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Nsio explains: Line Dynamics by Nsio Nsio explains: Line Dynamics by Nsio
Sixth tutorial in my "Nsio explains" series. Going with the very basics of drawing a line.

The basic idea of a line:
Most people perceive the world as if there were lines around objects. In reality, there are no lines at all. It's actually just an illusion our brain shows us. We just perceive the contrast or difference between two objects, materials and colors as if there were lines between them. How can you draw reality with lines, if they don't even exist in the first place? An average Joe can't do that, but an artist can.

So, since there are no lines in reality, you need to treat the drawn lines the same way. They aren't really lines as we would rationally think. A line in illustration has a lot wider meaning than just showing the borders of things. A line convoys your artistic mind on canvas. They are the very basic building elements of your drawing and their execution has big impact on the final product. The feel and atmosphere can be read from those lines. If you are drawing something aggressive, draw aggressive lines. If you are drawing something calm, draw it with calm lines. Thus, if you want to draw a dynamic drawing, you need to draw dynamic lines as well.

Very often I see people drawing their lines really slowly with wobbly results or quickly with short hasty strokes that have no meaning at all, other than giving really messy look. You can't just draw some random lines and say it's art. All lines need to contribute to the piece. One way to draw meaningful lines is to use dynamism as a basic concept (see the line of action in my "Dynamism" tutorial). Think a plane doing a bombing run. Start pressing the pen gently and then apply more pressure as the plane gains velocity. The most impacting part is where the bomb is released and hitting the target. After that, you lift your pen, leaving a nice tapering end. All this done with one quick stroke.

Laying the stroke:
When I draw a line, I hardly ever look at the pen itself (or the cursor on the screen). Instead, I'm looking at the point I want to end my line. I may also look at another line somewhere else in the drawing if I need to make it look the same, for instance. Then I start moving my pen between the starting and the ending points in air, hovering just above the paper. This allows my hand to do some "practice" runs before the real thing. I can also try different alternatives to see which way I should draw the line. Then, when I'm somewhat confident, I draw just one quick stroke. If it's good, then great! If not, then I erase it (Ctrl+Z is so convenient!) and try again. That said, I hardly never know how I need to draw the line beforehand. It's just thanks to my experience and "muscle memory" that I can draw the lines pretty much the way I want them.

It's also important to hold the pencil the right way for optimal ergonomics and results. Don't press the pen too much on the surface, it will just strain your hand. When I'm drawing with a pigment liner, technical pen or tablet pen, I hold the pen pretty much in vertical position. I support the pen with my ring finger to keep it from getting pressed too much on the surface. This isn't very natural way to hold the pen, but it allows great control over the pressure.

Some basic thing about lines:
I have compiled some things here in order to explain why my lines look like they do.
1. I always apply some sort of variety in the line thickness for more natural and dynamic feel.
2. Make it quick and simple. The line can be short or long, but it should be drawn with one dynamic stroke.
3. The way you draw the lines can spice up your style and add feeling to your pieces. I tend to draw my lines both curvy and angular, pretty much like the left one.
4. It's good to mind line hierarchy. Usually thicker lines are considered to be closer that thinner lines. Thus, it's often good to draw the characters with thick outlines and the background with thinner lines.
5. This is pretty basic way to think the line weight. The line is thinner towards the light and bulkier in shadow. You could think the line as a shadow as well.
6. This is pretty basic thing too. Thinner lines give more lighter feeling and bulky lines heavier. Thus it's pretty straightforward to draw a feather with thin lines for example.
7. Some black in line intersections makes a huge difference. