How to Write a Visual Analysis Essay: Tips and Examples

How to Write a Visual Analysis Essay: Tips and Examples

Published by on 2021-07-13 08:38:33

Even though not all students face the need to write visual analysis papers, this assignment is useful for developing critical and creative thinking that can always come in handy.

When you enroll in college, you should be ready to cope with any teacher's assignment. Even though some aspects will depend on your curriculum and chosen specialty, many tasks are common for all students. For instance, every young person who studies in college faces the need to write a narrative or argumentative essay. Nonetheless, the situation is different with a visual analysis essay that stands out from the rest in many aspects. In most cases, it is written by students who study History and Arts. Young people learn how to analyze paintings and various artworks and expose their thoughts in a written form. Such an assignment helps them go deep down the question and learn more about the artist, style, and message of the artwork. It may seem complicated to write a visual analysis paper, especially if you have never written it before. Still, everything is quite simple if you have a well-tailored guide on hand. Below you will find out how to write a visual analysis essay effectively.

Visual Analysis Essay Definition

If you want to get the essence of any concept, it is worth starting from the very beginning. The chances are high that some people don't understand what makes this type of essay so special. Well, a visual analysis paper represents a detailed description of the image display. In other words, you look at a picture, for example, examine it from different perspectives, trying to get the artist's message and define tools and techniques applied. It can also be about determining the work's historical importance and its influence on the culture and society of that time. The very analyzing process requires a detailed description of the key elements and design principles. Thus, writing a visual analysis, you should pay special attention to:

  • target audience;
  • image formation;
  • historical context;
  • purpose of influence.

You should use descriptive speech patterns and express your ideas clearly and precisely. Even though a visual analysis paper involves all the structure parts inherent to other essay types, it shouldn't be overextended. Brevity is the soul of wit.

How to Analyze a Picture for an Essay

Visual elements run the table when it comes to analyzing a picture for this type of essay. They provide you with a deeper meaning of the visual characteristics of the artwork and help highlight the key moments and get to the bottom line. Thus, you should devote attention to the following aspects. 


In the first place, you should understand how things described in the picture relate to each other. Then, you should define the main figure and how other elements are placed in relation to it. Finally, the composition creates the tone and general mood of the artwork.

Design Elements

Usually, an artist uses various design elements to make the image look holistic. When working on the essay, you should pay special attention to colors, textures, shapes, forms, etc. 

Focal Point

It represents a part of the picture that catches your attention right away. Analyze this aspect and define what design elements the artist applied to achieve such a result. When you get the focal point, it will be easier to understand the message of the picture.


It is a wonderful tool that helps the artist create the required mood. Your task is to illustrate how colors used affect the tone and mood of the picture. For example, did the artist use specific colors to highlight some elements of the image? Often, they are pretty symbolic and help reveal the essence of the visual display. 


It helps make something look smooth or rough, add patterns and create real or fake dimensions (depending on whether it is about 3d or 2d art). You should define texture and tell how it affects your perception.


You should describe in what way the artist uses different shapes in the picture. It is about squares, circles, ovals, etc. Artists add shades and lighten some parts to demonstrate the shape of objects. This aspect is closely connected with the form since the artist applies the same techniques to make an image look more real and highlight the required part of the composition.

Symbolic Elements

If you work with a visual display with historical background and meaning, you should devote attention to symbolic elements depicted if there are some. Symbols can evoke a wide range of emotions in different people or stay unnoticed in some other cases. 

Pre-Writing Checklist

When you start gathering information for your paper, you may get confused and feel uncertain. Where should you get started? What moments are crucial? How to write a visual argument essay and not miss any important aspects? Follow the pre-writing checklist to meet the challenge:

  1. Define your analysis object, its genre, and form.
  2. Define its historical timeline and purpose of creation.
  3. Analyze the picture through visual elements, define its theme. 
  4. Determine dominated colors. Specify whether color contrast or color harmony has caught your attention.
  5. Specify symbolic elements involved and their value. Share your feelings about these symbols and specify whether they help you get the essence of the picture.
  6. Indicate whether you share the view of the visual display mentioned on the web, literature, etc. Specify whether the picture's name affected the way you treat it.
  7. Define the target audience of the picture.
  8. Indicate whether the perception of the image has changed since the moment it was created.

How to Write a Visual Analysis Paper?

You should allocate enough time for writing a visual analysis essay since you will have to do thorough research. To create an A-grade-worthy paper, you should examine the objects depicted, mood, colors, and other visual elements. Write down all the ideas and thoughts related to the theme and essence of the artwork. Even if some of them turn out to be useless in the end, they may give you a clue. It will be much easier to work on the paper and develop a powerful thesis statement when you have some notes that can become a foundation for the final draft. 

1. Gather General Information

The introduction should include general information about the theme of your visual analysis essay. When you introduce the topic, you can specify what the artwork represents (brief description and key elements of the picture), short information about the author, purpose, and timeline. It is about plain facts for the most part. However, one of the main tasks of the introduction is to provide a hook, some catchy facts that will make your audience keep up reading. This part should involve a thesis statement at the end of the paragraph. It provides a clue on the things you are going to discuss later. 

2. Provide the Description of the Picture

When the introduction is over, you should start writing the body paragraphs designed to reveal the essence of the artwork in detail. You should present about four ideas to support your thesis statement. First, examine the image and define what it represents, then summarize all key aspects. 

Mention Crucial Features

Artwork characteristics should defend your thesis statement, so you can start with the strongest features. The latter will be about the characters depicted and their meaning. 

