Drawing Lines: The Straight Line

Key to your ability to draw the four geometric solids shown above is your ability to draw a straight line. Now, I know some of you are likely thinking that this topic is irrelevant because we have rulers for such things, but you will find that in many situations a ruler proves to be impractical, inefficient and unnecessarily awkward. What is more, a line that is drawn freehand has a certain lively, desirable feel to it when compared to a rigid, mechanical line made from that of a ruler.

First off, hold your pencil in the way you would normally hold one to write. The key is comfort. From here you want to glide your pencil across the page with certainty. Be sure to move the arm from the elbow down and make long, confident strokes. Do not rotate from the wrist as you would when writing. This will make for short, curved, choppy strokes. (See Additional Holds and Techniques for variations on this commonly used technique) It may feel awkward at first, but persevere until you feel comfortable. Practice drawing lines in different directions and angles. Left to right, right to left. 45• angle, 180• angle and so forth. You will likely find that you can draw a more accurate line in certain directions and at certain angles over others so try them all out. Once you have determined your own personal preference, all you need to do is rotate the page itself to get a perfect line every time.

Additional Holds and Techniques

In the previous section, Drawing a Straight Line, a commonly used technique for holding and manoeuvring a pencil was discussed. Depending on the requirements of the drawing there are several other formations available to you.

1. When rendering small details in a drawing, limit your range of motion using just your thumb and forefinger to create lines/shapes.
2. When shading or blocking, hold your thumb and forefinger sturdy, and allow your wrist to control the movement. (Blocking describes the rendering of a quick sketch of the main components within a drawing to establish its overall form)
3. When it's necessary to draw long, consistent encompassing lines, lock the thumb, forefinger and wrist and allow movement to be carried out from the elbow.
4. When very long, continuous, bold lines are required, movement should be controlled by the shoulder with fingers, wrist and elbow locked.
Type of Lines
Lines are one-dimensional markings that define shapes in a drawing.

There are three general classifications of lines:

1. Straight (horizontal, vertical, diagonal)
2. Angled (two straight lines that join at an angle)
3. Curved (lines that bend in a way that resemble the shapes of the letters ¨C¨ and ¨U¨) Within the family of curved lines, there is also a Compound Curve (lines that bend in both directions, resembling the shape of the letter ¨S¨)

All of these lines are essential for drawing. They will present themselves in contour lines of subjects, inner detailing of subjects as well as in different styles of shading. The following exercise will introduce you to all three families of lines. Take a minute to practice drawing each type of line by replicating the two sketches below. You can either print the image and sketch a copy of it in the box beside each sketch or draw a similar image from your computer screen.

Straight Lines and Angled Lines

Curved Lines

Other pages of interest

Left side of the brain vs. the right side
More on art and the brain
Negative space and contour drawings
Fundamentals of structure
Drawing lines: The straight and curved line