Contrast of Tone





This powerful photograph by Arnold Genthe uses strong tonal contrast to give impact to the large, silk clad, merchant. He stands starkly in strong light against an almost black, shadowy background, where only the uncovered details of his body guard, clothed in black, are visible.

The starkness of the image and the ominous blackness, pose an intriguing number of unanswered questions for the viewer to interpret.

Arnold Genthe (1867-1942) “Merchant and Body Guard, San Francisco” (1920)



Yellow is the lightest toned saturated color on the color wheel. For high visibility road signs, yellow/black contrast and repeated diagonal direction make these barriers hard to miss. Red, at its most saturated, is a relatively dark tone. Contrasting it with black would have less visual impact than Yellow/black. White lettering on the red background has a fairly high tonal contrast. This, combined with the cultural association of red with danger and importance, make this road closed combination effective.

Maximum Visibility – Tonal Contrast.


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John Lovett


John Lovett is an Australian artist working in oils, watercolor and mixed media. Since commencing his career John has held over thirty five solo exhibitions and taken part in many joint ones. John’s work is represented in private and corporate collections in Australia, United Kingdom, Europe, Asia and USA. John’s passion for his work and his open easy approach to teaching make his books, DVD’s and workshops thoroughly enjoyable, extremely informative and always very popular. His articles are regularly featured in “International Artist” magazine.      



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© 2017 John Lovett (all text and images unless otherwise stated)