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Know your edges

How to plan for and use soft and hard edges to take your work to the next level, with Jem Bowden


Why and how to use soft or hard edges

Practise pure watercolour techniques

One of the key effects of watercolour is that of soft edges. This is often done through wet-in-wet painting, where we add paint onto already damp paper. The look is most effective when used in conjunction with hard edges, so that the two contrast with one another. Just one soft edge within an area of hard edges can create a big impact on the eye, and vice versa.

Although one of the more challenging techniques to master, really it comes down to three things: timing; dilution of paint; and getting to know your paper. Soft edges obtained when the paint is wet are more attractive than when achieved by lifting out from hard edges that have dried. You’ll not be in total control, especially at the beginning, but this can be a good thing anyway. Repeating small exercises is a good way to come to grips with it so I’ll show you a couple here.

The uses of soft edges

Observe the work of various artists and you’ll see that soft edges have many uses, including creating vagueness in backgrounds, misty weather, a ‘fluffy’ look, such as for animal fur, a blurred look to suggest movement and more. I’ve used quite a thick mix of sepia paint for a dark tone

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About Leisure Painter

Welcome to the August issue of Leisure Painter. Aimed at beginners and amateur painters, this month's issue is packed with practical advice, demonstrations, tutorials and tips and techniques for drawing and painting your favourite subjects, from materials and colours to the techniques and ideas you need to produce beautiful paintings. Learn how to loosen up your style as you use outdoor techniques for painting at home, or how to transform a dull photograph into a vibrant sunset scene. Understand the value of edges in your work, how to inject life and character into your drawings and paintings of cats, and be inspired to paint summer-themed still lifes. There's a beginner's introduction to Brusho as well as demonstrations in watercolour, acrylics, water-mixable oils and oils.