Types of Edges

You will find only five types of edges in most digital and traditional art. Not all of the different edges will always be found in each painting, but obviously there will always be at least one kind of edge present in every work of art. The five types are as follows:

Rough/ragged edges: Rough edges are quite possibly the most noticeable of all the edge types and will be hard to miss when in an image. An example is shown in Figure. Depending on the technique, rough edges may be the most common type of edge within a painting. Traditionally, they are usually created using a dry-brush technique. They are much easier to create in the digital world and in just about every raster application.


An example of a rough and/or ragged edge

Razor-sharp edges. Razor-sharp edges are visually the harshest edge. An example is shown in Figure. They have a very distinct cutout appearance, as if you cut out a shape and simply laid it down on the picture plane. Traditionally, this type of edge is relatively difficult to create unless you are using some sort of masking technique. These edges are easy to create digitally and can be created by both raster and vector applications. Their use is mainly in decorative art and, in a limited way, within representational painting.

An example of a razorsharp edge.

Hard edges: Hard edges are just as the name suggests. An example is shown in Figure. They have a hard appearance, though not necessarily a cutout appearance. These edges will not be the most common edge found in most paintings, but they usually will be present. They are useful in attracting attention to your center of interest.

Soft edges: Soft edges are the most common type of edge found in paintings. An example is shown in Figure. They are the most common edge because there is so much variation in their size and how they are painted.

They vary in width from being almost hard to being non-edges. As with all edges, you need to know how to use them to be successful at digital painting. These edges have numerous looks. You can create them within different raster applications, but you can only imitate them in vector programs.

Non-edges or lost edges: The last type of edge is not really an edge at all; rather, it is more like the lack of an edge. An example is shown in Figure. As we look at the world around us, we see many instances where there are no definable edges between separate objects. This may be a function of


An example of a hard edge

An example of a soft edge

the lighting, the amount of time that we have to look at an object, the object’s distance, or any number of other reasons. If you do not see an edge, why paint an edge? This seems to be one of the hardest concepts for artists to grasp. For some reason, people seem to want to compartmentalize the world around them, and this means that individual objects have a contour. While intellectually we all know that this is true, this is not always the case visually.

The lack of an edge can best be represented by an even gradation. These nonedges are some of the easiest effects to create in digital painting programs, yet their use is avoided.

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