Basic ART terms

Achromatic / Black, white and greys. Artwork that is executed without color.

Acrylic / Thicker and stronger than tempera or watercolor paint, Acrylic is a water-based “plastic” paint.

Albumen Print / This printing process is used in photography printing processes. Egg whites are used in the emulsion.

Alternative Process / This photography term covers approximately 35 different processes for the final unconventional effect.

Armature / A structure used beneath something else for support. For example, a sculptor might create a clay sculpture with a wood or wire armature beneath it as support. Think about the frame of a house being constructed before all of the brick or siding is built on top.

Artists Proof / A small group of outstanding prints for the artists use which have been set aside from the edition prints.

Basic color principles / All color theory is based on the principle that ‘color is light’.An object that we see as red contains pigmentation which absorbs all of the colored rays of white light except the red color, which it reflects. White pigment absorbs none of the colored rays, and black absorbs all of the colors of the spectrum.

Balance / An art and design principle concerned with the arrangement of one or more elements in a work of art so that they appear symmetrical (even) or asymmetrical (uneven) in design and proportion.

Batik / Paraffin or beeswax is used to resist paint or dye on fabric or paper. Designs and patterns are produced on the unwaxed areas.

Bisque / When clay has its first firing in a kiln, it is called bisque ware. At this point, the clay has changed composition and can no longer have water added to it and turned back into a useable material.

Black / The complete absence of light. Because of impurities, you can not create black with pigments. In most black pigments, the is a slight blue trace. A black surface absorbs all light.

Brayer/ In printmaking, a Brayer is a roller which is used to apply ink to printing surfaces.

Brushes / Brush styles are designated by a letter following a series number. Some basic brushes to meet your needs:

F- Flats, square edge, long bristle
B- Bright, flat, square-edged, long sable
R – Rounds, pointed bristle
L- Longs, flat, square-edge, long sable
Filberts- Flat, oval edge, long fibre

Canvas / Fabrics that are prepared for painting. Available in panels, stretched on frames, or obtained by the yard.

Ceramics / Used to describe the shaping, finishing and firing of clay.

Charcoal and Conte Crayon / In stick form, both give you a very strong, dark line. A disadvantage to these crayons is that they break easily and tend to smudge. Can be found is stick form as well.

Chop / An impression made by the artist, or by the printer seal.

Chroma / This is the intensity, or strength, or purity of a color. Squeezing paint directly from the tube to the palette is ‘full chroma’.

Cibachrome / A process where a photographic print can be made directly from a color transparency.

Coil method in clay / As one of the oldest methods used in the formation of pottery, long strands of clay are laid on top of one another, joined by blending the coils together.

Collage / Collage is from the French meaning “paste up”. The combination of pieces of cloth, magazines and other found objects to create artwork.

Collograph / This name is derived from the word ‘collage’. It is an image built up with glue and other materials.

Color / When light is reflected off an object, color is what the eye sees. The primary colors are red, yellow and blue. The secondary colors are orange, purple and green.

Complementary Colors / Complementary colors are those which appear opposite to one another on a color wheel. The complimentary colors are red and green, blue and orange, and yellow and purple.

Composition / The arrangement of lines, colors and form.

Conte / The modern pencil lead invented by Nicolas Conte. It is a black, red or brown chalk.

Contour Drawing / Contour drawing shows the outline of the subject, and not the volume or mass of an object. Blind contour drawings are those created by looking only at the subject, and not the paper while drawing.

Contrast / Contrast is created by using opposites near or beside one another, such as a light object next to a dark object or a rough texture next to a smooth texture.

Crackle glaze / Tiny cracks in the glaze to decorate. Often rubbed in with coloring material.

Crazing / Crazing is the fine cracks that occur on the glaze.

Distemper / This painting technique involves the use of powdered colors that are mixed with glue size, or such things as egg yolk.

Dominance / Dominance is an object or color that stands out in relation to the rest of the painting.

Dry Brushing / Technique used in paintings using more pigment then water.

Dye Transfer / This is one of the most permanent color processes. This method gives maximum control of color, balance and contrast for color prints or transparencies.

Earthenware / This type of clay needs to be glazed, it is porous and not waterproof. Earthenware is a low-fire clay.

