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ATELIER/ARTIST DICTIONARY

What is Atelier? Notional Space? Contours?

Fret not my friend, this is your go-to artist dictionary for all those wonky terms people who draw and paint realistically like to throw around. This is an ever expanding project, so check back regularly for the newest definitions!


Atelier: The French word for “studio”. A place where artists learn realistic drawing, painting, and sculpting skills.

Want to start atelier training? Here’s how.


BedBug Line: Also known as a core shadow, it is a line that is slightly darker on the edge of a shadow that is the exact place where a form turns from light towards shadow. This term is rarely defined in other artist dictionaries.

Chroma: The intensity of a color. The opposite of neutral. A very chromatic color is often described as “bright”. A stop sign is a very chromatic red. Bricks are also often red, but not as intense as a stop sign. Bricks are less chromatic than a stop sign.

Learn more about color with our Yay! Color Theory Worksheets

Color Wheel: A circle that shows colors. Some color wheels show just the hue. Some show hue + chroma, or hue + value.

artist dictionary
Contour Line: 
A line that is used to describe the shape of something.

Envelope: A small number of straight lines that represent the overall biggest shape of your subject.

Ferrule: The part of a paintbrush that attaches the bristles to the handle.

Hue: The location of a color on the outermost circle of the color wheel. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple are all hues. If a blue hue leans green, the hue is a blue-green. Hues are sometimes confused with color intensity. Hues are the most pure form of every color. So a brown color would be described as having an orange hue that has been neutralized.

Learn more about color with our Yay! Color Theory Worksheets

Local Color: The base color of a subject. For example, the base color of an apple might be red, even if it has bright yellow highlights are dark blue shadows. Local color is an important word for any artist dictionary

Neutral: The opposite of “chroma”. Every color has its most intense version, and also a version that is so close to a greyish neutral that it is hard to tell there is any color to it at all. There is a scale from chroma to neutral that every hue has, from most intense to least intense. When colors are less intense, they are described as neutrals. A bright orange fruit would be  described as a chromatic orange. A wood floor is still orange in hue but is more neutralized than an orange. Then there is a wall that seems almost grey but has the barest hint of orange to it, which would be described as a very neutralized orange.


Notional Space: 
The proportions of your subject if you were to imagine a box going around it and touching it on all sides.



Outer Contour:
 Similar to a contour but describes specifically the outer most shape of a subject.



Proportion Box: 
Another term for Notional Space. The proportion box represents the amount of space your subject takes up if you were to imagine a box going around it and touching it on all sides.

Sight-Size: When you draw or paint your subject at the exact same size that you observe it. Learn more here: https://www.studydrawing.com/sight-size

Value Scale: The standard atelier value scale has 9 increments of value from darkest to lightest. 1 represents the lightest and 9 represents the darkest.

Are there words you would like to see added to this dictionary? Let me know in the comments below.

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