3 Types of Visual Arts

visual art standards

There are countless forms of art. When it comes to visual arts, there are generally 3 types: decorative, commercial, and fine art.

The broader definition of “the arts” covers everything from painting through theatre, music, architecture, and more. However, the visual arts are those artistic creations that we can see, like sculptures or paintings.

What Are The Three Types Of Visual Art?

Visual Arts

The three types of visual arts are:

  • Decorative
  • Commercial
  • Fine art

Subcategories exist in each of these art types, and these art forms can be representational, abstract, or non-objective. Broader visual art forms include art forms such as painting, sculpture, costume or fashion design, drawing, printmaking, ceramics, photography, video, filmmaking, graphic or commercial design, crafts, and architecture.

What Are The Three Art Classifications?

Visual Arts

Across all the visual arts, three classifications are used to describe an artwork. Whether the artwork is two-dimensional or three-dimensional, it will always fall under one of these three main types.


Representational art can describe any artwork which depicts easily identifiable or recognizable subjects. Representational or figurative art is the most widely accepted art, recognized by the masses. This group also has the largest body of art available because the other two types, abstract and non-objective, are relatively newer styles.

Most older and classical art falls into the category of representational art. Despite depicting real objects, figurative art is not always hyper-realistic; it does not have to show the subject accurately like a photograph. Examples of representative artists include Leonardo da Vinci, Vincent Van Goh, Michelangelo, Edward Hopper, and Frida Kahlo.


Fine art is a style of art that is developed primarily to be aesthetically beautiful. This definition distinguishes and elevates fine art above those decorative and commercial arts, which also serve some practical function. High art allows for the full expression and display of an artist’s imagination, unrestricted by any commercial or practical considerations such as functionality.


Decorative arts are often overlooked as art forms because they are both functional and beautiful to look at. Decorative arts may be used interchangeably with “crafts”; the design and manufacture are both beautiful and functional. The decorative arts include objects made for the interiors of buildings and interior design but do not usually include architecture.

The decorative arts can include everyday items but are distinct from mass-produced versions of these items. To be considered a decorative art, an object should usually be hand-made by a specialized craftsman or craftswoman.


Commercial art, like decorative arts, can be both functional and beautiful. Commercial art is a creative service, which is created for commercial purposes, such as advertising. Commercial art is used to promote the sale and interest of services, products, and ideas. Brands and businesses will commission commercial art to communicate something specific to an audience.

The commercial arts can include graphic design, photography, illustration, animation, printmaking, television, fashion design, visual effects, industrial design, and motion graphics. Commercial art is commonly seen in mediums such as magazines, websites, apps, television, store displays, and product packaging.

Subscribe to our monthly Newsletter
Subscribe to our monthly Newsletter