Easel / An easel is used to support your canvas while painting. Can be a collapsible tripod, studio types and as a combination sketch box unit. Some sketch boxes contain lids that serve as easels.

Edition / A group of identical prints that can be numbered and signed by the artist.Open Edition: An unlimited number of prints

Limited Edition: Prints that have a known number of impressions, and are usually signed and numbered by the artist.

Egg Tempera / A water-base paint made with an egg yoke binder.

Elements of Art / Elements of art are the basic visual symbols found in the work such as lines, shape, form, space, point, light, motion, direction, scale, dimension, texture and color.

Encaustic / This ancient art uses colored wax for painting. This technique involves painting images onto walls with pigments that are blended with wax. When used with heat, such as an iron, the permanent color is burned into the wall, for good.

Firing / To harden clay, you have to heat it at high temperatures which fuses the clay particles.

Fixative Spray

For fixing charcoal drawing on canvas before painting. Fixative spray is available in spray cans, or for use with mouth atomizer.

Form / An element of art, such as you would see in a sculpture that has three dimensions.

Fresco / Pigment is applied directly to damp plaster making this wall painting medium one of the most permanent form of wall decoration.

Gesture Drawing / This quick drawing captures the energy and movement of the subject. It does not necessarily have to be realistic.

Glaze / Color that is thinned to a transparent state and applied over previously painted areas to modify the original color. (see also Underpainting)

Green ware / When clay is hard, but not yet fired it is referred to as greenware. The clay can be made wet and turned back into a useable material.

Gold Leaf / Used for gilding, gold or silver (for silver leafing) is beaten to extremely thin sheets.

Gouache / (Tempera)

Opaque watercolors and the technique of painting with such colors using white to make tints.

Highlight / Small areas on a painting or drawing on which reflected light is the brightest.

Hue / Hue is another word for color. The attribute which describes colors by name, i.e. red, blue, yellow etc.

Ilfochrome Classic (Cibachrome) Print / Ilfochrome Classic (Cibachrome) is indisputably the best fine art color print process available today. Its archival qualities make it suitable for gallery and museum exhibits. Image sharpness and color fidelity are unsurpassed.

Constructed on a polyester base that is durable, chemically inert and will not yellow with age.Only pure Azo organic image forming dyes are used.
These dyes yield an image with richer color saturation and more accurate hue rendition.This product has unexcelled archival stability, offering extremely high fade resistance and life expectancy.

Impasto / A manner of painting where the paint is laid on thickly so texture stands out in relief.

Impressionism / Impressionism is referred to as the most important art movement of the 19th century. The term impressionism came from a painting by Claude Monet. His painting was titled Impression Sunrise. Impressionism is about capturing fast fleeting moments with color, light, and surface.

Intensity / This term is used to describe the brightness, or the dullness of a color.

Intermediate colors / Obtained by mixing adjoining Primary and Secondary colors.

Kiln / Kilns can be electric, of natural gas, wood, coal, fuel oil or propane. The kiln is the furnace used to fire ceramics or metal.

Line / A line is an identifiable path of a point moving in space. It can vary in width, direction and length (horizontal,vertical,diagonal,angled,curved)

Linseed Oil / Used as a medium. The tradional “binder” for oil colors.


This is a printing process. A small stone, or metal plate is used. The printer, usually with the artists supervision covers the plate with a sheet of paper which are then run through the printer.

Medium / The art material that is used in a work of art such as clay, paint or pencil. Describing more then one art medium is referred to as media. Any substance added to color to facilitate application or to achieve a desired effect.

Mobile / Three dimensional shapes which are suspended and free moving.

Modeling Material / Material that is formed into a shape. Most modeling materials harden when the moisture in them evaporates, such as clay. Some do not harden, such as plastecine and can be used again.

Monoprint / A print that has the same underlying common image, but different design, color or texture.

Monotype / A one of a kind print made by painting on smooth metal, creating a texture that is not possible to paint directly on paper.

Newsprint / This paper comes in large sheets, and is inexpensive. Newsprint will eventually yellow, and is not a good choice for preserving artwork. Pen and market will bleed through newsprint.

Oil Cup / A container that can be clipped to your oil palette. One cup for the medium, the other cup for the brush cleaner.

