The 12 Days of Itten’s Contrasts – Day 1 (The List)

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The 12 Days of Itten’s Contrasts – Day 1 (The List)

2009-12-23T14:30:44+00:00December 23rd, 2009|Photography, Uncategorized|7 Comments

It’s an age-old exercise but I’ve never completed it . . . so, I thought I’d take the holidays to work my way through the list of Itten’s Contrasts, inspired by Michael Freeman and his book The Photographer’s Eye. (I wrote a bit more about Itten’s Contrasts here.)

Itten’s Contrasts

Here’s the list of Itten’s Contrasts if you want to explore this exercise yourself. You find or take three photographs — one representing each element of contrast, and the third photo containing both elements.

  • Point/Line
  • Area/Line
  • Plane/Volume
  • Area/Body
  • Large/Small
  • Line/Body
  • High/Low
  • Smooth/Rough
  • Long/Short
  • Hard/Soft
  • Broad/Narrow
  • Still/Moving
  • Thick/Thin
  • Light/Heavy
  • Light/Dark
  • Transparent/Opaque
  • Black/White
  • Continuous/Intermittent
  • Much/Little
  • Liquid/Solid
  • Straight/Curved
  • Sweet/Sour
  • Pointed/Blunt
  • Strong/Weak
  • Horizontal/Vertical
  • Loud/Soft
  • Diagonal/Circular

I’m starting with one of Freeman’s own contrasts — one/many — only because when I was at UC Berkeley Botanical Garden last week, I just happened to see this particular illustration.


One - UC Berkeley Botanical Garden - ©ingridtaylar

One - UC Berkeley Botanical Garden - ©ingridtaylar


Many - UC Berkeley Botanical Garden - ©ingridtaylar

Many - UC Berkeley Botanical Garden - ©ingridtaylar

One and Many:
One and Many - ©ingridtaylar

Posts on Itten’s Contrasts – by Keyword: Itten’s Contrasts

Related Posts:

  1. It’s Not Imbalanced, It’s Itten
  2. Itten’s Contrasts: Day 1
  3. Itten’s Contrasts – Day 2: Heavy/Light
  4. Itten’s Contrasts – Day 3: Transparent/Opaque
  5. Itten’s Contrasts – Day 4: Straight/Curved
  6. Itten’s Contrasts – Day 5: Moving/Still
  7. Itten’s Contrasts – Day 6: Much/Little
  8. Itten’s Contrasts – Day 7: Smooth/Rough
  9. Itten’s Contrasts – Day 8: High/Low


  1. Randall Saunders February 13, 2010 at 11:55 am - Reply

    Ms Taylar

    I have recently returned to a hobby that I enjoyed but gave up many years ago for a number of reasons. Now that I find I have some free time on my hands and due to the fact that Digital photography makes it more economically feasible I have returned. I was given The photographer’s Eye as a gift and find it very helpful however, I am trying to understand some of Itten’s Contrasts. Mainly the ones concerning Point/line, Area/Line, Area/Body, Plane/Volume and after looking at your photographs I was hoping that you could be of assistance.

    Thank You

    Randall Saunders

  2. ingrid February 14, 2010 at 12:07 pm - Reply

    Hello, Randall – Thanks very much for stopping by. I can’t say definitively, but my understanding relates to geometric form. So, plane/volume would be an expression of the contrast between a geometric plane and, say, a cube. With point/line, each photograph would illustrate an emphasis toward one or the other form, then the two combined. Like you, I’m not 100 percent clear on area/body.

    Any Itten disciples passing through?

    In reading various interpretations, I came upon a post at deviantART which had this to say about the exercise:

    “You’re also supposed to approach the contrasts from three directions, or, as Itten said, ‘[you have] to experience them with [your] senses, objectivize them intellectually, and realise them synthetically.’

    i.e. get a feeling for the contrast first WITHOUT thinking of it as an image –then list the ways of putting this sensation across — finally, make a picture.”

    ~ from Itti-project at deviantART

  3. João Paulo Marques May 4, 2010 at 4:00 pm - Reply

    Hi Ingrid,

    Let me congratulate you for your well succedded exercice on Itens contrasts.

    I just came across Michael Freeman’s “The photografers eye”, at the library, last wekend and since then i’ve been reading it with the outmost interest. I’m considering it a very helpful book what matters all the approaches that I’ve never even had imagined.

    One of that issues is indeed ittens contrasts, and no doubt your attempt on it have been very well succeedded.

    best regards
    João Paulo

  4. ingrid May 8, 2010 at 7:40 pm - Reply

    João, thank you for the kind comment. Yes, I agree about Michael Freeman’s book. It’s a lovely, detailed exercise in composition and other facets of the ‘photographer’s eye.’ I managed to breeze through a library of photography books, but I’ve stayed and dwelled on Freeman’s illustrations.

  5. […] like hard/soft, liquid/solid, sweet/sour, many/one and so on. Have a look at this table on thefreequark. you can composite contrast in your picture. This picture is not a very good one but it is showing […]

  6. 對比 | 做中學 December 3, 2012 at 6:51 am - Reply

    […] Ittens’s contrast list […]

  7. Anonymous April 21, 2013 at 4:06 am - Reply

    […] […]

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