Elements of Art: Space

Contributor: Stefani Allegretti. Lesson ID: 13493

In art, space is used to show what is there and what isn't there. This makes it a very important element of art. Learn why and how to add space to your artwork!


Visual Arts

Fine Arts
learning style
Auditory, Visual
personality style
Beaver, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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  • What do you think of when you hear the word space?

Maybe you envision outer space or the distance between you and another person.

Space has a very specific -- and important -- meaning in art. Let's learn about this element of art.

In art, space refers to any area between, in, or around shapes and objects in a two-dimensional or three-dimensional work.

To learn more about this element of art, watch Elements of Art: Space | KQED Arts from KQED Art School:

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Space in art can be positive or negative, which mean different things in diferrent types of art.

In two-dimensional artwork, positive space includes the objects or the subject of a the piece. Negative space includes the area around and in between the objects or subject. It is, in essence, the background of a two-dimensional artwork.

white trees black background

On the other hand, in a three-dimensional artwork like a sculpture, positive space is the actual sculpture. Negative space includes areas of the sculpture that are empty or void of the material used to create the sculpture.

For example, in the sculpture below, the negative space would include the empty spaces between the actual sculpture.

sculpture with empty spaces

To learn more about how negative and positive space work, watch Elements of Art - Space from Ozzie Hooper:

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There are many different techniques that artists can use to create the illusion of space, specifically in two-dimensional artworks.

Some of these techniques and ways to create space include: linear perspective, placement, overlapping, size, and others!

Overlapping is an excellent technique to use to create a sense of space in a 2-D artwork. This technique involves making an object appear to be in front of or behind another object.

Manipulating the size and placement of objects and placing them in the foreground, middle ground, and background of an artwork also helps to create a sense of space.

Take a look at this landscape painting:

two trees far apart

  • Do you think the artist captured space in this piece?

Let's watch one more video on space in art.

Ways to Create the Illusion of Space, from Drawing & Painting - The Virtual Instructor, demonstrates six different ways to create the illusion of space in a two-dimensional artwork:

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WOW! You learned a lot about this element of art.

Now, move on to the Got It? section to test your knowledge about space!

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