Elements and Principles of Design - Contrast


opposition or juxtaposition of different forms, lines, or colors in a work of art to intensify each element's properties and produce a more dynamic expressiveness.


an advertising brochure, form letter, or the like, sent out in the mail.


a person or thing that is typical of or possesses to a high degree the features of a whole class: He is the epitome of goodness.


fancy penmanship, esp. highly decorative handwriting, as with a great many flourishes: She appreciated the calligraphy of the 18th century.


a decoration or embellishment, esp. in writing: He added a few flourishes to his signature.


any regular or irregular shape cut from paper or cardboard as a design or functional element.


a printed object which is created with less than 100% strength of an ink color. Ninety percent black would be called a screen. Similar in concept to halftone.

Related Concepts

Contrast refers to differences in values, colors, textures, shapes, and other elements.

Contrasts create visual excitement, and add interest to the work.

If all the art elements - value, for example - are the same, the result is monotonous and unexciting.

Contrast in Fine Art

Paul Cezanne - Still Life with Apples and Peaches
Paul Cezanne - "Still Life with Apples and Peaches", 1905

When Cezanne painted this painting, he used all the design elements and all the design principples to build a unified composition. Try to find where he used the seven elements and seven principles of design. If you study his use of contrast alone, you can find at least eight kinds of contrast, which naturally develops an overall sense of variety.

Source: Elements and Principles of Design: Student Guide with Activities, published by Crystal Productions

Contrast in Graphic Design

Tableaux Restaurant Promotion by Petrula Vrontikis

Tableaux Restaurant Promotion
Petrula Vrontikis
Vrontikis Design Office

This elegant solution to promoting Tableaux Restaurant uses contrast and variety to create a sophisticated yet lively look. The mailer, especially, is the epitome of this approach, with its use of different yetr complementary images and elements, including a leopard-skin pattern, stylized sun images, metallic bronze with olive green, Chinese type and English with calligraphic flourishes.

The address side of the mailer has a high-key value, while the opposite side is low-key. this piece is given special appeal by the use of an unusual shape and die-cut black flaps that lift up to reveal more information printed on a light screen of olive green.

The mailer, along with the rest of the identity system, uses three common colors—black, olive green and a metallic bronze—to unify the elements and give a common identity to the campaign.

Source: Design Basics for Creative Results by Bryan L. Peterson