Oil Paint / A definition by Winsor & Newton state: “Oils are one of the great classic media, and have dominated painting for five hundred years. They remain popular for many reasons: their great versatility, offering the possibility of transparency and opacity in the same painting; the lack of color change when the painting dries; and ease of manipulation.”

Organic / Shapes that are not regular or even, using a combination of edges that are curved or angular.

Oxidation / The firing atmosphere containing lots of oxygen.

Oxides / Applying metal oxides to the clay, mixing with water, you can create an effect of stained wood.

Paint Box / A piece of equipment used for storing brushes, paint, palette, and accessories when painting outdoors.

Painting Knife / Knives come in a variety of shapes and sizes. A trowel-type flexible knife.

Paper Mach’ / Papier mach’ is an ancient art consisting of paper and a binder, such as wallpaper paste or glue.


Colors go from soft to brilliant in a stick form. When the paper is covered completely, it is known as a pastel painting. When the paper is exposed through the pastel, it is known as a pastel sketch.

Pens / Technical drawing pens produce a sharp line that never varies in width. They come in a range of colors, and widths which create different effects.

Perspective / Perspective creates the feeling of depth through the use of lines that make your image appear to be three dimensional. The closer the image is, the more detailed it will appear, and the larger it will be.

Pigment / Pigment is the material used to create the effect of color on any surface.

Pinch Pots / Beginning with a ball of clay, the artist can form a pot by pinching the clay to form the center opening.

Plaster / When mixed with water, this powder will harden into a chalk-like solid used to create sculptures, and other forms of artwork.

Porcelain / Porcelain is a combination of kaolin, silica and feldspar. You can work with porcelain as you would clay, but when you fire it correctly, the result will be similar to that of glass.

Primary colors / Red, yellow, blue.

Raku / This method of firing pottery results in irregular surfaces and colors. The pottery is removed when it is red hot. It is then placed in a bed of combustible materials and covered.

Reduction / Firing clay with an inadequate amount of oxygen.
Repetition / Repetition is created when objects, shapes, space, light, direction, lines etc. are repeated in artwork.
Rhythm / When the regular repetition of particular forms or elements occurs in a work of art, that work is said to have rhythm. It suggests motion.

Secondary colors / Orange, Violet, Green. Each color is midway between the Primaries from which it can be mixed.

Shade / Using a mixture of black mixed with a color to make it darker. The opposite of shade is tint.

Silver print / This generic term covers all prints made on paper that is coated with silver salts. Black and white photographs are usually silver prints.

Shape / Shapes can be in the form of squares, circles, triangles, rectangles, and ovals.

Slab built / Clay slabs are cut into shape, and joined together with scoring and wet clay called slip.

Slip / A liquid form of clay. Slip is used to fill in pores, and even out the color. Slip is used to join clay.

Stoneware / Sturdier then earthenware, stoneware is waterproof even without being glazed.

Spectrum / The colors that are the result of a beam of white light that is broken by a form of prism into its hues.

Stencil / The process in which an area is cut out of paper, or material such as cardboard to enable paint or ink to be applied to a piece of paper, or canvas through the cutout.

Symbol / A symbol is a picture or image that tells a story of what it is without using words.

Symmetry / Symmetry is when one side of something balances out the other side.

Terra cotta / Commonly used for ceramic sculpture, it is a brownish-orange earthenware clay.

Tempera / Tempera is a word used to describe any type of binder such as oil, water or egg that makes a pigment workable as a paint form.

Tertiary colors / Colors that represent a mixture of secondary colors.

Texture / Texture creates the feeling of an object.

Tint / Tint is the opposite of shade. Tinting is combining white with a color to make it lighter.

Turpentine (or Grumtine) / Used for cleaning equipment and to thin mediums.

Underpainting / Preliminary painting used as a base for textures or for subsequent painting or glazing.

Unity / A feeling of completeness is created by the use of elements in the artwork.

Value / Shadows, darkness, contrasts and light are all values in artwork.

Vintage / A photograph printed within a few years of the negative being made.

Wash / A highly fluid application of color.

Watercolour / A translucent, water-based paint that comes in cake or tube form.

Wax Crayon / These crayons are ideal to use to loosen up your drawing style. Crayons are cost effective, and it is difficult to create really detailed drawings.

Wheel Thrown / Comes from an English term meaning ‘spin’. The clay is placed on the potters wheel and the piece is formed while the clay spins on the wheel.

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