Positive & Negative Space in Art Lesson Plan

Instructor: Dana Dance-Schissel

Dana teaches social sciences at the college level and English and psychology at the high school level. She has master's degrees in applied, clinical and community psychology.

How are positive and negative space used in art and reflected through design? This lesson plan uses an example-filled video lesson to explain these concepts to students. An activity highlights the use of positive and negative space in art.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • summarize the concepts of positive and negative space in art
  • discuss the role of perception in the interpretation of positive and negative space in art
  • explain figure-ground relationship as it relates to positive and negative space in art


60 to 90 minutes

Curriculum Standards


Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of science and technical texts, attending to the precise details of explanations or descriptions.


Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; trace the text's explanation or depiction of a complex process, phenomenon, or concept; provide an accurate summary of the text.


Follow precisely a complex multi-step procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks, attending to special cases or exceptions defined in the text.


Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context relevant to grades 9-10 texts and topics.


Translate quantitative or technical information expressed in words in a text into visual form (e.g., a table or chart) and translate information expressed visually or mathematically (e.g., in an equation) into words.


Compare and contrast findings presented in a text to those from other sources (including their own experiments), noting when the findings support or contradict previous explanations or accounts.


  • A worksheet created using the quiz from the associated video lesson
  • Sketch paper
  • Construction paper in assorted colors
  • Pencils
  • Scissors
  • Glue


  • Begin by writing the following terms on the board: 'positive space' and 'negative space.'
    • What is meant by each of the terms in regards to art?
    • Can you think of examples of each?
  • Play the video lesson Positive & Negative Space in Art: Definition & Examples, pausing it at 1:25.
    • How did we do in our discussion of positive and negative space?
    • What is positive space in art?
    • What is negative space in art?
    • What did you see first: a rabbit or a duck?
  • Play the video lesson again, pausing it this time at 2:45.
    • What are optical illusions?
    • How do the principles of Gestalt psychology relate to positive and negative space in art?
    • Did you see a serpent in water?
    • What does each of the black lines mean on its own, aside from its placement on the white background?
  • Play the remainder of the video lesson for the class.
    • What is figure-ground relationship?
    • How can figure and ground be used in art?
  • Review key facts from the video lesson with the class.
  • Distribute the worksheet to the class.
  • Have each student work independently to complete the worksheet, using what they learned about positive and negative space in art from the video lesson.
  • When all students have finished their worksheets, review each question and answer with the class as students follow along checking their work.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account