“The stars are the apexes of what wonderful triangles! What distant and different beings in the various mansions of the universe are contemplating the same one at the same moment!” — Henry David Thoreau
Six Different Types
The basic shape of the triangle has three sides.
There are six types of triangles:
- Acute: all three angles measure less than 90º.
- Obtuse: one angle measures more than 90º.
- Right: one angle measures 90º.
- Scalene: two sides have the same length
- Equilateral: all three sides of equal length
- Scalene: all sides are a different length
Like all basic shapes, the triangle lends well to the 5 Basic Relationships we previously covered: referral, edge-to-edge and point-to-point, inserts, pop-outs, and overlaps.
Stability, Balance, and Movement
If you want to represent stability, balance, and movement in your design, triangles are the right shape to incorporate into your composition. Triangles can be energetic and dynamic shapes. They can also directionally lead the eye to the point of interest or from point to point.
When a triangle’s base is positioned at the bottom, and the point at the top, this shape carries more masculine qualities. The opposite position often has a more feminine connotation.
Creating with the Triangle Shape
Designers can use triangles as dominant design elements, like in a beautiful quilt using triangular fabric swatches.
The quilt incorporates the triangle shape and triangular division principles for a terrific example of shape and division.
Another example is creating an illustration within the boundaries of this basic shape.
You might like to try this exercise and see what you can create! This little fat-bottomed gnome sits in an Equilateral triangle.
Notice the triangle may be the main element in the structure of a composition, or the points of interest may fall into a triangular shape. Both can be true in the same image.
Triangles in Nature
An illustration can transform from an abstract visual to one representing a realistic perspective by varying the triangle’s size, as depicted in this tutorial’s header image of the different rows of triangular shaped trees or as seen in the intricate snowflakes in the foreground.
Henry David Thoreau gave an awe-struck quote when he compared triangles to stars. The triangular shape is found everywhere in nature, and modern, architectural or man-made structures.
Triangle’s Division Principles
Like the Golden Rectangle, the triangle also offers linear design principles for laying out a composition.
The triangle divisions are also seen at times within the rectangle’s division. Division principle examples can illustrate how intricate a compositional design becomes when building the relationship of the subjects to one another, thus, into a work of art.
Again, view the treed landscape image. Notice how the composition builds on the relationship of triangles.
The tree landscape of the deer in the shining light is a perfect example of both: using triangular shapes and the triangle’s division principles.
Even the foreground snowflakes could map out to an intricate triangular web that is anything but random.
If you want to see a wide range of examples just view the great masters of all time. Spend a little time in a Google search using the term “Renaissance Art Triangle.” You will be glad you did!
Here is an example called A Promenade painted in 1906 by the well known master artist, Pierre-Auguste Renoir.
The triangles build on the relationship between all the elements large and small. For example purposes the main subjects have an overlay to illustrate how the large triangle shape encompasses the main theme of the painting. Also notice now the foot and hand of the women lay one the same line just like the hand of the little girl is on the same line as her foot. If you look closely you will realize many other linear connections.
Helpful Triangle Design Resources
Below are a couple of books that you may enjoy checking out. The Bauhaus Design Theory group has a series of insightful resources. Visual creativity starts as a child takes in their environment while feeling and imagining, then learns to put marks on a paper. Kid’s art reference materials can be really stimulating!
Have fun with the Google searches on the use of the triangle and triangle division principles. Cover different styles of art from modern, contemporary, and even renaissance to see examples from the great masters. This exercise will stimulate your imagination.
Also go back and review your creations. Take note to see where you may have followed triangular division principles without even realizing it. Also, notice where triangular shapes are incorporated.
Browse through your photo collections, too. This is an excellent time to create studies of a few of your photo’s compositions. Try drawing a few quick line art pencil sketches while noticing the triangular division principles and then notice how the eye automatically flows from object to object.
Downloadable Tutorial Guide
Our next tutorial will describe Division Examples of the Circle found in design and a downloadable tutorial image.
To follow along, click > Art & Design Tutorial Table of Contents