object from above (as if from a bird’s perspective)


Clayware that has been fired once in the kiln without any glaze


The seeping of color into an adjacent color or area


To mix colors together. Also to move smoothly from one color to another without making a line

Blind contour drawing

A kind of drawing done in one continuous line, in which the  pencil is kept moving while the eyes remain on the object, never looking down at the paper


In printing a piece of thick, flat material, such as cardboard, wood, or a potato, with a design on its surface, used to print repeated impressions of that design. In carving, a large solid  piece of a material, such as wood or stone, from which parts are cut away to form a sculpture


The detailed drawings an architect creates for a building before it can be built

Body proportions

The relationship of the sizes of one body part to another and to the rest of the body. For example, the head usually makes up about one-seventh of a person’s total height

Bone Dry

Completely dry, unfired clay


The ornamental strip or design around the edge of a printed page, drawing, etc


A roller used to spread out ink during the printmaking process


An attribute of visual perception in which a source appears to be radiating or reflecting light

Broken line

A line composed of a series of dashes


A tool with bristles, wire, or other filaments. It is used for cleaning, grooming hair, makeup, painting, surface finishing, and for many other purposes


The mark of an artist made by a paintbrush drawn across a surface


A sculpture of a person’s head, shoulders, and chest


Decorative handwriting or handwritten lettering


A photograph taken informally, often without the subject’s knowledge


A tightly stretched cloth surface on which to paint


The top element of a pillar or column. There are three basic types of capitals which originated with the ancient Greeks: Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian


A person’s job or profession.


A picture in which a person’s distinctive features, such as nose, ears or mouth are distorted or exaggerated


Full-scale drawing for tapestry or wall painting; or a humorous or satirical drawing

Cartoon Art

The kind of art used in comics or cartoons. It usually has simple lines, uses  basic colors and tells a story in one picture or a series of pictures drawn in boxes called frames


Cut (a hard material) in order to produce an object, design, or inscription

Cast shadows

Shadows made on the ground by objects


An object made by pouring molten metal or other material into a mold

Cave Art

Prehistoric art found in caves

Center of Interest

The part of an artwork that you notice first.


The art or technique of making objects of ceramic, especially from fired clay

Chalk Pastel

A chalk-like crayon made from ground pigment with a binder added


A drawing material made from charred wood


The strong contrast between light and dark in a painting for dramatic effect


A long-bladed hand tool with a beveled cutting edge and a plain handle that is struck with a hammer or mallet, used to cut or shape wood, stone, metal, or other hard materials


The view of an urban landscape


A soft, moist, earthy material used to create artworks such as sculptures and pottery

Closed Form

A form that is a solid mass isolated from ambient space


A very near or close view of an object or subject.


A rope-like shaped piece of clay


The technique of overlapping and gluing multiple pieces of paper together to create a piece of art


A print made from a collage of assorted pasted materials (such as cardboard, strings, papers, etc..)


The element of art that is produced by light reflecting off of objects.

Color Scheme

An arrangement or combination of colors

Color Wheel

A circular diagram which shows the organization of different hues and their relationships to one another

Colored Pencil

An art medium constructed of a narrow, pigmented core encased in a wooden cylindrical case

Complementary Colors

Colors that sit across from each other on the color wheel


The placement or arrangement of visual elements in a work of art

Contour Line

An outline


The arrangement of opposite elements (light vs. dark colors, large vs. small, etc.)