Describe the Tone and Mood of the Picture

It is one of the most important yet time-consuming parts of the paper. It is where a pre-writing checklist will come in handy and help you not miss anything crucial. You should carefully examine the picture and analyze it through the visual elements mentioned above. Bear in mind that each piece of art is unique, so you should decide on design principles suitable in each case. 

Specify Emotions Evoked by the Picture

It is one of the key moments since every artwork is created with a certain purpose and aimed at a certain range of emotions. Thus, you can share your feelings even if they differ from ones shared by other people. Therefore, it will not be superfluous to find out what other people think about this piece of art.

3. Write a Conclusion

When you finish the last body paragraph, you can proceed to conclude. It should become the cherry on the pie, so make it strong and well-tailored. You can mention your thesis statement one more time and support it, summarizing all key things mentioned above. 

4. Specify All the References

When you start working on your paper, you can use different sources with some 'genius' thoughts. Bear in mind that you should mention everything you've used for writing your essay in the reference list. Don't ignore citation rules if you don't want to find yourself in trouble and be blamed for plagiarism. Even though visual analysis papers stand out from the rest, you should not neglect general citation demands. 

5. Revise and Edit Your Paper

Even if you believe that you have advanced writing skills, it is not an excuse to avoid revising and editing your papers. Thus, when the conclusion is over, it is worth putting your paper aside for several hours and switching to a different activity. You can become less perceptive of things, so a small break will help you look at your essay from a new perspective and proofread it at a high-quality level. If you want to get an A-grade paper, your essay should be free of any grammar or spelling mistakes. Nowadays, you can come across great online services for checking papers, so it will not be superfluous to give them a try either. Besides, make sure you don't repeat any ideas. Your paper shouldn't look clogged, so it is better to delete something if you have some doubts.  

Examples of Visual Analysis Essay

If you want to see what a ready-made visual analysis paper looks like, you can search for examples on the internet. Besides, such an investigation can become a wonderful source of inspiration if you write on a similar topic. However, you should be careful and resist the temptation to borrow some parts and any well-tailored phrases because such action may result in big problems. It is normal to find out how other students meet this challenge, but you should still get yourself under control. 

Writing Tips for a Visual Analysis Essay

Many students struggle to write essays since this assignment is quite challenging and time-consuming. The situation becomes even more complicated when you have to work on a topic you are not interested in. However, not all professors will ask you about your preferences. Visual analysis essays have certain requirements you should meet to complete the task. If your writing skills leave much to be desired, you can feel overwhelmed and confused. The following tips will come in handy and help improve your writing abilities, so you will be able to hand in a decent paper

1. Pick Up an Interesting Topic

If you have a chance to choose a topic, spend some time picking up the one you will be interested in. History can boast of many gifted painters and world-famous artworks, so it will not be a big deal to choose something outstanding. When you are passionate about the subject, the whole writing process will turn into an adventure, so you will enjoy it way much more. Besides, interest will force you to improve the paper as much as possible, so the likelihood of getting a high grade will go up. Many young people have poor academic performance because they have chosen the wrong specialty, and subjects don't evoke any positive emotions.

2. Observe the Object

When you start working on your paper, you will go through various resources and adopt someone's thoughts and ideas. That's why it is better to observe the object first and take notes. It will be very useful to go deep down the question having your own ideas. You will analyze a picture based on your observations and not copy-pasting someone's statements. Devote time to looking at the artwork and writing down your feelings and ideas that appear in the process. Thus, you will define the thesis statement and start researching to develop a powerful argument. Organize your thoughts and outline the key elements. 

3. Create a Catchy Introduction

Everyone who has ever written essays knows that introduction is a crucial aspect, and the success of the whole paper may depend on it. You should complete several tasks at once, writing a worthy introduction. Firstly, you should catch your reader's attention and encourage them to keep reading. Secondly, you should define the paper's background and make the key statement. Finally, you should put yourself in the shoes of your target audience and look at the introduction as if from outside. Thus, you will understand whether the beginning of your essay is interesting enough to spend several minutes reading it. You can come up with a hook, some unusual fact that requires continuation. 

4. Find Powerful Arguments

The main purpose of body paragraphs is to support your thesis statement. You should arrange a proper investigation and gather various details to persuade your readers. The more powerful and convincing they are, the better. You should make it clear that your thesis statement has the right to live. It is when hard evidence comes in handy and helps not overload your essay. Many minor details and weak arguments will only clog your paper, but they will not evoke the required emotional response on the part of your audience. When it comes to a visual analysis essay, your words should affect your readers' perception on the equal part with the artwork provided.  

5. Leave a Pleasant Aftertaste With the Conclusion

The conclusion of your essay is not less important than other parts. Moreover, sometimes it affects your audience even more, so it is up to you to decide what it will look like. You should show your readers that you are confident in the thesis statement, so they can safely share your viewpoint. Demonstrate the importance of the artwork and share the emotions it has evoked in you. In other words, your conclusion should leave a pleasant aftertaste when you understand that you didn't waste your time reading the paper. 

6. Follow the Outline

Many young people try to save time, turning a blind eye to the importance of creating a detailed outline and a draft. The former will help you organize your ideas and pieces of information found in various sources and create the basis for your future paper. An outline will help you create the first draft. It shouldn't be perfect, but you should know what you want to share with your audience. The first draft may define your writing style and direction to move further. When this stage is over, don't be lazy to proofread your essay several times. Your efforts will not be in vain if you take this assignment seriously and meet all the requirements provided by your teacher.