Edges in Art


The transition between two coloured shapes is defined as Edges in art. People pay more attention to colour and composition normally and often neglect Edges.

Creation of Edges

Edges can be seen when there is a change in the following.

Object: This depicts transitioning from one object to another. To give you an example, if you place the glass in front of you, Edges will mark the transition from the glass to the surroundings. The surroundings may be a desk or a wall.

Plane: This depicts the transition from the plane or face of one object to another. An example of this is the side of a container to the top of a container.

Colour: It depicts the transitioning from one colour to another. To quote an example, the shadow falling on an object creates an Edge at the point of the separation of the light and dark. This type of Edge is not tangible, that is we cannot feel the Edge created by a colour change. This results in the artist having more Edges which are intangible. That is why we need to understand the importance of Edges and moderate their use.

Most of the painting errors result in wrong information being depicted due to the bad choice of Edges. To give you an example placing a hard edge like mountains enveloped in fog in the distance where the clarity is low. Another example being the use of a soft edge to depict a sharp transition.

That it is necessary to know how we see Edges. This will help you select edges which are appropriate to the painting.

Type of Edges

The three types of Edges are hard, soft and lost. The important thing as regards to Edges is identifying them and capturing their nature.

Hard Edges: These Edges are an indication of a sharp transition from one colour shape to another.

Soft Edges: They Edges are an indication of a gradual or smooth transition.

Lost Edges: These Edges cannot be viewed

Factors which Influence Edges

Edges come into existence due to a change in object, plane or colour. The factors which determine the way we see those Edges are given below.

Light: The use of a source of light which is strong and direct gives The Edges a harder or sharper look. The use of a source of light which is weak or diffused light tends to soften the edges.

Atmosphere/Environment: The Edges will harder when observed under clear light as compared to a foggy environment.

Movement: You can observe softened Edges when an object is in motion.

Focus: If the object is out of focus it is difficult to observe the hard Edges.

Processes to identify Edges

The best way to identify Edges is by comparison. The process used is that you first identify the hardest edge and then proceed towards the softest edge. This is because o the fact that the hardest Edge can be detected quite easily as compared to the softest Edge. The rule is that you should be relative while comparing Edges rather than compare them on absolute terms. The interpretation of Edges in a painting gives you information about the strength and origin of the light source. It also lets you know the focus and distance of the object.

Methods to Paint Edges

The mostly commonly used method of painting edges is by mixing two colours together. This is done by using a dry brush to gently work one colour into the other. This is process is easier in the case of oil paintings as compared to acrylics or watercolours. The mixing of the two colours determines the softness of the Edge.

Methods to paint edges

Broken colour: The artists often painted edges with varying portions of broken colour instead of mixing them. It results in smoother Edges. This technique limits the hardness of the Edges,

Palette knife painting: They are normally used for creating bold and sharp edges. They can also be used to create a complex variety of soft and hard Edges.

Intermediate colours: This process involves placing an intermediate colour between the two colour shapes. For instance, if you have a light colour next to a dark colour you could soften the effect by adding an intermediate colour between the two colours. This is method is more organised when compared to the broken colour method.

Positioning Your Hard Edges

This method involves the positioning of the hard edges near the focal point of our vision in order to draw attention to them. Our eyes tend to be drawn towards hard Edges, so it makes sense to position your hardest edges near to your focal point. We normally see hard Edges on the things we are focusing on and the rest seems soft and blurry.


a) We visualise Edges when there is a change in object, plane or colour.

b) The environment influences the vision of the Edges we see. For example, Edges on an object will look harder under the clear light than in a foggy environment.

c) We can use comparison as the tool for ranking Edges taking into account their hardness.

d) Edges disseminate a lot of information about the subject, so we need to make use of Edges in a carefully.