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Unity: 4 Keys to Cohesive Paintings

by | Jun 20, 2023 | Art Lessons | 0 comments

Unity is a fundamental principle of design that plays a crucial role in creating cohesive and impactful paintings. Unity refers to the way elements in a composition work together to create a harmonious and aesthetically pleasing whole. Here are a few tips for creating unity into your paintings:

Key 1: Use Repetition

Repeating elements in a painting can create a sense of unity and reinforce the overall composition. This can be as simple as repeating a color or a particular shape throughout the painting.

Landscape with flowers (nirvana) (1930) by Zoltan Palugyay. Original public domain image from Web umenia.

Key 2: Establish a Color Palette

Using a color palette at the beginning allows you to make sure that your colors will be in harmony. I often use an analogy of a dinner party. If you carefully have planned a dinner party with 4 people, and then suddenly at 11 pm a new guest will show up, they won’t work well in the situation. Even if they are super awesome dinner guest normally, we just are better not throwing something in at the end.

Looking at this painting, we can see that there there is a lot of mixing of secondaries, made from the primaries. The purple-ish hill is made from the red and blue. The orange parts are the red and yellow mixed. There may have been an earth-tone to set the main part of the brown of the hill beyond the river, but it also could have been the primaries plus white.

Key 3: Balance Elements

This can be achieved through the use of symmetrical or asymmetrical compositions, or through the careful placement of elements in the painting.

Imagine this painting with the other half of the flowers up to something else. (Sorry Zoltan.)

It doesn’t have the same unity! The flowers feel like two groups, instead of one. The purple tint doesn’t go with the rest of the colors. The rhythm of the stems and flowers is broken.

Key 4: View as a Whole Artwork

While it may seem like a given, really take the time to step back and consider the whole artwork together. We want to take a break from the small problem solving we are doing as we go, to looking at the overall effect we have created. This gives us a chance to make sure all the elements work together to create a cohesive composition.

Unity is a critical principle of design that plays a vital role in creating cohesive and impactful paintings. By incorporating the tips outlined above, you can develop your ability to create paintings with a strong sense of unity and balance. Remember to consider the whole picture and work with the elements in your painting to create a harmonious composition.


Principles of Design – The elements of art are used in “principles of design.” They are how the elements are used to create artwork. Like how sound notes are used to create the artwork of music.

Unity -The way elements in a composition work together to create a harmonious and aesthetically pleasing whole.

Rhythm – Rhythm is a visual tempo in an artwork.

Creating Rhythm in Paintings