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A principle of art, contrast refers to the arrangement of opposite elements (light vs. dark colors, rough vs. smooth textures, large vs. small shapes, etc.) in a piece so as to create visual interest, excitement and drama.
The colors white and black provide the greatest degree of contrast. Complementary colors also highly contrast with one another.
An artist can employ contrast as a tool, to direct the viewer's attention to a particular point of interest within the piece.