How to Draw With Lines

Long before photography was developed, line art was the standard for making illustrations in things like books, newspapers, and instruction manuals.

It is a style of drawing that consists only of straight and curved lines, usually against a plain background. Line art is generally done monochromatically, as its purpose is to highlight form and outline over elements like texture, color or shading.

Lines are the basic building block of any drawing. You might have seen other artists drawing shapes by using a series of smaller curved lines.

If you’ve ever seen someone start sketching a portrait, you’ve probably seen this technique used to draw a face (a far stretch from the circle you used to start with in kindergarten). Some people think that using this technique allows much more room for error, because you’re not making a huge shape in only one pen stroke (where your hand might wobble), but for line art, these short, light strokes should be avoided.

Good line art isn’t full of wispy lines like in a sketch. Your lines should be drawn with confidence and be relatively bold (unless you purposely want a lighter line to help create three dimensions). If you’re a new artist and need to build confidence, you can start off by drawing lighter lines, and then go over them with a bolder line once the shapes are cemented. Even the most experienced artists do this, so don’t worry that it makes you a lesser artist.

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Another tip for learning how to draw with lines is to draw slowly. At first, this may result in a wobbly line as mentioned above, but with practice your lines will become straighter, and being able to draw more slowly will be an asset.

If you concentrate on drawing with your whole arm, your lines will be straighter. Drawing with just your wrist will result in wobbly lines. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but with practice it will feel normal, and you’ll have started your art with a strong foundation.

Sometimes line art is defined as art which has no change in the weight of each line, but this is more of a purist’s definition. Many people do use different weights of line and still consider the result line art (especially in the past, when line art was used for almost all illustrations).

One undisputed fact is that line art does not contain shading—if you want the effect of shading, it can be done cleverly by using lines of different thickness placed very close to one another. However, the most traditional line art won’t have any change in weight or shading; it will appear more like a new page in a coloring book.

Often, line art is used as the foundation for a finished work that will be edited and colored using a computer (most are then used to create animated works). This is another reason why boldly-drawn lines are important (as they scan in much better).

Learning how to draw with lines requires confidence and practice, but it’s something that is achievable with time. Once you’ve mastered it, why not try editing it using computer software? Maybe you’ll be the next Disney animator!

For more lessons on oil painting for beginners and online drawing lessons, be sure to check out the rest of our website.

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