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“A line is a Dot (.) that went for a walk” – Paul Klee

Line is one of the most important Elements of Art. Imagine creating a painting, sculpture or design without drawing lines to divide the paper or canvas into shape and forms. Thein about how important a role Line plays in the creation process. Line scan communicate an idea r express a feeling. They can appear static or active. Lines define objects.

What is Line?

Ø  Is the path of a moving point – horizontal, vertical, diagonal.

Ø  Defines the position and direction of design, image or form.

Ø  Types of line include vertical, horizontal, diagonal, contour or a combination of these.

Ø  They may be curved, straight, thick, thin, smooth, long, short and so forth.

Ø  Lines are used to create shape, pattern, texture, space, movements and optical illusion in design.

Ø  The use of lines allows artist to demonstrate delicacy or force.

Ø  Curves may take us slowly uphill if turn sharply twisting our mind as they turn.

Ø  Can express various moods and feelings.

ü  Outlines: show the edges of the shapes and forms being drawn.

ü  Contour lines: not only show the edges of the shapes being drawn, but they also go onto the surface of the object to help describe 3 dimensional qualities of the form.

ü  Gesture line: they indicate action and physical movement. They are done quickly in the form of a rough sketch as the models often moves. Therefore, they lack details.

Purpose of Lines in Art

Lines play an integral role in the creation of art. Lines serve as an artist’s fingerprint and function as one of their fundamental tools. When an artist produces enough lines on a piece of paper or canvas, the artwork begins to assume both its shape and meaning. Artist make lines using a variety of media including pencil, pen & paint.

IDENTIFICATION: Lines in art serve a number if functions according to authors Enstice & Peters. In the most basic sense, the line captures the essence and the shape of an object. An artist creates the illusion of 3 dimensional shape by drawing lines of paper. Finally, an artist uses lines to prepare for the drawing process, much like a singer who sings the music scales.

EXERCISES: Sketchbook line drawing exercises are some of the fundamental tools. Drawing lines in a circular, looping or cross-hatch fashion helps an artist loosen up. They prepare the artist physically and mentally to draw. After the artist warms up, they can then move on to another type of line drawing, called Gesture Drawing. In the gesture drawing, the artist captures the structure and the movement of an object through loosely drawn lines.


In addition to using lines to capture an object’s movements, the artist employs lines to draw the shape of an object. These line techniques are known as contour, blind contour and continuous line drawings. An artist might describe the contour line as a subject’s outline. The blind contour line drawings do this as well, but the difference between the 2 lies in the execution; the artist does not look at their paper as they draw the blind contour. They seek only to understand the shape of an object. In this instance, they do look at their paper, but does not remove their hand from the paper for the duration of the drawing.

THREE-DIMENSIONAL SPACE: Artists create the illusion if 3-dimensional space on paper with vertical lines, according to Enstice and Peters. This is effective because of how people’s experience the forms from visual sense. The vertical upright. The horizontal line captures get from looking at the horizon. These type of lines represent visual stability, because they remain static. The vertical line suggests action and does not have the axial equivalent of the vertical and horizontal line; this create the illusion of space.

DESIGN: Although artists use lines in drawing exercises, they also use them to execute their work. Enstice and Peters write that can use gesture drawing as a stepping stone for creating a design. An artist makes loose sketches or preparatory drawings of a painting, poster or even a brochure. They use gestures drawings to capture their ideas on paper. Finally, all drawings to a creation extent begin as a series of lines that the artist refines to create a final product.


Line drawing present themselves in a number of ways including outlines of objects, movement or density of objects and even erasing. It is common for artists to use various line drawings as a warm-up, often times giving them fresh ideas on how to begin working on a longer study, which may end up a final work of art. A line drawing as a final work of art, typically does not capture all if the information of the object being drawn, instead it usually only captures one characteristic, either the interior or the exterior. Charcoal, pencil, ball point pen, Chinese ink and black markers can all be sued to practice line drawing techniques.

CONTOUR LINE: A single line creating an outline of a figure or an object can show the height, width and even details of what in being studied. The word “contour” in art refers to an outline of the subject being studied.

Traditionally, it presents only the exterior edges of the object. A plain contour is one that is connected with no shading, emphasizing the shell of the object. Contour lines can suggest weight by pressing down harder or using the wider edge of a drawing instrument to create a thicker, denser line. To suggest that something is light or delicate, the line can become thinner and lighter in colour, using a pointed tip or pressing gently on the surface of the paper. A confident lien can surely change dynamic of both bold and delicate within a gestures with a drawing instrument.

BLIND CONTOUR LINE: Line drawings created without looking at the paper helps to increase hand-eye coordination. A blind contour is best studied as a quick drawing while looking at either a figure or a still life. The line at first will seem very messy, however the more its practiced, hand-eye coordination will develop allowing for similarities in the actual object and the drawn object to relate more closely.

