Hard and soft edges are important elements in your paintings. The most popular way to soften edges is by applying different brush techniques of dragging, zigzagging and overlapping as demonstrated in this video. The other way, which is not employed as often by painters, is by using color and value.
First a quick definition: Hard edges provide a strong sense of where an object begins and ends, whereas soft edges disappear or fade into the background. They are also known as lost and found edges. Hard edges command attention from the viewer because of the sharp contrast, while soft edges bleed together.
Why is it important to utilize the technique of hard and soft edges? It is because they:
- Create variety and energy in a painting;
- Set the tone of your visual message;
- Direct the viewer to the areas of rest as well as the area(s) of focus;
- Demonstrate your mastery of painting.
Using color and value to achieve edge variety is a technique I like to use, particularly in my abstract paintings and those infused with realism. In these paintings, I often have many hard edges but I do not want them to draw immediate attention. I want to maintain the integrity of the edge, while the shapes disappear into the background.
In the painting below, you can see where variety is achieved around the edge of the rectangle. The edge between the background and the textured box is there, yet there is a variation of color and value where the two meet. (Earlier stages of the painting can be seen below.)
Below is an exercise that I teach in my live color classes. In this example I am using watercolor, but it can be executed in any medium. Students are first asked to choose a yellow, red and blue because they represent light, middle and dark values respectively. They paint 4 swatches of each of these colors as you can see here. [Read more…]