Cool Colors

Colors that create a calm and peaceful mood. They appear to recede in space


Clothing characteristic of a particular time, place or people


A network of fine cracks in the paint or varnish of a painting


A crayon is a stick of colored wax, charcoal, chalk or other material used for writing or drawing. A crayon made of pigment with a dry binder is a pastel; when made of oiled chalk, it is called an oil pastel

Crayon Etching

A type of picture made by coating paper with several layers of wax crayon and then scratching a design into the surface with a sharp object, revealing crayon colors in underneath layers


The removal of the outer parts of an image to improve framing, accentuate subject matter, or change aspect ratio

Cross Hatching

Using crossed lines for shading


Lines that travel across a form to describe volume and surface characteristics


A method of shading that is created with intersecting sets of parallel lines

Decorative Arts

The arts concerned with the production of high-quality objects that are both useful and beautiful


The apparent distance from front to back


The outline, sketch, or plan of construction for a piece of artwork


A small part of a work of art, enlarged to show a close-up of its features. Also, a distinctive feature of an object or scene which can be seen most clearly close up

Diagonal Line

A line that has an oblique or slanted direction. Can help create the illusion of movement and instability

Digital Art

An artistic work or practice that uses digital technology as part of the creative or presentation process


A piece of artwork created on two hinged panels


The altering of a something’s original shape or form, often used to create meaning


A form of visual art in which a person uses various drawing instruments to mark paper or another two-dimensional medium


A painting technique in which a paintbrush that is relatively dry, but still holds paint, is used


A stand or frame used to support an artist’s canvas

Elements of Art

The seven elements of art are line, shape, space, value, form, texture, and color. These elements are the building blocks, or ingredients, of art


A raised pattern or design on a surface


The focal point in a design that captures the viewer’s attention


A print produced by the process of etching (using strong acid to cut into the unprotected parts of a metal surface to create a design)


A cloth typically produced by weaving or knitting textile fibers


The process of baking ceramics in a kiln or furnace

Focal Point

The element in a painting that pulls in the viewer’s attention

Folk Art

Artwork produced typically in cultural isolation by untrained, often anonymous artists or artisans


The visual plane nearest to the viewer. It is the front layer in an artwork


The visual distortion of objects from a particular perspective as they recede in space


A three-dimensional object that encloses volume. It has a height, width, and depth

Found Objects

An object or artifact not originally intended as art that is found and considered to have aesthetic value

Freeform Shapes

An irregular shape (often found in nature). Organic shapes are usually irregular and don’t always have names


A technique of mural painting executed upon freshly-laid or wet plaster


Technique where the artist places a piece of paper over an uneven surface then marks the paper with a drawing tool (such as pastel or pencil): thus creating a rubbing.

Functional Art

Aesthetic objects that serve utilitarian purposes


A room or building for the display or sale of works of art

Geometric Shapes

A space enclosed by surfaces or lines. Geometric shapes such as circles, triangles or squares have perfect and uniform measurements and do not usually appear in nature


A type of primer used to stop paint from soaking into the weave of a canvas

Gesture Drawing

A quick drawing which is meant to capture the essence of an object or figure

Glass Blowing

The craft of making glassware by blowing air through a tube of semimolten glass


A coating of glass which is fused to the surface of a clay body during firing


The visual result of gradually transitioning from one color to another


Writing or drawings made on a wall or other surface, usually as a form of artistic expression, without permission and within public view.

Graphic Design

The art and practice of planning and projecting ideas and experiences with visual and textual content


Clay objects that have been shaped, but not yet fired in a kiln


A pattern of parallel lines that cross one another at right angles or diagonally


Refers to the one of several techniques of building pots using the only the hands and simple tools rather than the potters wheel. The term used for creating pottery using the potter’s wheel is “throwing”


Shading using a series of parallel lines


An area of direct light on an object

Horizon Line

The line where the land (or sea) and sky meet. It is the imaginary line to which things recede

Horizontal line

A line that moves from left to right. It can convey a sense of rest and calm


A pure, unmixed color


An artist who creates illustrations for books

Implied Shape

A shape that is not formally defined but is suggested

Implied Texture

The way that something looks as if it could feel (the illusion of texture)


Art that is created, constructed, or installed on the site where it is exhibited (site-specific artwork)

Interior Design

The art or process of designing the interior decoration of a room or building

Intermediate Colors

The colors made by mixing a primary color with a secondary color


Personal ornaments, such as necklaces, rings, or bracelets, that are typically made from or contain jewels and precious metals


