What is Negative Space in Art?


In art, negative space is the space around and between the subject of the image.  The positive space is the subject or object of the image.

Negative SpaceWhy is it important?

Negative space is important because it can help us to draw accurately and can help with creating an interesting composition.

How can negative space help us to draw accurately?

Being aware of the shapes negative space makes can help us draw. If we were drawing a pile of paper clips, it would help to notice the shapes between them.  This would help us to create an accurate drawing. See the shapes outlined in red below.

If we were drawing a chair, noticing the shapes between the legs would help us get the legs of the chair in place.  Even the shapes between the leaves of a plant can help us to create an accurate drawing.

Teaching Students About Negative Space

Many artists and designers have used negative space in art to great effect and you can seem some great examples here. Notably, MC Esher, who created an object in both the positive and negative space.  Artist Cristina Troufa plays with the idea of negative space, making the clothing of the people she draws into negative space.

There are some excellent, tried and tested, resources for teaching negative space to your students below.

drawing around scissors Teaching students about negative space teaching about negative space


The Arty Teacher

Sarah Crowther is The Arty Teacher. She is a high school art teacher in the North West of England. She strives to share her enthusiasm for art by providing art teachers around the globe with high-quality resources and by sharing her expertise through this blog.

More Posts



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here