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Please can you ex­plain the the­ory be­hind lost and found edges

Ally De­moray, US


Mark replies

An edge can dis­ap­pear when a fore­ground ob­ject has the same value as the back­ground, and can be­come sharper by strength­en­ing the con­trast be­tween those two val­ues. On an il­lus­tra­tion we can play with dif­fer­ent light­ing sce­nar­ios and cre­ate parts with dis­ap­pear­ing edges in the shad­ows or lights.

It’s al­ways use­ful to vary your edges be­tween soft and hard. This helps to di­rect the fo­cus of your im­age, and makes it more in­ter­est­ing and painterly. You can de­fine dif­fer­ences be­tween forms with hard edges more clearly and you can cre­ate a rest­ing point for your viewer by ap­ply­ing soft edges. The trick is to find a bal­ance that sup­ports the story.

Some­times it’s enough to paint only a small part of an edge and leave the rest to dis­solve into the back­ground. The most im­por­tant thing is to de­scribe the dy­nam­ics and di­rec­tion of the edge, but we can leave the rest to the viewer’s imag­i­na­tion.

The face or the cape of this char­ac­ter is a great ex­am­ple for this. Be­cause I’ve al­ready painted one side of the char­ac­ter’s face, it’s fine to leave the other half fully in the shad­ows – the viewer’s imag­i­na­tion fills in the miss­ing de­tails. The same thing hap­pens with the cape on the right side. It’s not nec­es­sary to de­pict its sil­hou­ette all the way. In­stead, paint­ing the bot­tom edge and hint­ing at the shoul­der part is enough to de­scribe the whole form.

I want to show a bounty hunter blend­ing into the shad­ows, so ap­ply­ing lost edges around the char­ac­ter is a great choice to strengthen his per­son­al­ity visu­ally.

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