What Is the Definition of Contrast in Art (2022)

Along with other abstract ideas like movement, unity, and emphasis, contrast is one of the seven principles of art and design.

Contrast is anything that distinguishes one form from another. This means that every art piece exhibits some form of this artistic principle.

Without contrast, all art would be a singular color, shade, or texture. Contrast is needed to create distinct marks in your artwork.

Areas in your art with more contrast will attract the viewer’s attention. In this way, artists use contrast to draw attention to specific locations on their art piece that the artist may want to emphasize.

Artists can utilize contrast to guide the viewer’s eye across a painting. It can also be used to emphasize one area of the piece that the viewer should concentrate on. In this way, the other principles of art stem from the intentional use of contrast.

Below we list some examples of contrast in art and discuss different forms in which contrast can appear. Utilize these techniques to master using the concept in your work. Every piece of art has some inherent contrast, but learning how to control it can take your artwork from good to great.

Examples of Contrast in Art

As stated previously, it is impossible to create any variance in your artwork without some degree of contrast. Contrast is as simple as placing two unique colors next to each other or using two mediums together in a painting.

But what if those two colors are a bright yellow and a dark blue? What if those two textures are a smooth gradient next to a rough impasto? The larger the difference between the two elements, and the closer their proximity, the more contrast exists in the artwork.

There are an unlimited amount of ways to create contrast in your art. Here are some examples to help you use contrast with intention in your work, regardless of what medium you choose.

(Video) Contrast - Art Vocab Definition

1 Light/Dark Contrast

Light and dark contrast, otherwise known as value contrast, is one of the first concepts taught to artists learning the fundamentals. It is likely that you first touched upon this skill while learning to shade in black and white. Controlling value to add contrast in your piece can help you make a scene more realistic, adjust the lighting, or add drama to your art.

The idea of value contrast is further complicated when you add color into the mix. This is because each color has an inherent value. A basic example is a bright yellow sun next to a dark blue sky. Not only are these different colors, which create contrast, but the bright yellow has an inherently lighter value than the dark blue.

What Is the Definition of Contrast in Art (1)

Inherent value in color can be pretty tricky to work with as you learn just how complicated working in color can be. Try focusing your light/dark contrast skills by painting in black and white first and then graduating to color once you feel comfortable.

One way to check that you are using light/dark contrast appropriately in a colorful painting is to take a picture of it and convert it to a grayscale image. Once that is done you will get a better idea of the intensity and layout of the contrast in your piece.

2 Color Contrast

In addition to value contrast, two other kinds of contrast occur when you work with color: hue contrast and saturation contrast.

Hue contrast occurs when two different colors are placed near each other in a painting. For example, contrast is created when a bright red is placed next to a bright green. Those colors may have the same value, but their hue contrast separates them in the viewer’s eye.

What Is the Definition of Contrast in Art (2)

Saturation contrast occurs when one color is close to a gray or neutral tone, and another color is close to full saturation. Take painting leaves on a tree, for example. The bright leaves illuminated by the sun might be bright green. While the leaves tucked in shadow may be a gray-green.

(Video) Principle of Art: Contrast

If you couldn’t tell already, it is often the case that value, hue, and saturation contrast all work together. Adjusting one aspect of color may inadvertently affect the other two as well.

We return to the tree example: the illuminated leaves on your tree painting may be a bright yellow-green, while the shadowed parts may be a dark, de-saturated blue-green. This is how value, hue, and saturation all work together on one object.

Careful mastery of value contrast, as well as both hue and saturation contrast, are the keys to color contrast in a work of art. All of these ideas build on each other, so it is best to be aware of all three. Practice them individually, and then try to gradually work all three ideas into your future works.

3 Shape Contrast

Shape contrast invokes the use of different shapes and forms to create interest in your image. Shape contrast comes into play in the composition of your piece before any value or color is added.

For example, in a beach painting, the rounded tops of sand dunes will contrast the stark wooden stakes marking them off with rope. This would then contrast the long, graceful stalks of dune grass in the breeze.

What Is the Definition of Contrast in Art (3)

Another example might be adding a cabin in the middle of a rolling landscape. If the majority of your landscape is made of organic shapes, then the rigid and straight lines of the cabin will stand out, drawing the viewer’s eye to that area of the piece.

To practice shape contrast, start by sketching many thumbnails. Break the concept in your head into simple polygons, arranging them in different ways so that the shapes contrast each other. This basic structure will remain once you add value and color to your piece, creating shape contrast in the finished artwork.

4 Texture Contrast

Texture contrast can manifest in two ways. The first is as simple as using different mediums, or varied applications of said mediums, in your artwork to create an actual difference in textures on the piece. You can also paint different textures in your work, using one smooth application but carefully applying color and value contrast to mimic realistic textures.

