In the hierarchy of painting, edges are down the list but their importance should not be lost. Good edges can lead a viewer around the painting, give one a sense of reality and bring much needed unity to a work.
10 things I know about painting edges:much-needed
1 - Place your sharpest edges near the focal point.
2 - Close values will have softer edges -Similar colours will have softer edges. The more contrasting your values are, the stronger the edges will appear.
3 - Natural objects (clouds, trees, models hair) have softer edges than man-made objects (door frames, buildings, cars, brick wall).
4 - Strong light will produce harder edges. Soft muted light will give softer edges. Drama vs atmosphere. Evening light can have stronger edges, midday with super saturated light will have softer edges.
5 - The further back you go into your painting, the softer the edges should get.
6 - The more moisture in the air, like at the oceanside, the softer the edges will be. The clearer the air (like up in the mountains) the harder the edges will appear. Please still note when, even though what you may see seems to be a harder edge, remember to follow rule number 5.
7 - Movement will cause softer edges. (Clouds are always moving, water can be flowing)
8 - The texture of an object can determine how its edge looks. A blanket will have a softer edge a brown paper bag. A brown paper bag will have a softer edge than a bent cola can.
9 - Edges in your shadow family are generally softer than edges in your light family.
10 - The smaller the object the lighter it will seem. Light is wrapping itself around the object.
Small twigs will have softer edges than the branches they are coming from. As for sky holes in trees...the smaller they are the softer the edges will be.
Bonus round! The 11th thing I know about painting edges. 11 - The more pure a colour is, the stronger the edge will appear. Pure saturated colours tend to carry stronger edges.
Three ways to manipulate edges to gain control of your subject.** 1 - Blending together (fan brush type thing).
2 - Placing similar values or colours next to each other.
3 - Use a bridge colour (a transition colour to get from A to B ) No bridge colour will give you a harder edge. Bridging the two colours will give you a softer edge. The closer the bridge colour is to the two colours you’re trying to blend the softer the edge.
Close-up of the blendy-ness.
The harder edges are towards the inside.
Similar values or colours.
Similar colours make softer edges.
Higher contrasting values and colours have harder edges.
The background people are softer-edged because their values are closer together. Take away the colour to see if you have similar values.
Monet used distinct graduations in colour to soften edges as compared to Sargent or Zorn who used the blendy brush method. The element of colour change can also tighten the luminosity of your painting.
A good approach is to place a colour and value between them that represents something halfway—a bridge
A blue bridge colour is between the shadow and the light on the leg
.On this Daniel Gerhartz portrait, you can see between the shadow on the cheek and the light on the nose is a green bridge colour. This keeps the edge soft and adds luminosity. Also between the mid-shadow on the cheek and shadow on the cheek, there is a blue bridge colour.
Pay attention to your edges and your painting will pay you in the end... $$$. Keep those brushes swinging.
Your friend in art,