Ever wondered about the difference between shape and form? They might seem similar, but in art and design, they play unique roles.

An elephant using its trunk to paint a picture of an elephant.

Whether you're a beginner learning to draw, or well on your way to becoming the next Van Gogh, it's important to understand the difference between shapeand form.

What is a Shape?

A shape describes an object that:

  • Is 2D (two-dimensional).

  • Has a height and width.

  • Is often used to describe flat objects like in drawings or paintings.

For example, circles, triangles, or squares are called geometric shapes. They don't have depth.

A drawing of geometric shapes: a circle, triangle, and square. image created with Canva

Organic shapes are shapes that aren't uniform.

They can have a pattern that is irregular and imperfect, and can mimick objects in the real world. They can be things like clouds, leaves, or even just random, flat objects.

Example of organic shapes: a cloud, a leaf, and a blob.

image created with Canva

What is a Form?

A form describes an object that:

  • Is 3D (three-dimensional).

  • Has a length, width, and height.

  • Is used to describe objects that have depth, like pottery and sculptures.

Examples of geometric forms include: a sphere, pyramid, and a cube. Drawings of a sphere, pyramid, and cube.image created with Canva

Note how the dotted lines and different colors indicate depth.

Forms can be organic too!

Organic forms describe forms that are irregular or mimic objects in the real world. The picture below is an example of organic forms.

A rustic table with produce on it: squash, chives, limes, lemons, and brown paper bags filled with peppers. Photo by S O C I A L . C U T on Unsplash

None of the fruits or vegetables are uniform. They are their own irregular shape.

Quiz time!

Carefully examine the image below:

A photo of the moon against a black, blank background. The craters and the dark patches of the moon are visible. Photo by Paul Pastourmatzis on Unsplash


Is this a representation of a shape or a form?

Take Action

A man clapping his hands, then pointing at you. The text reads,

Now that you understand the difference between shape and form, try using this knowledge to talk about your favorite piece of visual art! Before you go:


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