(Video) Contrast in Art

What Is the Definition of Contrast in Art (4)

Tree bark, for example, has a rough texture in life. In art, you can mimic this rough texture by using bold strokes of light and dark values that may also vary in hue and saturation. If you place this textured tree trunk against a smooth background of rolling hills, the tree you created will boldly stand out.

Most painting techniques will allow you to create various physics textures in some way by crafty use of your strokes and mediums. In oils, for example, you can leave a large amount of paint on the page to create rough rocks or thick, frothy sea foam. In watercolors, you can use salt or plastic wrap to texture the medium in different ways.

What Is the Definition of Contrast in Art (5)

Creating texture contrast in your work gives you a ton of room to experiment and play with techniques. Who knew that something so fun is also a fundamental aspect of art?

5 Edge Contrast

Edge contrast is the difference between a sharp edge or a blended edge. It is related to shape contrast, as it is a measure of how starkly or smoothly the shapes in your artwork blend together.

The most basic use of edge contrast can be found when establishing a foreground and a background in your painting. Just like when you focus a camera, objects in the foreground become sharp while objects in the background become blurry.

What Is the Definition of Contrast in Art (6)

You can use this same idea when creating edge contrast in your work. Place an object with sharp, crisp edges next to a smooth, blended shape to make it stand out. This also works to pull a subject into the foreground of an image.

(Video) CONTRAST: Principle of Design Explained!

Edge contrast is usually used to lead a viewer’s eye or balance a piece of work, but it is also used to create different artistic styles. Graphic art styles like cartoons and modern art often use mostly hard edges. If you want a dreamlike, hazy look to your work, focus on using mostly soft edges to give that effect.

6 Detail Contrast

A beginner artist may think that they must add every detail to their work of art to make it realistic. In actuality, this can overwhelm the viewer and create a very uniform, uninteresting piece of art. Just like with value and texture, detail contrast is an important concept to add to your paintings in order to guide the viewer’s eye and create interest.

What Is the Definition of Contrast in Art (7)

Both modern cameras and our eyes cannot pick out every single detail in a scene all at once. Cameras will focus on one specific part of the image, and our eyes will travel around it to pick out details in various places. Having some areas with less detail will give the viewer’s eye a place to “rest” while also mimicking how our cameras and our eyes actually take in the world around us.

Like edge contrast, detail contrast is often used to establish a foreground and add depth to an image. Parts of the image in sharp definition will be pushed to the foreground in the mind’s eye. Soft, blurred, non-detailed parts of the image will be regulated to the background.

A general rule of thumb for using detail contrast is to add detail to key features that you want the viewer to focus on. Then, lessen the detail in areas that are not as significant to the work.

Why Is Contrast in Art Important?

As you can see, there is an inherent level of contrast in every aspect of art. But mastering contrast can take your art to the next level. Next time you go to an art museum, take a look at how the masters like Monet and Van Gogh used all of the different kinds of contrast in their work.

Contrast is vital in art because it makes pieces memorable and intentional. It gives an artist the power to guide the viewer’s eye across the canvas while also granting the artwork the ability to make a lasting impact and linger in the viewer’s mind.

You don’t have to create finished pieces to practice using contrast. Try simple thumbnails and color them in various ways to see how adjusting the color, texture, or edge contrast in each one can affect the entire piece. Collect color swatches and place different colors next to each other to experiment with what colors compliment and contrast each other in interesting ways.

(Video) What is Value Contrast? - Art Theory Overview

Pieces without much contrast seem repetitive and dull. Thoughtfully applying contrast can make your work powerful and exciting to look at, leaving a lasting impression on anyone who looks at it.

FAQs

What is the definition of contrast in art? ›

What is contrast? It's a common term used in creative, artistic circles. Contrast, when it comes to art, is achieved when opposite elements are arranged together. Although these elements might be opposites, their arrangement can still be appealing. The contrast in art might even be considered the golden rule of art.

What is good contrast in art? ›

It is one of the principles of art which refers to the striking difference between two elements. For example, there is a strong contrast when you place a vivid red next to a dull green, or a rough texture next to a smooth texture, or a hard edge next to a soft edge, and so on.

What is the meaning of use of contrast as an expressive element of art? ›

Contrast is simply defined as difference. Difference between art elements like color, value, size, texture, and so on can intensify the elements used. As a result, the elements used in a work of art can become more powerful. Although contrast is closely related with variety, it is usually considered a principle of art.

How do you do contrast in art? ›

In laic terms, the contrast in art is basically putting two opposing elements together. It's one of the basic art principles used by designers and artists all over the world. For example, you can achieve contrast by combining black and white colors when painting.

Why is contrast important in art? ›

The Significance of Contrast

Contrast is significant because it adds variety to the total design and creates unity. It draws the viewer's eye into the painting and helps to guide the viewer around the art piece. Contrast also adds visual interest.