The furnace in which clay is fired to harden it

Kinetic Art

A piece of artwork that is designed to be set in motion


The process of making a garment (blanket, clothes, etc.) by interlocking loops of wool or yarn with knitting needles

Land Art

Artwork in which the landscape and the work of art are inextricably linked


An artwork showing an outdoor scene

Landscape Design

The art or process of developing practical and pleasing outdoor living space


The state in which clay has lost moisture due to evaporation, but has not yet completely hardened. It is no longer plastic. Clay that is dry enough to work with with out bending when you carefully pick it up, but still has enough moisture in it to easily cut and join together using appropriate techniques. Clay is carved best at this stage of dryness also


The path created by a point moving through space

Linear perspective

A drawing technique used to create the illusion of depth in two-dimensional artwork


A print created from a mirrored image of an original piece of artwork drawn onto a smooth stone tablet with greasy crayons


A symbol used to represent a group (like a business or organization)


A device used to weave cloth and tapestry


A small scale model or rough draft of an unfinished sculpture


A pen which has its own ink source and a tip made of porous, pressed fibers such as felt


A covering for all or part of the face, worn as a disguise, or to amuse or terrify other people


Resources used in the creation and study of visual art (ex. Paints, canvas, wood, etc.)


The material used to create a work of art


The middle layer in a piece of artwork


An artwork created with more than one medium (material)


A kinetic sculpture


A three-dimensional representation of an


In this technique, flat slabs of clay are pressed into molds in order to create various shapes or forms


Object that is typically on a smaller scale than the original


A form of printmaking that has images or lines that can only be made once


The atmosphere or state of mind and feeling that a work of art generates


An assemblage of small pieces of color glass, stone or other materials to create a picture or design


The sense of motion created in a piece of artwork


An artistic discipline that combines film, performance, sound, visual effects, etc


A large picture painted or affixed directly on a wall or ceiling

Negative space

The empty space around an object

Neutral colors

Earthy colors that do not appear on the color wheel. They include browns, whites, blacks, etc

Non-objective art

A type of non-figurative and non-representational art

Oil pastel

An oil-based crayon which combines pigment with a non-drying oil and wax binder

One-point perspective

A drawing technique in which all diagonal lines converge to a single point on the horizon line (the vanishing point)


Something that cannot be seen through

Open form

A form with irregular or broken contours. It has negative space within its form

Organic shapes

An irregular shape (often found in nature). Organic shapes are usually irregular and don’t always have names.


The Japanese art of folding paper into decorative shapes and figures


The placement of one or more objects over one another in order to create the illusion of depth


A picture or design executed in paints


A board used to hold paint on which colors can be mixed. Also can refer to the range of colors used in a piece of art


A malleable mixture of paper and glue, or paper, flour, and water, that becomes hard when dry


Elements that repeat in a recurring and regular arrangement


A photographic print made by placing an arrangement of objects on photosensitive paper, then exposing it to light


A collage created from various photographs or photographic reproductions


A form of writing using representational, pictorial drawings as symbols for a greater meaning


“Pinch” is a method of shaping clay by inserting the thumb of one hand into the clay and lightly pinching with the thumb and fingers while slowly rotating the ball in the palm of the other hand. Pots made in this manner are called “pinch pots”


The basic unit of programmable color on a computer display or image

Plein air

The act of painting outdoors


A personal collection of an artist’s work meant to highlight their abilities


A painting, photograph, sculpture, or other artistic representation of a person


A particular way of standing or sitting, usually adopted for effect or in order to be photographed or drawn

Positive space

The space occupied by an object

Primary colors

The three basic colors that can be combined to create all other colors

Principles of design

The ways that artists use the elements of art in a work of art (balance, contrast, emphasis, movement, pattern, rhythm, unity/variety)


A picture, design, or the like, printed from an engraved or otherwise prepared block, plate, etc


