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Emphasis - a Principle of Design


any forcefulness that gives importance to dominance (weight) to some feature or features of an artwork; something singled out, stressed, or drawn attention to by means of contrast, anomaly, or counterpoint for aesthetic impact. A way of combining elements to stress the differences between those elements and to create one or more centers of interest in a work. Often, emphasized elements are used to direct and focus attention on the most important parts of a composition - its focal point.

Delahunt, Michael R. "Emphasis." ArtLex Art Dictionary. 11 March 2011. <>.

Emphasis can be created in an artwork through the use of color, texture, scale, shape or value. Contrast between elements will cause emphasis. Emphasis can be used to grab attention or direct attention to other elements in the art work.

Emphasis through Size (Scale) Emphasis through Shape Emphasis through Color
EmphasisSize EmphasisShape EmphasisColor
Emphasis through Texture Emphasis through Value Emphasis through Placement
EmphasisTexture emphasisValue EmphasisPlacement

In an art work, there are often elements that are dominant, while others are subordinate. In other words, some elements are made to look very important while others are not. This creates emphasis.

Francisco de Goya; The Third of May; 1814; oil on canvas; 266 x 345 cm; Prado Museum, Spain.