View Full Version : What is soft edge and hard edge

09-19-2010, 08:43 PM
I heard someone using pastels say another technique is soft edge and hard edge, can someone please explain what this means. I have never heard of this technique before.


Deborah Secor
09-19-2010, 09:02 PM
Ginger, in all kinds of painting you want to consider soft and hard edges, sometimes called lost and found edges. A hard, tight edge draws the eye and will focus you on it, while a soft one gets lost and tends to look farther away, not drawing attention. So in a portrait of a little guy like in your avatar you could draw the eye of your viewer to the eyes and nose, but leave the edges of his head soft and slightly blurry. Pastels are well suited to this, of course, because you can soften edges so easily.

For instance, look at this still life that Mike Beeman (http://wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=699291) posted. Notice the hard edges and the really soft ones? He sculpts the space this way, in part.

Or look at this lion by Kat Davies (http://wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=701661). Very nice control of edges here!

09-19-2010, 09:25 PM
In landscapes, it's a great way to add to atmospheric distance, with closer things having a harder/firmer edge and distant things being softer.

09-20-2010, 07:06 AM
Hard = sharp, clear, crisp, contrasty (chroma or value or hue, or 2 or all of them)

Soft = diffuse, undefined, low contrasts (chro, val, hue)

Lost edge = no value contrast, can be hard or soft, can have different hue and chroma depending on the colours involved

Found edge = where a lost edge gains contrast again, for example in portrait, hair can be 'lost' and soft in shadows of background, and on the lit side of the head the edge of the hair may be found, but still soft.

Handling of edges are very important for realist painting.

09-20-2010, 11:08 AM
Thank you Deborah, Bonnie and Charlie, this helps a lot, who knew I have been doing this all along and I never knew what it was called. I guess I still have a lot to learn in the art world. Thanks again

09-23-2010, 04:57 AM
I have also been doing this but didn't know there was a name for it. Thanks, Ginger, for asking the question so us other newbies can learn from it.