2D Art Fundamentals List

Profile Photo of Lillen Art
Illustrator ยท Character Artist

Photo by Green Chameleon https://unsplash.com/@craftedbygc from Unsplash


People often ask, "What are the art fundamentals?" This article seeks to list out each of the art concepts that I think a student should have a firm understanding of if they want to pursue 2D digital art / painting. The definitions included are for context, as a beginner may be unfamiliar with these terms. It is a guide to give you ideas on what to study or practice next. Unfortunately, I will not be able to teach you these concepts personally. It will be up to you to seek out knowledge. Resources can be found everywhere, especially from your favorite artists.

What order should I study these in?
This list is not necessarily in any kind of order. Many of the fundamentals influence each other, so in my opinion, there is no true linear order. An artist could choose to study either one or several of these at a time. It's up to you to figure out what works for you and build study habits accordingly. It's okay to pick a focus for a period of time. Please do not expect to completely 100% master a particular fundamental before moving on. Except to learn these gradually over a long period of time. All fundamentals listed are important. Think of each fundamental as a puzzle piece that fits into a greater whole. The goal for a beginner is to gain a basic understanding of each concept and the ability to demonstrate that knowledge in their work.

List of Fundamentals


  • Cube / Square

  • Sphere / Circle

  • Pyramid / Triangle

  • Positive vs Negative

  • Shape Language

  • Gesture


  • How light or dark something is on a scale of white to black. Light to shadow.


  • Highlight

  • Cast Shadow

  • Ambient Occlusion / Occlusion Shadows

  • Reflected (Bounce) Light

  • Terminator

  • Local Color / Local Value


  • Hard (very sharp edge)

  • Firm (strong edge slightly softer)

  • Soft (soft blend between edges)

  • Lost (no delineation between edges)

Color Theory

  • Understanding of color and effects on mood, perception, symbolism, culture, etc.

  • Hue (Color Appearance)

  • Chroma (Perceived intensity of color)

  • Saturation (Purity of color/ vibrancy of color)

  • Warm vs Cool

  • Color Harmony

  • Color Constancy (Human interpretation of color is subjective and based on context, regardless of lighting.)

Color Wheel

  • Primary (red, blue, yellow)

  • Secondary (orange, purple, green)

  • Tertiary (mixes of primary and secondary colors)

Color Schemes:

  • Monochromatic

  • Analogous

  • Complementary

  • Split Complementary

  • Triads


  • 1 Point

  • 2 Point

  • 3 Point

  • Atmospheric (Appearance of objects at distance)


  • Relative size and relationship between parts / objects.

  • Using the head to measure

Proportion (Human)

  • Male

  • Female

  • Androgyny

  • Faces

  • Child / Elderly

Anatomy (Human)

  • Gesture drawing

  • Line of action

  • Construction drawing

Simplified Human Structure

  • Head

  • Spine

  • Rib Cage

  • Pelvis

  • Arms

  • Legs

Simplified Muscular Structure

  • Pecs

  • Traps

  • Deltoid

  • Tricep & Bicep

  • Abs

  • Obliques

  • Serratus

  • Lats

  • Calf


  • Different Body Types

  • Fat / Adipose Tissue

  • Breasts

  • Hands

  • Feet

  • Hair

Head & Face

  • Loomis Head Method

  • Reilly (Rhythms) Head Method

  • Facial Planes (Asaro Head)

  • Eyes

  • Nose

  • Lips

  • Ears

About the Artist

I am a self-educated artist dedicating to improving my craft and helping others on their art journey. More about me https://www.artgram.co/LillenArt/blog/about-the-artist


  • This list is mostly focused on what I do (general illustration / character art) so if you prefer animals, environments, or creature design, this list might look a little different. Feel free to customize this study list or create your own.

    What art fundamentals or concepts would you suggest a 2D artist to study? Let me know in the comments.
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