How to Write a Visual Analysis Essay: Guide with Examples

It is quite usual nowadays for students to write visual analysis essays for their English classes. For instance, in such essays are required to analyze paintings, advertisements, or other artworks, like picture or photograph. However, good visual analysis essay writing is especially important for those who study Arts and Art History. It enables them not only to reveal their writing skills, but also to learn more about art, other artists, and their styles. Although professors often list major requirements when assigning these essays, we’ve briefly listed really valuable tips as well as guides that will help you complete a visual analysis quickly and effectively. And don't forget: if you ask "can someone do my essay for me", our writers surely can help.

Why Write Visual Analyses in the First Place?

Before discussing how to write a visual analysis essay, let’s clarify what this task suggests. Some specialists recommend interpreting an artwork as a series of decisions made by a creator. From this perspective, visual analysis essay provides effectiveness of those decisions with regard to an artwork’s major purpose. So, for completing an excellent visual analysis, specify particular purpose that the artwork pursues from your point of view. You should support your argument by analyzing specific elements of an artwork. It is evident that students should go beyond a mere description of object. Instead, they should evaluate, analyze, as well as synthesize the information, which undeniably includes detailed descriptions, in a manner that supports their argumentative thesis statement.

While producing high-quality essays, employ critical thinking skills, prove artistic styles knowledge, and reveal different elements of design. Such assignments promote dipper understanding of art along with learning. Due to these assignments, students not only appreciate art as entertainment but also critically analyze it. They comprehend it as a medium for wider social and cultural meanings or messages shared between races as well as generations. Visual analyses assignments also enable students to use new compositional devices along with new artistic styles in their own art. By analyzing works created by others, you learn how specific devices promote particular ideas and become able to employ this knowledge while working on their own art pieces.

Most Common Themes

For knowing exactly which information to include in each part of their essays, students should decide on the purpose of analysis. If your college professor handed you some detailed assignment requirements, follow them in your analysis. Otherwise, mind that you have several options on how to write a visual analysis paper. Going far beyond descriptions, students learn how to:

  • Analyze artwork’s importance or effectiveness from their own perspective;
  • Evaluate artwork’s meaning from the audience’s perspective;
  • Analyze the importance of object from an artist’s perspective with regard to other works created by this artist;
  • Complete analysis illustrating how artwork’s importance changed within time.

Apart from these options, students concentrate more on the analysis of form, content, or context, as well as completing some mixed evaluation, discussing how some form aspects contribute to particular context. Evidently, there is no single pattern that all students should follow. Instead, professors of the US colleges often expect students analyze paintings from different perspectives, thus learning different elements of design and various artistic styles.

Chosen Themes Affect Content

Both outline and first draft require students to analyze their artistic object closely and choose particular perspective, discussing what they can bring the strongest evidence. Based on your choice, the introduction content, as well as whole visual analysis essay content, will vary. For instance, when choosing historical perspective, students should not only briefly describe the object of analysis but also provide some general information about the artist and the time period when the object was created. In contrast, when discussing meaning of object from their own perspective, clarify the visual argument they outlined and list evidence that contributed to it.

Let’s Discuss Structure

So, how to write a visual analysis essay? Like any other essay, visual analysis has introduction, body, and conclusion. General guidelines match those for other essays. In introductions, students present their topics, visual objects they analyze, thesis statements. In body paragraphs, they provide supporting evidence as well as include details of their rhetorical analysis. In the concluding paragraph, they restate their major arguments, briefly listing logical conclusions that originate from analysis. While these guidelines are rather general, here are some more detailed tips.

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Prepare Outlines before Working on Essays

Before preparing drafts or completing final essays, it is good if students also create outlines. Outlines definitely increase the quality of final papers, as they help improve structure, as well as enable writers better systematize and synthesize all the information they gathered during artwork observations and research. If you still wonder how to write a visual analysis, consider starting with an outline that follows this example:


  1. Introduce a topic
  2. Provide some background information about object, artist, its time period
  3. Write a thesis statement

Keep your introduction brief and precise. You may include some hook that will attract readers’ attention, but avoid generalizations as well as irrelevant information.

Body paragraph 1

  1. Present topic sentence that explains content of the whole paragraph; topic sentences should reflect your thesis
  2. Present your evidence
  3. Provide explanation
  4. Include a concluding sentence

Repeat same for other body paragraphs. Their number depends on the essay length and analysis complexity. You can systematize information by presenting stronger evidence first and weaker evidence last or vice versa.


  1. Summary of details
  2. Thesis restatement
  3. Any conclusions that stem from analysis

Visual Elements of Design

When students frequently receive visual analysis essays, they start analyzing the same components or visual elements of design in every essay. For instance, they discuss color in every essay instead of trying to “dig deeper” and analyze other valuable characteristics their objects possess. Here is a table that can help you avoid this frequent writing trap that results in essay similarity. Rather than limiting analysis to several repeating components, mind considering this list that contains major visual elements of design:

