Drawing & Pastels
How to Choose Appropriate Edges in Drawing and Painting?

How to Choose Appropriate Edges in Drawing and Painting?

Let’s observe for a few seconds the room we are in.

Have you noticed your surroundings? Our eyes don’t see everything perfectly, only what we focus on.

Close by objects are sharp and bright, while those in the background are dimmed and dark.

Why do we have these differences and changes in image sharpness?


What detail determines the sharpness of a shape?

I think we can all agree, it’s the edges.

Did you know that edges of a shape have an essential role to play in the quality of a picture, in drawing, painting and photography?

It is by playing with the linear transition, situated between two coloured areas, that we manage to master illusion, to reinforce the realism of a landscape or a portrait, to create a feeling of space in a still life but above all to guide the eye of the viewer in the composition.

Fuzzy edges add mystery, hard ones define the shape, soft ones play with volumes. If all edges of a painting are the same, the result is dull, flat and lifeless.

GREAT TO KNOW? Eyes naturally pointing towards sharp, hard edges. Those edges are widely used to create focal points in a painting.


The perception of an edge is usually enough to designate an object. If it becomes blurred, the picture becomes blurred as well.

Edges are hard or soft transitions that structure a picture. They are clearly visible at changes in colour or value.

For example, when a strong dark colour is confronted with a soft light colour, edges are likely to be hard and sharp.

Otherwise, when a soft colour meets another soft colour of the same value, the transition creates a soft edge.

  • Edges appear in transition from one object to another.
  • Edges appear in transition from one plane to another.
  • Edges appear in transition from one colour to another.

Many mistakes are due to inappropriate choice of edges:

  1. Put hard edge in a foggy, dimly lit background.  ❌
  2. Put soft edge in foreground when it should be sharp.  ❌

GREAT TO KNOW? Colour transitions do not exist physically; one cannot touch an edge created by a change of colour but it is important to be aware of its presence in a composition.



  • Foreground,
  • Static object,
  • Hard and abrupt transition,
  • Sharp and precise edge (as cut with scissors),
  • Colour changes,
  • Opposite colours,
  • Strong and direct light,
  • Easily identifiable contour,

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  • Background,
  • Smooth and gradual transition,
  • Imprecise and soft edge,
  • Colours of the same value,
  • Weak and diffused light,
  • Moving objects,
  • Blurred shapes,


  • Edges that fade away to reappear further on,
  • Transition that is so smooth you cannot see entire edge,

By using different painting or drawing techniques, let’s have fun getting around shapes and colours.

Colour pencil, watercolour paint, oil pastel, oil or acrylic paint, whatever the material used, edges will no longer hold any secrets for you.

From now on you will no longer look at a painting or a drawing with the same view. A little bird tells me that you will think more about your edges from now on and that you will look at those of other artists at the same time.

Content provided by Amylee Paris

The passion of Amylee Paris, painter, consultant and author is to share her paintings between galleries, art collectors and her community. Beyond her pictorial skills and her several eBooks available online, Amylee is also recognized as one of the most influential francophone artist-entrepreneurs. She helps beginners or professional artists to optimize their artistic activity.

You can visit her colourful portfolio,follow her on Facebook and Instagram, or find all Amylee’s posts published in GreatArt online Magazineby clicking here!

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