Edges in art mark the end of one color and the beginning of another. Sometimes the transition is sharp, like that between one object and another; other times, the transition is subtle, like the gentle gradations of an evening sky. The concept of edges is deceptively simple, as many beginner painters struggle to capture a perfect edge. However, by better understanding the concept itself, you can learn how to paint the right edges for your painting.
The Different Types of Edges
What usually throws beginners off is that they’re using an inappropriate edge for the object or color they’re trying to depict. When we think of edges, we often imagine something sharp and distinct, like the edge of a countertop. In reality, there are three main types of edges you can use in your art:
- Hard Edge: A sharp, crisp line between two shapes or objects (e.g., the line between an apple and a table)
- Soft Edge: A more gentle and smooth transition between two shapes or objects (e.g., the transition between the top of a table and the corner of a table)
- Lost Edge: A barely distinguishable and extremely subtle transition (e.g., the transition between the light part of the table and the shaded part)
What Forms an Edge
You create an edge any time there is a change in your painting. This can include a change from one object to another, one color to another, or one plane to another. Simply put, any kind of transition involves an edge, whether it be hard, soft, or lost.
Factors That Influence Edges
What might make a hard edge hard, or a soft edge soft? Typically it’s the actual object you’re trying to paint. However, environmental factors also influence your edges. These four factors can change the type of edge you use in your painting:
- Light: Harsh light will make an edge harder, while weak light will make it softer
- Movement: When something is moving, edges will appear blurred or softer
- Atmosphere: A sunny day will make edges harder, while a hazy day will make them softer
- Focus: Objects that are farther away are out of focus. As such, their edges will be soft