The art/technique of creating prints


The side view of an object or person


The relative sizes of parts in a whole


A piece of textile art created by sewing together patches of fabric

Radial balance

Balance that is created when elements are arranged evenly around a central point

Real texture

The way that something actually feels like


The representation of things as they really look in real life

Receding lines

Lines that recede back into space and meet at a vanishing point

Relief sculpture

A sculpture consisting of shapes carved on a surface so as to stand out from the surrounding background


The repeating of visual elements in a piece of art. It is a principle of design


A technique that uses the incompatibility of two mediums to create layered effects with color and texture


The repetition of elements to create visual movement


The reproduction of a texture created by placing a piece of paper over an object and rubbing the paper with a crayon or other material


The size of an object in relation to the size of another object


The process of scratching the surface of a piece of clay to better join it to another piece (often with slip)


A three-dimensional work of art


An artwork that shows a sea, ocean, or shore scene

Secondary colors

The colors that can be created when you mix two primary colors together


A drawing, photograph, sculpture, or any other artistic representation which shows the likeness of the artist


A technique of allowing tones and colors to shade gradually into one another, producing softened outlines or hazy forms


An ornamentation technique in which the surface layer of something is scratched through to reveal a contrasting color underneath


The darker value of a color that is created by mixing black with another color


The darkening or coloring of an image using lines or color


The areas of darkness on or around an object caused by a lack of direct light


A two-dimensional space that can be defined by edges


A rough or unfinished drawing or painting, often made to assist in making a more finished picture


A book or pad of drawing paper used by an artist to draw or paint in as part of their creative process


An even flat piece of clay


Slip is liquid clay. The easiest way to make slip is to gradually sift or spoon dry, powder clay into a small cup of water. Stir well as you add because it will tend to thicken up after it sits for a minute or two. You want it to be about the consistency of thick cream

Slip Trailing

Slip trailing is another decoration method. Slip (a liquid clay) is applied to the clay through a tube or nozzle, much like icing a cake


A loose over-garment worn to protect clothing

Soft Sculpture

A three-dimensional piece of artwork created with a soft material (fabric, canvas, etc.)


The area around, inside, or between shapes or forms

Spiral Line

A line that gradually moves outward as it circles around a central point


This is the technique of pressing forms into the clay to get decorative effects

Stages of Dryness

When speaking of clay, we refer to three basic stages of dryness: wet, leather hard and bone dry

Stained Glass

Colored glass used to form decorative or pictorial designs


A device used to apply patterns, designs, and/or words to a surface


An artwork showing an arrangement of still objects (such as fruit or flowers)


A method of shading that is created by varying amounts of dots in different densities


The room where an artist works


Something represented in a more simplistic or abstracted fashion


The process of removing material from an artwork (ex. erasing charcoal to create highlights)


A kind of Japanese brush drawing done with simple, flowing, curving lines that are created with careful brushstrokes


Something used to represent something else (often a visual design)


A mirror image made from designs of equal proportions positioned in the same location on either side of a dividing line

Symmetrical Balance

Balance that is created when elements on one side of a design are similar to those on the other side


A picture or design woven or stitched in cloth and hung on a wall


The way an artist uses his or her tools. No two artists have exactly the same technique

Tempera Paint

A chalky, opaque, water-based paint (sometimes called poster paint)


An effect such as chiaroscuro, with most figures in shadow, yet others in a shaft of light

Terra Cotta

Unglazed, fired clay, usually of pinkish color

Tertiary Colors

See intermediate colors


A pattern created with a repeating shape that does not overlap and could continue on forever


The individual pieces used in making a mosaic

Textile Art

A type of art created with plant, animal, or synthetic fibers to construct practical or decorative objects


The way a surface looks and feels – rough, smooth, silky and so on

Three-dimensional (6D)

Having length, width and depth. A sculpture is three-dimensional,  but a drawing is only two-dimensional since it is flat and has only length and width not depth


