7 IMPORTANT ELEMENTS OF ART FOR CAKE DECORATING
Elevate your artistic cake design with these 7 fundamental elements of art.
How can you improve your artistic vision and create amazing works of sugar art? Studying the basic fundamental elements of art (line, shape, form, value, space, texture and colour) will help you to create a stunning design.
Why is the ‘Line’ so important in a cake design?
Let’s look at what a line is – it is the continuation or recorded movement of a dot. It is used to create shapes, express textures and emotions. We follow lines with our eyes, thus creating movement. For cake decorating, we apply lines everyday – from simple patterns / shapes to complicated features. Lines can be applied to your cakes with many different tools – just look in your kitchen for ideas!
We use lines in various ways:
- To outline our objects (called contour lines)
- For quality (thickness or thinness) to create forms
- To add value /shading by using hatching and cross-hatching.
This cake, by world renowned Ron Ben-Israel, is wonderful for its simple elegance with the precise placement of each line and pops of floral color.
How can we use shapes in cake decorating?
Shapes are enclosed contour lines that are flat two-dimensional (2D) having only height and width. They are geometric; such as circles and squares, or organic (in nature); like clouds or an apple.
In cake decorating shapes are used in a multitude of ways to create the chosen design.
Love how shapes are used on this beautiful creation by Sophia Haniff, Edible Art.
Creating 3D forms on sugar
With form you have three-dimensional (3D) objects. These have height, width and depth. Cakes themselves are 3D as we can walk around them, but our designs often need to have the illusion of form.
Geometric shapes – spheres, cubes, etc
Organic – are what they are
Representational drawing or painting creates the illusion of 3D forms. This done by studying the direction of light and the values reflected on and around the object. (highlights and shadow areas)
This amazing sugar cookie painted by Evelindecora, is a fabulous example of how to create a 3D illusion of form! Wow that spider looks like it will jump off the cookie!
The Value Scale – the secret to making your art realistic
Without light we can not see. Value is the lightness or darkness of a color based on the light reflected upon it. In drawings and paintings, the illusion of light creates 3D effects.
One of the most important tips I can give you is to make sure you use the full range of values. Look at your work for all the hues (the true color) plus light values (tints / highlights – adding white to make it lighter) and dark values (shades – adding black to make it darker).
If you’re not sure if you have a full range of values, try using a 9 step value scale to see if you have each one accounted for in your piece.
Understanding the value scale:
Cast shadow: the darkest value
Shadow edge: sits opposite of the light side of the object, but is not the edge of the object.
Mid-tone: actual color of the object midpoint of light and dark
Reflected Light: sits between the cast shadow and the shadow edge. This is the reflected light bounced back into the object from the surface around the object. The color is that of the reflected surface and is never white.
Full light / highlight: this area is where the light is streaming full strength onto the object. Shown as bright white, which then transitions to blended grays outwards to other values.
Although checking your work against a value scale can be time consuming, it is definitely worth it to improve your skills and take your artwork to the next level.
Love the values, shadows and lights, in this wonderful Maleficent cake, by Shawna McGreevy, McGreevy Cakes.
5. SPACE / PERSPECTIVE
Add dramatics to your cake design with the illusion of space and perspective
This refers to the empty areas within and around an object on your cake creating the illusion of space and perspective.
There are various ways to accomplish this:
- Overlapping and placement of objects, those placed higher will appear further back
- Size, smaller objects seem further away while larger objects appear closer
- Detail, closer objects have more details than far away ones
- Color and value, closer objects are warmer and darker, while distance objects are cooler and lighter in color
- Dimension, illustrate dimension through a flat surface: with one or two or three vanishing points, birds eye view, etc.
How would you draw or paint texture on a cake?
Texture is the textile quality of the surface of an object. Actual texture is how something really feels to the touch, or implied texture for how it might feel if you were to touch it. Texture is all around us everyday. If you’re looking for inspiration, step outside and note all the textures you feel and see. Or think of words to describe texture – soft, smooth, prickly, bumpy…and think how you would draw or paint that texture. Perhaps one will support your next artwork piece.
As cake artists we are both sculpturists and 2D artists.
We work with the 3D form of the cake (be it the standard round or square cakes, or sculpted cakes) and we add various 3D and 2D elements to create the desired design. For cakes, experiment with actual texture. Perhaps, instead of painting on smooth fondant, try painting with coloured buttercream to look like a textured painting. Or create implied visual texture by painting with a heavy brush stroke to give the illusion of texture compared to the smooth blended stroke.
Also consider how light plays a role in visual texture – for smooth surfaces the light is even across the surface, where for rough surfaces the light is uneven. Matte and glossy also convey texture.
It is important to pay attention to value when creating the illusion of textures, as it is the values which bring it to life!
3 Parts of Color theory to help you create even more impressive cakes
Oh – the all important element of art – COLOR! This is a BIG subject! But I will try to keep it short and sweet! To study color we will first look at the 3 parts of color theory:
Color wheel – Color Value – Color Schemes
1. COLOR WHEEL
Sir Isaac Newton developed the color wheel in 1666. The wheel represents the spectrum of colours and the relationships between them. It is used to identify colours to use, mix or compliment.
Primary colours – red, blue and yellow
Primary colours are their own natural pigment. No 2 mixed colours can create red, blue or yellow.
Secondary colours – orange, green and purple
These are created by mixing equal parts of any 2 primary colours together.
Tertiary colours – red-purple, red-orange, blue-green, yellow-green, blue-purple-and yellow-orange.
Created by mixing equal parts of a primary color with a secondary color.
2. COLOR VALUES
Values are the lightness or darkness of a color. The value of a pure color (the hue) is altered by adding white (to tint), or black (to shade). Adding gray changes the intensity of the color. (Tone)
3. COLOR SCHEMES
When thinking of your next cake, consider a color scheme that best suits what you’d like people to feel or experience from your design.
One color. (Mono – one, chroma – color). Using only one pure color (hue) with all its tints and shades.
Complimentary are colors that are opposite on the color wheel. These are dramatic and vibrant combinations which must be carefully managed so they aren’t overpowering.
The cake below by Bobie MT is a complimentary design, as purple and yellow are opposites on the color wheel.
Triadic uses colors that are evenly spaced on the color wheel. These are also vibrant like the complimentary ones. Let one color dominate and the other two accent.
This cake by Have+Some+Cake is a triadic design as red, blue and yellow are evenly spaced on the color wheel.
Analogous colours are next to each other on the color wheel. They match well together to create comfortable designs that are pleasing to the eye. Use one color as the main color, the next as a support, and next to accent.
This design by Cakes en Vogue showcases analogous colors – yellow, orange and red, which are beside each other on the color wheel.
A color plus it’s complimentary closest analogous colors are split-complimentary. Confusing? Yup, it was to me too! Haha! Here’s an example:
This gorgeous design by Daantje, uses violet as the main color and its complimentary color (opposite the color wheel) yellow. The closest analogous color to yellow is yellow-orange. So, this design being violet and yellow-orange is a great example of a split-complimentary design.
Warm colors range between the red, yellow, green spectrum
Cool colors range between the purple, blue, green spectrum
As color affects how we feel and react to objects or circumstances, it is a very important element for cake decorating.