Types of plastic arts with Definition, Sculptures, History & Examples

We will explain what they are and what types of plastic art exist. In addition: history, characteristics, and examples of plastic arts.

What are the Plastic Arts?

When we talk about plastic arts, we refer to the techniques of elaboration of works of art in which materials and elements capable of being molded, modified, or transformed by the artist are used. These elements are therefore considered plastic resources since they serve the artist as a raw material to express his perspective, imagination or specific vision of the real. types of plastic arts

This term is used in Fine Arts to differentiate visual arts , which must be perceived by the viewer’s view, from those that also involve the sense of hearing (music, recited text ), such as performing arts . Thus, plastic arts are considered painting, sculpture, drawing, architecture, engraving, ceramics, goldsmithing, crafts and wall painting.

It is very common for plastic artists, especially in the early exploration of their talent, to avoid various plastic disciplines at the same time, since the plastic arts start from principles and common aspects of each other, such as form, texture, color, or even movement.

Plastic arts currently occupy one of the main artistic areas of museums, and are, together with the performing arts, literature, cinema, music, and photography, the greatest contemporary expressions of art.

History of the plastic arts

The notion of plastic arts emerged during the nineteenth century, as has already been said, to distinguish them from the performing arts. However, during the 20th century, the notion of art came into conflict and reformulation so many times that the plastic arts incorporated expressive proposals such as graffiti and urban art ( street art ) or the ready-made heritage of pop art.

This last type of artistic objects, above all, that did not receive major intervention from the artist, but were transferred by him to the museum and extracted from their context, forced the use of the term “visual arts” instead of “plastic arts”, to accommodate them in this category. Video, photography, and digital art, that way, also had a place in it.

Types of plastic art types of plastic arts

plastic arts - painting
Ceramics consist of shaping a mass of clay, earthenware or porcelain. 

The plastic arts are ordinarily classified into:

  • Sculpture. This discipline uses the artist’s hands, as well as various tools, to mold, cut, polish and, in short, give a certain shape to durable elements, such as stones of different nature, or moldable materials that then harden, such as plaster.
  • Goldsmith. It involves the elaboration of artistic pieces through the manipulation and melting of metals, particularly precious metals such as gold or silver.
  • Drawing. The technique consists in representing the perspectives of the visible to the naked eye or of the imaginary by means of strokes on paper that are made with pencil, charcoal, ink, or some other material that leaves marks.
  • Recorded. Similar to the drawing, the engraving prints gestures, letters, or other symbols on a surface, but in this case hard and resistant as rolled metals.
  • Ceramics. Similar to the sculpture, it prints form (and eventually color) to a mass of a moldable or malleable element, then naturally or in a furnace extracts the water component and, when drying, hardens it and makes it rigid and bright.
  • Crafts. This is called the technique of producing simple objects or containers, for everyday use, using flexible materials and simple tools, often the artist’s hand.
  • Painting: is the art of expressing ideas and feelings through existing images and symbols made by an artist, reflected on a surface with dimensions, using various substances or painting techniques. It is represented flat, with two long and wide dimensions, therefore it can be seen from only one side. Painting has evolved from prehistory to the present and painting techniques with Watercolor, Tempera, Oil, Wax, and Acrylic.arts
  • Watercolor: this technique is used on paper or cardboard, characterized by the transparency of the colors dissolved in water. It is applied by dissolving the paint in water with a sponge, transparency
  • Tempera: refers to the procedure in which colors are mixed with a binder, providing heat to be handled hot. Based on the coating of already dry pigments.
  • Oil: comes from the Latin olĕum which means “olive oil”. The most used oil was flaxseed, which was mixed with the pigments of the minerals to provide them with color. In the Middle Ages, oil was known and used in mixing with fresco and tempera paint, and also used to touch up plaster pieces.
  • Wax: this technique is apply hot colors mixed with melted wax, characterized by using hot wax because it protects, covers, and is resistant to both water and light.
  • Acrylic: refers to mixing the same pigments that are used in oil and watercolor, bound by a plastic substance made of acrylic resins that are diluted in water. Can be painted on paper, canvas, cardboard, wood, and metal surfaces.
  • Engraving: consists of duplicating, reproducing, stamping, and creating by means of a mechanism that uses the plate, which refers to placing an image in reverse, which after inking the plate can be captured on paper. It can be used manually, chemically, or mechanically.
  • Architecture comes from Latin architecture. It is the art of planning, designing, and executing an architectural project of any type according to the use that can be given to a building, among them are the religious, residential, welfare, military, traditional, cultural, and sports typology with the purpose of create spaces to be used by humans.
  • Photography: resides in capturing images and storing them in the camera. Photography has evolved since its inception but has always been based on a camera projecting the image captured by the lens.s

Characteristics of the plastic arts

As stated before, the plastic arts share certain basic concepts that determine their particular way of expressing their contents, which are:

  • Color. The colors are given to the works of art through pigments and materials that, when impacted by white light, absorb all the tones of the rainbow except one. This reflected color is what our retinas perceive.
  • Shape. The form has to do with the geometry of things, with their regularity or irregularity, with their limits visible to the naked eye.
  • Texture. The texture is appreciable by touch or sight and has to do with the surface of the object: its roughness or smoothness, its edge or the sensations transmitted by its outer layer.
  • Movement. In some cases, the plastic works can have movement, as is the case of artists such as the Argentine Julio LeParc, whose sculptures could be activated by electricity to transmit hypnotic shapes and colors to the viewer.

Examples of Plastic Arts

Below are examples of each of the plastic disciplines:

  • PaintingThe Guernica by Pablo Picasso (20th century).
  • SculptureThe thinker of Auguste Rodin (s. XX).
  • Ceramics: The ceramic vases of Théodore Deck (19th century).
  • Goldsmith: The altar of San Ambrose of Milan, made by Vuolvinus (c. 850).
  • Drawing: The sketches of dancers by Edgar Degas (20th century).
  • Engraving: The series of engravings by Goya baptized “Los caprichos” (s. XX).types of plastic arts

Examples of Sculptures


  • Stone statues on Easter Island (Chile)
  • Great Sphinx of Giza (Egypt)
  • Statue of Liberty (United States)
  • El David, by Miguel Angel
  • Venus de Milo (Ancient Greece)
  • The Thinker

Examples of Paintings


  • Mona Lisa (or Mona Lisa) by Leonardo Da Vinci
  • Starry Night by Van Gogh
  • The Scream  by  Edvard Munch
  • Guernica by Pablo Picasso
  • The persistence of the memory of Salvador Dalí
  • 3 musicians  of Pablo Picasso

Examples of Architectural Works

  • Kansas City Public Library (Missouri, United States)
  • Habitat 67 (Montreal, Canada)
  • Cubic Houses (Rotterdam, The Netherlands)
  • Dancing Building (Prague, Czech Republic)
  • Manchester Civil Justice Center (Manchester, UK)
  • Container City (London, UK)
  • Air Force Academy Chapel (Colorado, United States)
  • Luxor Hotel & Casino (Las Vegas, United States)
  • Fuji television building (Tokyo, Japan)
  • Burj Al Arab Hotel (Dubai)
  • Chrysler Building (New York, United States)
  • Cheops Pyramid (Egypt)
  • Three Gorges Dam (China)

Plastic arts in fine arts

The term plastic arts dates from the 19th century and would establish a difference with respect to the disciplines that belong to the 7 fine arts, thus excluding dance, music, literature and cinema within them.

In this sense, the visual arts encompass painting, sculpture, and architecture, such as:

Plastic arts and painting

Roots , Frida Kahlo, 1943Roots, Frida Kahlo, 1943

The painting is one of the oldest expressions of visual arts. Its origin dates back to 36,000 years ago with the cave paintings found in the Chauvet Cave in France.

Plastic arts and sculpture

plastic arts sculptureDavid , Michelangelo Buonarroti, 1501-1504

The sculpture as art reached its peak in ancient Greece. In this sense, sculpture as a plastic discipline bases its aesthetic values ​​on what we call classical art, which mainly refers to those created during the Hellenic period.types of plastic arts

Plastic arts and architecture

gothic sculptureSalisbury Cathedral, UK, 1220-1320

Architecture is a form of plastic arts and belongs to one of the 7 fine arts. Architecture has taken various forms of artistic expression throughout the history of art, following styles of prevailing artistic currents such as, for example, Gothic architecture, Baroque architecture, and Art Nouveau architecture.

Plastic arts and visual arts

The differentiation between plastic arts and visual arts began to be problematized only in the 20th century, with the emergence of new forms of artistic expression that are characterized by the predominance of the visual and the absence of plastic work on materials.

The visual arts, then, come to expand the possibilities of art outside its traditional places of representation, transferring it to new formats and forms of expression such as photography, video art, graffiti, digital art, performance, or interventions.

Despite everything, the concept of visual arts is so broad that it can range from traditional disciplines such as painting and sculpture to more recent forms of expression related to computers.

Types of design in plastic arts, do you know them?

Graphic design, space design, architectural design, fashion design … there is a long list of combinations of design with other branches, which makes it an interesting tool that considers many spaces as a form of artistic expression. Do you want to know them?

First of all, what are the plastic arts?

The plastic arts are manifestations of the human being that reflect some product of their imagination or their vision of reality. This concept refers to painting, sculpture, drawing, architecture, engraving, ceramics, goldsmithing, handicrafts, and wall painting. Hence, a wide range of possibilities is admitted within this.v

The concept of plastic arts has been modified to adapt it to new trends so that in the 20th century it was displaced to add these new media, and it was renamed visual arts; where new forms of expression are mixed with their different formats.

Grafitti in Coney Island United States
Grafitti in Coney Island, United States

How many types of design are there today?

There are many types of design in the visual arts and in general. We are surrounded by products, instruments, utensils, and messages that have been crafted with care and with attention to design.

Fashion design

It may be within the design of one of the branches that we have a clearer. Surely each and every one of us has a concept or an idea of ​​what fashion design is, more or less correct; the fact that the same does not happen with other less popular branches.

There is also textile design, more focused on fabrics and not so much on what to do with them.

Fashion design is very present within the Design Market since it includes both garments and accessories. In each edition our curation team brings together a select variety of fashion and accessories artisans, claiming their own design and elaborating in each workshop or atelier of our entrepreneurs.

Digital design

It can be framed within graphic design, and many times; although we could make the distinction that the first can lead to a more practical use of design and the second, to something more visual or conceptual.

We could also make a differentiation between fashion and digital design: tangibility or the possibility of tangibility is a clear separation of both worlds. We can see, touch, and smell fashion design … digital often does not transcend a screen.

In Mercado de Diseño we can find in each edition great digital artists, and illustrators who make our visitors fall in love with their creations of original shapes or lines; characters… Come to our next edition and see for yourself!

Other types of design are architectural, web, graphic, editorial, art, textile, industrial, and space design.

The design in plastic arts can be as diverse as the imagination takes us.

Advertising and packaging design: is it also art?

Poster I want you United States
American poster used for the recruitment of people for the First World War

There are very fine lines that separate certain branches or catalogs of what may or may not be art. For example, a poster for an event, can it become art? Could all the posters be considered to be art?

From Toulouse Lautrec, a great poster artist of the 19th century, to other more contemporary creators such as Warhol (1962), turning an everyday product into an exhibition work, they have developed different ways of seeing or considering what art is.v

Regarding packaging, it can be considered an advertising way of attracting attention, and a certain product gains relevance, making it more visually attractive. This could make us ask ourselves the question of whether it would be legitimate to call everything that captivates us or seems beautiful to us art.

In London, in the peculiar Notting Hill neighborhood, there is a curious space: the Museum of Brands. If a container is something that we can find in a museum, if we follow Duchamp’s logic, then can it already be considered art?

Where to study Fine Arts

Nowadays the graduation in Plastic Arts is better known as Visual Arts. It is with this nomenclature that you will find the largest number of options in the area – both in bachelors and undergraduate degrees.

Regardless of the professional path you intend to follow (teaching or not), one thing is certain: the diploma will only be valid if it is issued by an institution duly recognized by the Ministry of Education (MEC). It is this “seal of quality” that gives the newly graduated the right to seek higher education jobs, to take public exams that require this level of education, and to follow their studies in a postgraduate course.

In short, if the Faculty of Fine Arts is not recognized by MEC, don’t waste your time! types of plastic arts

To help you find a good degree, we present below some of the main colleges recognized and well-evaluated by MEC that offer the Visual Arts course.

The U.S. News and World Report compiled a list of the best regional university rankings in the US. Using this list and a regional map as a reference, international students can benefit from determining how the schools they have chosen compare or where to study fine arts in specific regions. Check out:

Find Schools Now

USA West types of plastic arts

A top regional school in the west is Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. This private University has an urban setting that overlooks downtown San Antonio and has 2,417 students. There is a 63% acceptance rate, 9:1 student-to-faculty ratio, and tuition costs $31,356 USD. Bachelor of Music and Bachelor of Art degrees are offered. International students will find it easy to draw inspiration from nearby historical sites such as the Alamo, the San Antonio River Walk, and various parks.

USA Midwest

One of the best regional schools in the Midwest is Creighton University in Omaha,

USA Northeast types of plastic arts

One of the best northeastern schools for fine arts is Villanova University in Villanova,

USA South

Rollins College was ranked the best school in the south and is located in Winter Park, Florida.

Learn more about studying fine arts in the USA by reading our growing article collection.

« Study Guide by Subject   « Study Fine Arts in the U.S.

Related Topics

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back to top button