Basic Elements of Graphic Design

Basic elements include line, shape, form, texture, and balance.


  • A line is a shape that connects two or more points.
  • Lines appear frequently in design; for example, in drawings and illustrations. They’re also common in graphic elements, like textures, patterns, and backgrounds.
  • organization, emphasis, or just decoration. In the example below, lines have been used to create a flow chart that guides the reader’s eye from one element to the next.
  • weight, color, texture, and style


A shape is any two-dimensional area with a recognizable boundary.

Shapes fall into two distinct categories:

  1. geometric
  2. organic (where the shapes are more free form)
  • can help you organize or separate content, create simple illustrations, or just add interest to your work.


When a shape becomes 3D, we call it a form

However, forms don’t have to be three-dimensional shapes. They can also be implied through illustration, using techniques like light, shadow, and perspective to create the illusion of depth.

In two-dimensional design, form makes realism possible.

  • can bring a touch of realism to your work


Texture is the physical quality of a surface. can be implied through illustration

  • texture adds depth and tactility to otherwise flat images


Balance is the equal distribution of visual weight (more specifically, how much any one element attracts the viewer’s eye).

Balance can be affected by many things, including color, size, number, and negative space.


Symmetrical designs are the same or similar on both sides of an axis. They feel balanced because each side is effectively the same (if not identical). symmetrical business card

Asymmetrical designs are different, but the weight is still evenly distributed. The composition is balanced because it calls attention to the right things (in this example, the person’s name and company logo). asymmetrical business card

The Rule of Thirds

This imagines your work area divided into a 3x3 grid. The focal point of the image is placed on or near one of the grid lines, creating visual balance with the rest of the space.

We find this type of composition appealing because, according to studies, the human eye naturally follows this path when scanning a design.

Colour Theory

Colour Theory

Colour Wheel


Red Yellow and Blue 3


By mixing combinations of red, yellow, and blue 3 Orange, green, violet


Primary + Secondary 6


colours opposite


Hue, Value, and Intensity

All colours have - Hue, Intensity, and Value Munsell System


Hue = name of colour Warm or cold Warmth of a colour is a property of hue - We can divide the colour wheel into two halves - with orange in the center of one one side and blue at the center of the other Colours near orange are warm, colours near blue are cool Why? Psychological association - Colours halfway between are fairly neutral - To add warmth, we usually add yellow - To add coldness, we usually add blue - there can be a “cool green” and a “warm green” - useful for colour schemes for harmony


Most important dimension Lightness or darkness Shade - add black Tint - add white


aka saturation aka purity aka strength To lower intensity, add grey

Some Rules

1. Every Colour Affects the other Colour

and how we perceive it. Depending on the colour of other elements, the background, etc. something might appear too dark or too small

2. Adding Depth

Warmer colours seem to appear closer Cooler colours appear farther Farther elements - cooler and less intense

3. Colour under Different light Conditions

direction of light, direct/indirect light, shadows, the surface underneath/reflected light, everything plays a role

4. Different Lights Create Different Colors

Sunlight = warm Artificial light = cool

setting, effect

shadows - usually cool

5. Emotional Effect of Colour

6. Colours Create Different Moods

Bright, warm colours - happy and light low dark colours - gloomy

value and intensity = low? gloomy mood, serious atmosphere

7. Colour Proportion !!!

Don’t use too many colours, too intensely Stick to fewer hues too many intense colours = compete for attention, appear in disarray, sore to look at

8. Set Palette

Colour Schemes

  • Monochromatic – Take one hue and create other elements from different shades and tints of it.

  • Analogous – Use three colors located beside one another on the color wheel (e.g., orange, yellow-orange and yellow to show sunlight). A variant is to mix white with these to form a “high-key” analogous color scheme (e.g., flames).

  • Complementary – Use “opposite color” pairs—e.g., blue/yellow—to maximize contrast.

  • Split-Complementary (or Compound Harmony) – Add colors from either side of your complementary color pair to soften contrast.

  • Triadic – Take three colors which are equally distant on the color wheel (i.e., 120° apart: e.g., red/blue/yellow). These colors may not be vibrant, but the scheme can be as it maintains harmony and high contrast. It’s easier to make visually appealing designs with this than with a complementary scheme.

  • Tetradic – Take four colors that are two sets of complementary pairs (e.g., orange/yellow/blue/violet) and choose one dominant color. This allows rich, interesting designs. However, watch the balance between warm and cool colors.

  • Square – A variant of tetradic; you find four colors evenly spaced on the color wheel (i.e., 90° apart). Unlike tetradic, square schemes can work well if you use all four colors evenly.


RGB - Additive colour scheme. Used for screens. EMITS light, so more you add colours, gets brighter. Add all colours, you get white

CMYK - Subtractive color palette. Print. Absorbs light. More colour you add, the darker it gets. Add all colours, you get black

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