How to Write a Visual Analysis Essay

How to Write a Visual Analysis Essay

College students can boast of a wide range of themes they are dealing with. Even though they hardly treat all these assignments as a lucky chance that will lead to success, their knowledge will come in handy in many life spheres. It is not to mention their specialty and career development. Young people who study Art, History, and English get a chance to work with a special type of assignment, a visual analysis essay. This paperwork stands out from the rest with its creative component, and topics are often reviewed from different perspectives.

In most cases, students analyze drawings, architecture, sculptures, or paintings. They don't just share their opinion about the piece of art but utilize numerous concepts of visual analysis to provide the result in the written form. Like many other types of paperwork, a visual analysis essay requires a thesis statement and providing enough evidence to defend it. 

What Is Visual Analysis? 

It represents a process of examining a piece of visual art to define the artist's message and means of execution. A professor may also ask students to analyze the work for its historical value and influence on society, culture, art, etc. Young people will have to focus more on the theme, composition, form, and performance of the work analyzed. Their main task is to take an in-depth look, reveal painting techniques, and correlate between the objects depicted, their symbolism, and color choice.

A personal response is a key aspect of writing this paper, so the language used should be simple and clear. Just take a look at a painting analysis essay example. You will see that one should utilize descriptive phrases and adhere to formal observation to convey the atmosphere of the piece of art to the full extent. 

How to Analyze a Painting If You Are a Rookie?

If you don't have an impressive analyzing experience under your belt, it can be hard to describe a picture at a professional or at least semi-professional level. Any visual image analysis essay sample you can find on the internet suggests that you should know how to identify tricks an artist applies to provoke a certain reaction in the target audience. For instance, they can highlight the key aspects and use darker colors for less important objects or place them in the background. Even though it may seem complicated, you should just know where to start and what to look for. When you overcome the first stumbling block, the further steps will seem easier. 

Look Closely at the Picture

How to analyze a picture for an essay? First, you should try to immerse yourself in the picture and reflect on words you can say about it. What emotions does it trigger? Why? Before you start researching the history of the painting, you should write down your thoughts and emotions. Thus, your perception will not be affected by other people. Next, describe the picture, paying more attention to the elements mentioned below. Finally, reflect on how the artist correlates the objects to create meaning.

Make Description Gradually

It can be hard to cover all the aspects at once, so the likelihood of missing something out goes up. To eliminate this situation, you should allocate enough time for proper analysis. Examine all the crucial aspects you should involve in your description to achieve the desired result. When you answer key questions and describe the main visual elements, you will get a rough cut of the analysis. 

Key Elements of Visual Analysis

The very type of assignment suggests that you should pay attention to the visual components of a piece of art. So, if you cannot imagine how to write a visual analysis paper, it is worth starting with checking out all the aspects you should involve in your description.


Take your time to look at all the objects depicted. Determine the main figure and analyze how other objects are located in relation to it. There are no coincidences, and everything occupies the right place to evoke the required spectrum of emotions. Composition involves a deep meaning, so do your best to interpret its core correctly.


You should pay special attention to the colors involved. Colors are responsible for an emotional response in viewers, so you should critically analyze the painting's color spectrum. Some artists utilize only monochromatic colors, while others resort to complementary options to create a significant contrast. This aspect of painting is used to affect mood, perception, or convey symbolism.


Analyzing paintings, you should pay attention to the degree of dark and light throughout the image, picture, or painting. It is responsible for balance and the main emphasis.


Even though it refers to the composition, for the most part, you should devote special attention to this aspect. Texture helps link different objects and create a perceived reality. Hence, you should focus on the surface characteristics and determine whether it is transparent, smooth, or rough, reflective.


How to write a visual analysis art history? Working on this type of assignment, you should pay attention to the symbolic elements involved by the artist. In most cases, they have a hidden meaning and can hint at some events or famous figures.

Focal Point

When it comes to analyzing a painting, you cannot skip a focal point since it is the key attention grabber. In addition, it involves the fundamental message of the artist, so you should necessarily include it in your visual analysis.

How to Analyze Paintings for an Essay?

Students who have chosen art or journalism as their major face the need to work on such assignments more than others. To keep up with the curriculum, they should learn the fundamentals of how to write a visual analysis. Therefore, it is necessary to pay special attention to the next points:

  1. Who is the artist, and what timeframe does painting belong to? For instance, while classical artists paint historical events, modernists suggest a completely different approach. Thus, you cannot analyze these directions in the same way.
  2. What was the artist's goal? Many classical painters created their masterpieces only because wealthy people hired them.
  3. Who is the target audience? While some artists want to look appealing to ordinary people, others aim to a specific audience, for instance, art people.
  4. What is the historical context? You should research before you begin to write an essay. The historical context of the painting will affect your analysis.

How to Write a Visual Analysis Essay?

When it comes to completing this type of assignment, you should meet your professor's requirements or follow the five-paragraph structure if you have freedom of choice. Allocate some time to look at a picture, highlight the most crucial aspects that stand out from the rest to you, and analyze them in relation to your thesis statement. You can follow the standard essay structure, dividing the text body into several main categories.


A standard visual analysis essay example suggests that the introduction should be pretty short, and like any other type of essay, it is aimed at providing background information on the subject. Thus, you present a piece of art to your target audience, mentioning your attitude and the response you are searching for. Your introduction should involve the following things:

  • brief description of the piece of art, including the artist's name, year, movement, and purpose;
  • a few interesting facts about anything related to the painting discussed to grab readers' attention;
  • strong thesis statement in which you should involve the moments of analysis you will discuss.

You should define the core of the painting and come up with a thesis statement based on it. One of the crucial things in the opening of this type of assignment is to provide enough information to your audience about the artwork but not overdo it with details. The introduction doesn't occupy much space when it comes to visual analysis essays, so you should outline your thoughts and highlight key aspects.

Body Paragraphs

When you have provided the thesis statement and created a transitional sentence, you start working on the body paragraphs. It is worth devoting some time to observing the piece of art you are going to write about. Pay attention to all the details, following the list of key elements. You should consider composition, colors, texture, and other visual attributes that affect your attitude and perception. Bear in mind that you should be precise and not clog your essay with non-essential things.

All your body paragraphs should support your thesis statement through the analysis of the piece of art. You can start broader at first, gradually narrow down the information involved. Resort to the techniques and elements of visual analysis to achieve the response you are searching for. Bear in mind that you should involve only those moments that support your thesis statement. 

It is worth starting with some weaker arguments, gradually strengthening them. Otherwise, your arguments will look messy and not evoke the required emotional response. It would be great to expand your vocabulary with descriptive and illustrative words and phrases to create a suitable atmosphere. Utilize transitional sentences between the paragraphs to make the text look more holistic.


When you provide enough evidence to support your thesis statement, you can proceed to write a conclusion. It should become the cherry on the pie of your essay and leave a pleasant aftertaste, so your readers don't have a feeling they have wasted several minutes. Next, you should share your thoughts on the piece of art, summing up all the observations mentioned above. Bear in mind that you shouldn't provide any new information. Finally, you can restate your thesis statement, highlighting the importance of such research. In this part, you can emphasize the meaning of art, discuss how much its elements affect society, and defend your findings with facts from your paper.


If you open any well-crafted art analysis essay example, you will notice that the whole paper is formed according to the standard citation rules. It is one of the essential parts, so you shouldn't turn a blind eye to your in-text citations when mentioning sources. Whether it is about a movie, website, book, or journal, you should include it in the reference list. If you neglect this aspect or forget to put quotation marks, you can get a lower grade and be blamed for plagiarism. It will hardly add your additional scores but spoil your reputation.

Key Moments When Writing a Visual Analysis Essay

If you have never faced this type of assignment, you may get confused and lost. However, you should just follow a few tips and tricks to meet this challenge. Keep in mind the next things when proceed to work on the essay:

  1. If you have a choice, it is better to opt for the argumentative or controversial theme. It will be much easier to write a well-crafted essay and provide the required amount of information. This moment will determine the success of your paperwork in general. If a professor has provided you with artwork, you can come up with an appealing title for your paper.
  2. When you start working on the introduction, narrow down the information provided. You can resort to the elements of an illustration essay to make as bright a description of the chosen artwork as possible.
  3. Revealing your feelings and thoughts toward the artwork involves descriptive language to create a visual effect and help your reader 'see' what you are writing about.
  4. Determine the crucial elements of the paper and how they affect the outcome. If you are limited in writing body paragraphs, create only three of them, discussing each element in a separate paragraph.
  5. Provide an interpretation of the painting in the body part of the paper. Highlight its meanings back in the days and today.
  6. Always involve eye-catching information when writing a visual analysis essay. Interesting facts grab attention on the equal par with a powerful thesis statement. If you come across other artwork of the same artist, you can compare them from a certain perspective.
  7. Don't be lazy to proofread and edit your paper carefully. Your paper can be considered A-worthy only if it contains neither grammar nor stylistic nor spelling mistakes. It will be a huge disappointment if you get a low grade only because your paper is full of minor mistakes that you could notice while proofreading.