Many artists enjoy blind contour line to help with freeing up the hand doing away with constraints of trying to get their drawings ‘prefect’. Often times, shapes or line that are created during a blind colour study we whimsical and more interesting that what can be achieved from looking directly at the object.

CONTINOUS LINE DRAWING: While observing an object, the drawing implement remains on the page with uninterrupted contact creating enclosed shapes. Often times, lines will have to cross over themselves repeatedly in order to finish drawing the subject being studied. Examples of this can be seen in drawings by Pablo Picasso and Egon Schiel. They were able to create beautiful line qualities by never lifting their drawing instrument off the page. Hands are particularly interesting when drawn in the style, as each knuckle and fingernail is detailed by lines that interest and overlap moving on to the next detail.

GESTURE DRAWING: Gesture drawings are commonly used as warm-ups in figure drawing classes. They are spontaneous representations of an expressive stance of a subject. Gesture drawings are usually contained within the limits of 30 seconds to 2 minutes. This type of exercise helps to loosen up the wrist and align the weight in gesture studies. Some artists prefer to use the tip of their drawing tool to show the quick outlines of a figure, while other artists use the wide edge of their instrument to share in the weight of the subject being studied. It is common to see a series of 10 or 15 gesture drawings overlapping on one page.

MASS GESTURE LINES: Mass gesture lines refer specifically to using a drawing instrument on its widest side. Charcoal is a great tool for accomplishing this line. By looking at the subject being studied, the drawing too is used sideways to deliver a quick, wide mark. This type of mark specifically shows the density of the subject. In order to show weight, the tool can be used with more pressure for a darker mark. To show lighter mass, less pressure can be applied. Unlike gesture drawings, there are no outlines in mass gesture practices.

REDUCTIVE: Starting with a sheet of paper covered in charcoal or graphite, the object being studied is drawn into covered ground using an eraser. A gum eraser is preferable as you can easily manipulate it to any width or point. The resulting drawing is one of negative line space.

PARALLEL OR CROSS HATCHING LINES: Marks created with repeating lines are used to create texture, patterns or shading. This is often in renderings created by master artists and illustrators. By creating lines that are close together or intersecting them at diagonal angles, delicate or harsh shading can be achieved. Typically, these lines are not blended. The more lines are clustered next to one another or crossing over each other, the darker the shading becomes. The shading can also be altered by the pressure of the tool used to make the marks. However, if ink is being used, the pressure will not alter the intensity of colour. Instead, choosing to make less marks or make them further apart from one another will give the effect of lighter shadows.

“Line is one of the 7 elements of art. It is considered by most to be the basic element of art.”


In terms of art, line is considered to be a moving dot (.). it has an endless number of uses in the creation of art. Line can control a viewer’s eye. It can describe edges. It can indicate form as well as movement. It can also indicate value and a light source in drawing.

When line is used for value or shading, we most typically see it used in the form of hatching or cross hatching. Although these are arguably the most common forms of using line for adding value, there is an endless number of ways that it can be used.

A simple way of thinking of a line is to imagine a point that moves. 

The most common use of line is showing where an object ends. This type of line is called a contour line. contour lines are most commonly called outlines.

Line can also create the illusion of form in drawings. Line quality is the thickness or thinness of a line. by varying the line quality an artist can show form in a drawing with just use of line.

Line can also indicate shadow and from through the use of cross contour lines. Cross contour lines follow the contours of the object. Much like running your finger around the form of an object.


Vertical lines: lines that move up and down without any slant.

Horizontal lines: lines that are parallel to the horizon.

Diagonal lines: lines that slant.

Zigzag lines: lines made from a combination of diagonal lines.

Curved lines: line that changes direction gradually.

Line Variation: adding interest to your line is important in creating successful artwork.

Length: lines can be long or short

Width: lines can be wide or skinny

Texture: lines can be rough or smooth

Direction: lines can move in any direction

Degree of curve: line can curve gradually or not at all.

Line quality or line weight: refers to the thickness or thinness of a line. by varying the line quality, artist can make objects appear more 3 dimensional and more interesting.

Hatching and cross-hatching: using lines to create value.

Hatching: lines going in the same direction & cross-hatching: lines that cross.

As an artist, the understanding of how to use line in art is very significant. In some way it should be second nature after countless numbers of drawings or paintings exercises. One cannot create a circle or a square without the use of line.

Today we have many forms or abstract visual arts, but even with these abstract forms of rt lines ate still present even if it is not apparent.

For example, a canvas or panel on which an abstract medium artist creates their organic shapes and mixtures, a frame must still be built. Let’s say even if they did not create the artwork on a canvas, at some point lines will come in to be a part of the artwork.

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