The landscape, the scene, in terms of visual and spatial expression can be divided, dividing it into a series of visual elements.

As mentioned, the landscape is perceived with the view, obtaining the observer more than 80% of the information through this sensory channel.

These visual elements are called main visual elements, basic visual elements, visual formation elements.

Basic visual elements:

  • The point
  • The line
  • The plane
  • The volume

Therefore, of these basic elements in combination, the landscape as a whole is articulated.


Place in the space where the gaze of the observer is concentrated. They have a great visual attraction for the viewer. The objects are seen in the distance behave like this, such as an isolated tree.


Extension of a series of points in one direction.

The line has a series of properties:

  • Thickness: It can give rise to a line or strip
  • Continuity: it can be more or less continuous (road, tree alignment)
  • Irregularity: denotes changes of direction. The natural lines are less marked, the anthropic tend to be more marked.
  • Sharpness: it depends on the saturation power of the light and the length of the line.

We can find classifications of lines such as:

  • Line of bands: linear, two-dimensional forms, which are formed by two lines that run parallel. Such as a river, a railroad …
  • Edge or borderlines: Those that are defined as a border between two areas of different surface characteristics, such as a cliff against the sea, a forest against a cultivation area …
  • Silhouettes lines: Those that make up the environment of a volume seen from a distance, such as the silhouette of a building, the horizon line or that of a mountain.

Plane :

Appears when the line is extended in two directions. It is defined with width and length.

We must also speak here of the depth or perspective.

They are classified as:

  • Loses: Laguna, flat farmland
  • Curves: glacier circus
  • Torsion: illuminated landscapes.


The different planes enclose a volume. We would also talk about the extension of the line in the three dimensions. When it is at a distance it becomes a point.

Types of volumes:

Open: It appears framed by a series of openly shaped planes, as in the case of a river valley.

Closed, compact or solid: Framed by very closed planes such as a mountain or a house.

By the shape of its volume:

Regular usually corresponds to a generally anthropic volume (for example a building)

Irregular: in general of natural origin such as a mountain.

To characterize a scene or an element of the scene we will need to be able to define them based on their characteristics, they are the Visual variables or visual features

Basic visual features:

  • Number
  • Position of the elements
  • Size or scale
  • Shape
  • Espaciamiento or interval
  • Texture
  • Color

Number :

It can practically vary from 1 to infinity. The elements can be arranged in a different way, this arrangement can be random, systematic (put in the same way) or grouped

  • Aleatory: no order
  • Systematic: especially the anthropic elements (row of trees )
  • Grouped: or anthropic or natural, such as vegetation spots.

Position or spatial composition:

The position can be studied with respect to the horizon or with respect to space.

Regarding the horizon: there are two notable positions, the horizontal that gives feelings of balance and the vertical that gives feelings of growth, movement, breaking the stillness, almost all vertical elements are focal points. The oblique position gives a sense of disorder and instability.

Regarding space: there are different types of landscape:

  1. Panoramic landscapes: horizontal elements predominate with the sky dominating the scene, appearing to be no limits to the vision.
  2. Closed landscapes: defined by the presence of visual barriers that delimit a complete space, like a forest glade
  3. Focused: characterized by the existence of parallel lines of objects in the composition. For example, a landscape with a river or a road, usually coincide with a vanishing point and have predominant visual directions.
  4. Dominated: they are those that have a singular component. An item may appear in an elevated or lower position in the landscape. The elements that are in the horizon line are the ones that stand out the most on the ground and the sky. For example a loft in a plain. The castle over a town, the lighthouse in the coastal landscape … *

Size or scale: Refers to the dimensions of the object, depends on the reference system with which it works.

Therefore, depending on the scale, an element can be more or less large.

  • absolute scale: all dimensions refer to human size
  • relative scale: refers to the set of proportions of the different elements.


It is caused by the variation of the direction of the lines.

The most to consider are the shapes of the relief.

It is the shape of the element or the surface.

Regular geometric shapes are due, in general, to anthropic elements in contrast, in nature, there are more irregular elements

Spacing or interval :

It is the distance between 2 elements, they can be the same or variable, the latter being the most usual in nature. A landscape with equal intervals gives a sense of rhythm (movement) to the scenic composition, for example when trees appear on the road

Texture :

These are variations that exist on the surface of the landscape elements and are always relative.

They depend on the distance between observer – landscape, if we are far, soft and fine textures appear, as they get closer they swell.

It has two characteristics, the grain, and the contrast.

  • Grain: is the relative size of the surface irregularities if they are together and are small the grain is fine if it is otherwise it will be thick. To get an idea we could make a similarity, with sand and gravel, or between the vegetation of small leaves and close together with plant species of large, more separated leaves.
  • Contrast: it is the diversity of colors and luminosity on the surface. It is an effect similar to grain. A highly contrasted effect will give thick textures and slightly contrasted fine textures.

Color :

Property to reflect the light of the different surfaces and reflect it with a specific wavelength and intensity.

The color is characterized by:

  • Dye: refers to the reflected wavelength, is the amount of color, is the color itself.
  • Cold colors: violet-blue to yellow-green
  • Warm colors: from violet-red to green-yellow.

In general, small amounts of warm colors are imposed, they are dominant to the cold and they attract the attention of the observer.

  • Tone: Intensity of the reflected energy, giving light or dark colors. Light colors dominate the scenes.
  • Brillo: Refers to the dispersion of that reflected light. Very smooth surfaces reflect light with a lot of dispersion giving bright colors, against rough surfaces they disperse less and give matt colors. The bright dominate the scene.

There are three primary colors: red, yellow and green.

From the mixture of these, all of the chromatic spectra arise, the resulting mixtures first give the secondary colors that are green and violet orange. And if the mixtures are made by adding white, the tertiary colors are obtained.

We call warm colors those that go from yellow to violet through red and cold colors those that do it through blue. The strongest contrast is in colors that are opposite in the color wheel, such as red and green… The red and orange are considered the most exciting while the green and blue are the “calmest”.

The color of the object may vary depending on the conditions of the observer:

  • distance
  • dimeric conditions
  • direction of lighting

Splashing the article there are several photographs where one or more concepts of those explained in the article are exemplified, not having to be considered only in an element where they have been located in the writing.

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Robert Griffin

Blog dedicated to gardening and landscaping where we will give tips on the design, maintenance, plant diseases, tips, and tricks…


June 2023