What is contrast example? ›

Contrast often means “opposite”: for example, black is the opposite of white, and so there's a contrast between black ink and white paper. But contrast can also happen when the two things are just very different. For example, cats and dogs are definitely a contrast, but they're not opposites.

How do artist use contrast in art? ›

Contrast in art is the technique of using unlike visual elements in juxtaposition to create meaning and intensify the characteristics of the work. Artists utilize various elements at their disposal to create contrast such as shadows, light, color, size, and composition.

How do you use contrast? ›

Example of 'Contrast' in a Sentence
  1. The contrast is still greater when you return from France.
  2. They made a ridiculous contrast.
  3. A wig, worn for the sake of a piquant contrast on the stage.
  4. His heartiness was in strong contrast to the lad's wan looks.
  5. The contrast did them good.
  6. Only contrast was possible there.

What is contrast in design? ›

What does contrast mean in graphic design? For starters, it means determining what the first thing is that you want the viewer to look at. Contrast causes the eye to be drawn to a particular area. Technically, it is the visible difference in properties of the design elements.

What is the definition of emphasis in art? ›

Emphasis is the part of the design that catches the viewer's attention. Usually the artist will make one area stand out by contrasting it with other areas. The area could be different in size, color, texture, shape, etc. Movement is the path the viewer's eye takes through the work of art, often to focal areas.

What is contrast in color? ›

Color contrast is a term used in color theory that describes the difference between different color hues. Tonal contrast — a different type of contrast adjustment — describes the difference between the lightest and darkest tones in the image.

What is classical contrast? ›

Classical contrast is usually regarded as resulting from the mutual relations. of areas within the field of view and hence as independent of total lumin- ous flux so long as ratios of excitation from adjacent areas remain con- stant.

What are the different types of contrast? ›

There are three broad kinds of contrast available: IV, PO, and PR (rectal). IV contrast is either gadolinium for MRI or iodinated contrast for CT. PO contrast for all ER and inpatient CT scans is dilute iodinated contrast (same agent used for IV contrast in CT).

What is contrast and how can it be achieved? ›

Contrast is created when two, or more visible differences are present in a photo. There are many ways that you can achieve this in your photography – through color and tones, of course – but also by introducing contrasting elements into your images.

What is a contrast photo? ›

In photography, the term contrast refers to the process of capturing the dissimilarity between the elements in an image. These elements can be color, light, tones, textures, and shadows. Applying contrast to your photography elevates conveying a story through your pictures.

What is the purpose of contrast? ›

The main purpose of contrast is to underline ideas and explain their meanings, so readers can easily follow a story or argument. Through opposite and contrasting ideas, writers make their arguments stronger, which makes them more memorable for readers due to emphasis placed on them.

Which word is used for contrast? ›

The words collate and compare are common synonyms of contrast. While all three words mean "to set side by side in order to show differences and likenesses," contrast implies an emphasis on differences.

How do you say contrast? ›

How to pronounce CONTRAST in British English - YouTube

What's another word for in contrast? ›

What is another word for in contrast?
on the other handcontrastingly
insteadrather
by contraston the contrary
in reverseor rather
reversing itconversely
25 more rows

What is high contrast art called? ›

For centuries, painters have used chiaroscuro—a technique that shows high contrast between light and dark—to provide dramatic effects in visual art.

What is size contrast in art? ›

Size Contrast shows elements in a variety of sizes in an artwork. This difference in size adds visual interest and is used to show depth, variety and emphasis.

What is contrast in texture? ›

Contrast of the texture surfaces (the texture contrast) reduces when the viewing distance increases. Similarly, contrast between the surfaces of the objects and the background (the area contrast) reduces when the viewing distance increases.

What is contrast in CT scan? ›

CT scans may be done with or without "contrast." Contrast refers to a substance taken by mouth or injected into an intravenous (IV) line that causes the particular organ or tissue under study to be seen more clearly. Contrast examinations may require you to fast for a certain period of time before the procedure.

What is contrast in radiology? ›

Contrast radiography is a method of studying organs using X-rays and the administration of a special dye, called a contrast medium. This test allows the radiologist to evaluate structures that are not clearly evident on conventional X-ray exams.

What is contrast in visual? ›

Contrast is the difference in luminance or colour that makes an object (or its representation in an image or display) distinguishable. In visual perception of the real world, contrast is determined by the difference in the colour and brightness of the object and other objects within the same field of view.

Why is contrast important in visual communication? ›

Contrast Establishes Visual Relationships

Dramatic differences between objects suggest uniqueness, and therefore significance. This is a great concept for visually optimizing your website. Remember that contrast makes elements stand out based on how they look in relation to their surroundings.

