Thursday, April 7

Don't Paint Hard Edges

(I think I did a decent job of softening the edges
in this otherwise realistic acrylic painting of mine)
There is no place for hard edges in a painting except for the rare circumstance or the not-so-very-often instance when, for whatever reason, your motif, such as in a super-photorealistic painting, might possibly call for it. But even then, hardly ever.

And even then, even when you’re trying to mimic a photograph in a painting (and why do that?), would it hardly ever need hard edges.

Hard edges are just that—hard. They don’t necessarily make a painting look more realistic. In fact, in most cases, just the opposite. They actually detract from the real-ness of the painting, in my humble opinion, of course.

In real life--if there is such a thing, and I’m not saying there is--when you view a scene or even a still life or facsimile of one, for instance, and even if you have 20-20 vision, the lines and edges are not razor sharp.

No, they fade into other objects. They vanish away. They are smooth, yes, but not so crisp and abrupt that they catch the eye of the viewer so that is the first place the eye goes because of the contrast in values.

The slightest possible exception that I could possibly make is when you are painting a reflection in water and/or glass or similar shiny surface. To give the look and feel of water and/or glass, then and only then, it may be permissible to have a hard edge. But even then, you have to evaluate and think it over and see how it looks before you paint anything resembling a hard edge.

Therefore, when you have “finished” your painting, you must go back over it and look for hard edges and soften them. Scrub them or dab them  or re-paint them if you have to, but don’t leave them for the viewers’ eyes to immediately be drawn to.

Got it?

Happy Painting!


  1. Although I would not go as far as you suggest, I do generally agree that hard edges must be very carefully considered. As artists we must often overcome the limitations of the flat surface by exagerating certain optical effects like the distinction between hard and soft edges, which serves as a useful pictoral strategy for depicting differences of rounded as opposed to rectilinear forms.

  2. Thank you for your insightful comments.