How to Handle the Edges in Your Paintings
Handling your Edges
Knowing how to handle edges is an important part of your painting process. Every shape in your painting has an edge. Knowing how to paint them will help in creating a pleasing painting. To do this, you should have soft and hard edges.
Hard and rough edges attract the eye and will lead the viewer along those edges. Hard edges are good to use at or leading to your focal point in your painting. There can be different degrees of hardness. For example, a hard edge with high contrast has the most pull great for focal areas. A hard edge with less value contrast will have less pull than one with more contrast. But it will have more pull than one with softer edges.
Soft edges recede. They are good for backgrounds and the outside areas of your paintings. Your eye can travel over instead of along soft edges going into the next shape. An objects edge can have hard and soft edges.
Below I have demonstrated the types of edges and how to achieve them in watercolor.
Hard lines created by painting one section wet on dry and when it is dry painting another section wet on dry beside it.
On the top stroke, I softened the edge almost all the way around (notice where your eye goes) by softly lifting the dry paint with a wet brush. Both strokes were painted on dry paper. You can also soften an edge by blending it out while the paint is still wet.
Hard edge created by painting dry on dry. Notice how it pulls the eye more than the wet on wet one to the left. But our eye is not drawn to it as much as the hard edges with the increased contrast on the right.
Use your edges to control the movement or path through your painting
In our example below let’s pretend this is our finished painting. A is our focal area with the hard corner and B is the outer perimeter of our painting.
In the first example B (the outside edge of our painting) is just as hard as our focal area. Notice how your eye travels along this line right out of our painting. Your viewer has nothing to draw their eye back into your painting.
In the second example B (the outside edge of our painting) our edge is softer than our focal area edge. Notice how your eye travels along the hard line and when it hits the softer line it bounces back to the focal area in our painting. Your viewer is back to where you want him to be.
Hard or rough edges
- attracts the eye
- your eye will travel along the hard edges
- used to help lead viewer where you want them to look
- used in focal area especially if high contrast is also there
- hard edges also come forward
- The eye will travel over these edges into the next shape
- The eye will not be drawn to these edges like they are to harder ones
- Are used to depict distance in backgrounds
- Soft edges recede compared to their harder counterparts
- Shadowed edges will be softer
Using a variety of edges not only puts you in control of where and what people see in your painting but it also adds interesting passages and places for your viewer’s eye to slow down and rest. So let’s practice those edges!