Element of Design What is it? Explanation
Color Artists achieve color harmony or color contrasts through various color combinations. Depending on their chosen color scheme (particular set of colors), they appeal to viewer’s sense, creating mood In some cases, colors themselves hold meaning and are symbolic (for instance, when artists utilize cultural meanings of particular colors). In other cases, they provide visual comfort and create a mood that is relevant to the artwork’s major theme.
Focal point The analyzed object (painting) part that most attracts viewer’s attention and conveys major message(s) of an art object. Artists use other elements of design to create it. Evaluate focal point while discussing themes related to the object.
Line Artists utilize various lines, drawing viewer’s attention to particular idea, which is often evident from the focal point. Although line is a basic design element, the way artists use it creates significant responses in viewer’s perception Analyze types and shapes of lines (long or short, soft or bold, thin or thick and so on), as well as discuss line kinds that dominate within an object (vertical or horizontal, parallel or perpendicular, curving or diagonal, chaotic or boundary and so on).
Form Form suggests presence of three-dimensional space, composed of height, width, and depth. So when evaluating form, evaluate artists usage of light and dark as means for creating a form in a two-dimensional object like picture, painting, photograph. Shades and lights make image look real and perceive it in particular manner (within specific context). For form evaluation, look for light sources and lighting conditions, discuss tonal values of different objects within the artwork.
Shape This element refers to artist’s usage of various shapes and forms like squares, circles, as well as many other figures. Shapes often stood out from spaces next to them as well-recognizable objects. While considering shapes, evaluate appropriateness of visual language used by artist (geometric, organic (natural), or curvilinear, free-flowing or distorted, complex or minimal and so on).
Texture Textures describe major qualities of surfaces. Here, discuss prevailing kinds of surfaces (for instance, reflective or transparent), analyze patterns they follow and evaluate major types. Textures attract attention and add details to overall composition.
Size Talk about sizes of paintings as well as particular artistic elements portrayed on them. Different sizes add meaning, enabling artists place accents within their artworks.
Value Value is also known as lightness or tone. Artists use shading as a means for emphasizing form. Apart from colors, artists can add contrasts with light and shadow. Value analysis clarifies these effects.
Symbols Specific elements that possess their own cultural or religious meaning. Symbolic details work in tandem with other elements for promoting certain meanings.
Composition Visual elements arranged in particular order build overall composition. Composition creates as well as conveys meaning. Consider composition based on compositional techniques used by artists (for instance, rule of thirds, rule of space, rule of odds, or simplification among others).


Along with mentioned elements, you can discuss spaces, viewpoints, or media or materials use among other features. Depending on the academic level or curriculum, you may be required to use some professional language. For instance, Arts students should use more sophisticated word choice than students who write essays for an English class.

Organize Your Writing Process

Depending on the intentions for visual analysis essay, consider the following all or some of these steps:

Observe your object, taking notes of your observations – it is always better to analyze an artwork based on your own observations. If you can visit a museum where your chosen artwork is exhibited, this variant can turn most beneficial for analysis.

Formulate the main claim – based on observations, clarify your thesis. You may need to conduct some preliminary research to develop a strong rhetorical argument.

List object characteristics that support your claim – outline particular elements of object that you can use to support a thesis. Organize them from the strongest to the weakest or vice versa.

Acknowledge your emotional responses – emotional and mental responses matter in visual analyses as they occur in response to visual argument created by artist. Acknowledge your own emotional, mental responses, as well as research how audience reacts to artwork under analysis.

Research background information – depending on your writing purpose (for instance, analysis from historical perspective), conduct research, collecting information without which you cannot develop strong arguments. Mind that artwork analysis from historical perspective requires comprehension of artist’s style and background, along with social context within which an artwork was created.

Develop detailed outline – systematize and synthesize collected information by forming your future paper’s skeleton. Use our sample when completing this essay writing stage.

Prepare first draft – using an outline, create your first draft. At this point, concentrate on content rather than writing style.

Revise your draft – as you’re done with content, proofread your essay. Sometimes, it may be necessary to edit the text, adding more sophisticated vocabulary and sentence structures. Students who don’t have time for this routine task often ask our writers to edit essays, because this service is cheap, while outcomes are excellent.

Format your final essay – papers should be properly formatted. Consider your professor’s requirements in choosing formatting style. Ensure that you know the latest formatting guidelines, because failure to follow them results in plagiarism accusations.

Pre-Writing Checklist

Use this checklist while collecting information for your visual analysis paper.

  1. What is your analysis object? To which form, as well as genre, does it belong?
  2. To what historical period does this object belong? Can you find any information explaining why, for what purpose, where, or when an artist created this work?
  3. What themes can you distinguish while examining this artwork? Do you see any patterns? Are there any repeating lines, materials, or shapes?
  4. Which color scheme dominates? What draws your attention most: color harmony or color contrasts?
  5. Are there any symbols? Do key objects within an artwork have symbolic value? What emotions do they invoke? How they contribute to your meaning or main idea of understanding?
  6. Do your feelings about this artwork coincide with those you can find in literature and critical reviews? Does an artwork’s title influence the way you interpret it? How exactly?
  7. What relationships are there between visual elements? How they form a composition? What does this composition tell you? How it appeals to the world? To which audience does it appeal?
  8. Can its meaning change within time? Has it already changed since the time an artwork was produced?

Visual Analysis Essay Example By EduBirdie Experts

Here is an example of visual analysis body paragraph.

No. 5, 1948 by Jackson Pollock

No. 5, 1948 by Jackson Pollock, an American painter, is a symbol of an abstract expressionist movement, which re-defines art, making it a thing in itself rather than a picture of a thing. One cannot find any subject within No. 5, 1948, as there is only gray, brown, yellow, and white paint drizzles on composition board, which only distantly resemble a dense bird’s nest. Even the painting’s depersonalizing title denies the presence of any particular subject. Despite absence of recognizable figures or shapes, the painting impresses viewers with its originality and appeals to emotions, invoking thoughts and associations. Some viewers argue it makes them think of chaos in the modern world. Others share that they associate this painting with unstoppable progress, development of information technologies, and inevitable superiority of machine over an imperfect human. Becoming a thing in itself, this painting presents no limitations for interpretation, turning viewers into active participants of an artistic process.

This brief visual analysis essay sample illustrates that your writing should go beyond the description. Employ your critical thinking and research skills while making argumentative claims based on visual details and elements that an object under analysis possess.

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