The process of making a pot, bowl, vase, etc. from a piece of clay on a potter’s wheel


A small drawing done on paper to explore multiple ideas quickly


Colorful cloth with designs of lines and circles. The designs are made because objects are tied into the cloth with string. The wrapped areas resist the colored dye into which the cloth is dipped

Tiffany Glass

A style of glass designed in the early 20th century by Louis Comfort Tiffany, using rich colors and the botanical forms and patterns characteristic of Art Nouveau


The lighter value of a color that is created by mixing white with another color


The name given to a picture, sculpture or other piece of artwork, reflecting the main idea of the work


A more subtle color, which is created by adding gray to another color


The trunk, or main part of the human body, not including the head, arms and legs


An object or image that serves as a symbol or emblem of a family, person, idea or experience

Totem pole

A pole or pillar of wood carved and painted with totem images showing the history, traditions and legends of the Northwest Indians


A tall, vertical structure that either stands free or is part of a building


Decorative ornamental stone or wood patterns used between pieces of glass or on walls


A special design, name or symbol that represents a company or business. Most trademarks are registered with the government and cannot be used by anyone else (See also log)


To print or copy a drawing or design from one surface to another by bringing the two surfaces into contact


Allowing the passage of light but not the perception of distinct images (in-between transparent and opaque)


Allowing light to pass through so that objects can be clearly seen underneath; the opposite of opaque. Window glass, cellophane and watercolors are transparent


Three colors equally spaced on the color wheel. For example, yellow, blue and red form a triad as do green, purple and orange and so on


A picture or relief carving on three panels typically hinged together side by side

Trompe l’oeil (Fool the eye)

A painting so real that you want to touch the objects


A small tower, usually containing stairs, that is located on the top of a building

Two-dimensional (2D)

Having height and width, but not depth; flat. Paintings, drawings and stitchery are examples of two-dimensional art forms

Two-point perspective

A drawing technique in which all diagonal lines converge to one of two points on the horizon line (the vanishing points)


Having all parts look as if they belong together in a complete whole


The sense of harmony between all the elements in an artwork that create a sense of completeness


Capital letters in an alphabet


How light, or dark, a specific color or hue is.

Vanishing point

The point in linear perspective at which all lines in perspective converge and diminish


A varied or diversified group of things (elements)


An arched ceiling or roof made of stone, cement, or brick

Vertical Line

A line that is in an upright vertical position. Can convey a sense of strength and power


A device on a camera used to compose, frame, and focus a picture


Sides from which an object can be seen. A shoe has many viewpoints; if you  put a shoe on a table, you can move around the table to see different views of the shoe


An opening, gap, hole, or empty space, often used in modern sculpture. Voids are an important feature in the sculpture of Henry Moore

Warm Colors

Colors that create a feeling of warmth and energy. They appear to advance in space


The vertical threads that are attached to the top and bottom of a loom, through which the weft is woven (See also weft)

Warp and Weft

The perpendicular lines of thread or yarn used in the weaving process. (see it)


A coat of diluted ink or watercolor paint resulting in a semi-transparent layer of color

Watercolor Paint

A translucent water-based paint


A painting of or including a body of water

Wavy Line

A line that alternates between moving up and down fluidly through space. Can convey a sense of calm movement.

Wax Resist

In this decorative technique, patterns or designs are created by brushing a wax medium over an area of clay, slip, or glaze to resist the final glaze application when the wax is dry


An artwork made of thread, yarn, or other fibers laced or woven together


A technique in which clay is thoroughly kneaded to remove air pockets


A print made from a design cut into a block of wood


Clay currently being worked with and has not had time to dry out

Worms-eye View

A perspective view from below an object or from a low or inferior position


The height of the main portion of a lowercase letter, not including ascender or descender


Spun thread used for knitting, weaving, or sewing

Zig-zag Line

A line that sharply alternates between moving up and down.