Hard Edge Painting

Hard Edge Painting

Explore this hard edge painting technique and create a simplistic work of art in the style of artist Milton Avery.

  • 1.

    Milton Avery focused on color and shape more than detail in his paintings. View examples of Avery’s work. Can you recognize the forms in the images, even with the absence of detail? What are the subjects of his paintings? Did Avery use realistic colors, or do they seem randomly chosen?

  • 2.

    This style of painting, using solid, flat areas of color, is called hard edge painting. Avery does not blend the colors in his artwork. Each color has a distinct edge.

  • 3.

    Recreate a personal photograph using the hard edge painting technique. Have a copy of the photograph you select to refer to as you paint. Remember, this style of painting is not about detail, so you don’t have to worry about making it realistic.

  • 4.

    Cover your work area with recycled newspaper, and have clean water handy to wash your brush between colors. Younger students may want to wear a Crayola® Art Smock. Start by lightly sketching the outlines of the figures and background objects in your photograph with Crayola Colored Pencils on a heavy sheet of white paper.

  • 5.

    Using a wide, flat brush loaded with Crayola Washable Kid’s Paint, fill in the forms with bold colors. Be sure to paint with even strokes to get a solid fill and let the paint dry before moving on to the next color to prevent blending. Continue this process until your entire painting is alive with color! Allow the painting to dry completely, and then mount on a sheet of brightly colored paper.


  • Students explore the artwork and painting style of Milton Avery.
  • Students define hard edge painting.
  • Students identify objects and figures in their most simple forms, without realistic details.
  • Students recreate a photograph using the hard edge painting technique.


  • Challenge the class with a live figure drawing study! Use the teacher as a model, and create a series of hard edge paintings. Focus on seeing the simple shapes and forms that make up each pose. Use colors to create mood!
  • Students, especially younger students and those with special needs, may benefit from outlining the form and figures on their photographs before painting. Provide photocopied images of each student’s photo and allow them to outline the main areas with bright thick lines. This will help them identify the simple shapes and eliminate the details.
  • Share your hard edge paintings with the class. Can you identify the subjects in each painting? Compare the simplistic paintings with the original photographs. Did the artist successfully simply the picture?