Positive and Negative Space in Chip Carving

by L S Irish

Positive versus Negative Space

Through positive and negative space it is possible to take one chip carving design and create a multitude of patterns. The second and third images on the right are an example of putting positive and negative space to work in your carvings.

Positive space for chip carving is the area that you will be chipping away within the design. Negative space therefore becomes those areas that you will not be carving. By choosing to carve some triangles but not others you begin to create patterns with the chips as well as patterns in the smooth background that surround those chips.

Design Sample 1

Design 1 has every possible area of the pattern chip carved. It creates a beautifully intrigue carving that flows from one square to the next with no interruptions. This pattern contains no negative spaces.


 Design Sample 2

Design 2 uses a great deal of negative space. Each Celtic cross image is visually independent of the next using the smooth background to emphasis now a delightful pattern can be created with a minimal amount of chip carving.

An easy way to play with positive and negative space is with paper and colored pencil. Make several copies of your design. Now with a colored pencil pick just one area of the pattern and color it in. Next color in all of the corresponding areas on your pattern.

In the sample below I chose to color in all of the long diagonal chips forming a Celtic cross pattern.

Next, pick a new area to color, in this sample it was the horizontal triangles that touched the cross.

Possibilities from Just One Pattern

I have created a new design from the original pattern. Note how the design not only uses negative (smooth and un-carved areas) to border the design it has also captured negative space inside of the pattern by dipping down below the original grid work. The two un-carved diamonds trapped within the long carved diagonals stand out as part of the pattern work, yet are uncut.


You do not have to chose to stay symmetrical with the chips that you chose to carve. Design 4 shows a more random chose of chips. The pattern that was chipped in the top half of the designs is totally different than the pattern in the bottom half, creating a design that is floral or organic in nature.

In most of our chip work it is the positive areas (cut areas) that really capture the eye but in the sample below it is the negative space that stands out.  By not cutting the Celtic cross that is defined by the long diagonal triangle yet cutting all the chips that surround it, this pattern pulls the eye to the smooth area captured inside the square.


A few more examples.




We hope you enjoy this free pattern.
For Personal Use Only.








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