How is contrast used in graphic design? ›

Having a contrast of size adds visual interest in the composition, and will help you establish the key elements in your layout so you can be sure the viewer is focusing on the right area. Contrast of size is not applicable to just text; it can also be the images in the design.

What is contrast in art quizlet? ›

contrast. Contrast is a noticeable difference between two things, such as black and white, hot and cold, or light and dark. contrast can excite, emphasize, and direct attention to points of interest. emphasis. gives importance or dominance to some feature of an artwork.

What is the definition of emphasis in art? ›

Emphasis is the part of the design that catches the viewer's attention. Usually the artist will make one area stand out by contrasting it with other areas. The area could be different in size, color, texture, shape, etc. Movement is the path the viewer's eye takes through the work of art, often to focal areas.

What is contrast in design? ›

What does contrast mean in graphic design? For starters, it means determining what the first thing is that you want the viewer to look at. Contrast causes the eye to be drawn to a particular area. Technically, it is the visible difference in properties of the design elements.

What is contrast in color? ›

Color contrast is a term used in color theory that describes the difference between different color hues. Tonal contrast — a different type of contrast adjustment — describes the difference between the lightest and darkest tones in the image.

Why do designers use contrast quizlet? ›

this principle of design is used by artists to create dominance and focus in a work. artists can emphasize color, value, shapes, or other art elements to achieve dominance. Various kinds of contrast can be used to emphasize a center of interest.

What's the difference between contrast and variety? ›

Variety: the principle of art concerned with difference or contrast. Contrast: the principle of art that refers to the arrangement of opposite elements in a piece so as to create visual interest, excitement and drama.

How can designers create contrast in a design quizlet? ›

You can create contrast with the following attributes. Color: Use bright and dull colors. Shape: Use geometric and organic shapes. Size: Use large and small objects.

What is contrast emphasis? ›

Emphasis by Contrast

Uses the differences between things to make something stand out. If the rest of the elements are repeated, a different shape will stand out.

Is contrast an element or principle? ›

Contrast. As a principle of art, contrast refers to the arrangement of opposite elements and effects. For example, light and dark colors, smooth and rough textures, large and small shapes. Contrast can be used to create variety, visual interest, and drama in an artwork.

What is the definition of unity in art? ›

Unity refers to how different elements of an artwork or design work come together and create a sense of wholeness. It can be achieved through proximity, simplicity, repetition and continuation.

What is the importance of contrast? ›

Why? Contrast helps organize your design and establish a hierarchy—which simply shows which parts of your design are most important (and signals viewers to focus on those). But more than emphasizing the focal point of your design, good use of contrast adds visual interest.

What is contrast in visual? ›

Contrast is the difference in luminance or colour that makes an object (or its representation in an image or display) distinguishable. In visual perception of the real world, contrast is determined by the difference in the colour and brightness of the object and other objects within the same field of view.

Why is contrast important in visual communication? ›

Contrast Establishes Visual Relationships

Dramatic differences between objects suggest uniqueness, and therefore significance. This is a great concept for visually optimizing your website. Remember that contrast makes elements stand out based on how they look in relation to their surroundings.

What is the best contrast? ›

Generally, a higher contrast ratio is better since a display with a 100,000:1 ratio can produce darker black levels and more saturated colors than one with a 1,000:1 rating, thus achieving a more natural-looking image.

What is the shape of contrast? ›

Shape contrast means making things notable in by their difference in physical shape compared to other things on the page. At its most basic level this can be used in things like adding rounded corners to buttons, but taken to more extreme levels it can attract a lot more attention.

Videos

1. Art Education - Principles of Design - Contrast - Getting Back to the Basics - Art Lesson
(Paint It Kids)
2. BRIGHTNESS or CONTRAST kya hai? || What is BRIGHTNESS & CONTRAST? || COLOR THEORY || In HINDI
(Art & Craft TALKS)
3. Contrast defined - From Goodbye-Art Academy
(Goodbye-Art Academy)
4. Contrast in Art
(Art Teacher Online)
5. Art Concepts for Painters: Value and Contrast
(Acrylic Arts Academy)
6. Principles of Design: Variety and Contrast
(A Space to Create Art)

Top Articles

You might also like

Latest Posts

Article information

Author: Kelle Weber

Last Updated: 11/15/2022

Views: 6382

Rating: 4.2 / 5 (73 voted)

Reviews: 88% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Kelle Weber

Birthday: 2000-08-05

Address: 6796 Juan Square, Markfort, MN 58988

Phone: +8215934114615

Job: Hospitality Director

Hobby: tabletop games, Foreign language learning, Leather crafting, Horseback riding, Swimming, Knapping, Handball

Introduction: My name is Kelle Weber, I am a magnificent, enchanting, fair, joyous, light, determined, joyous person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.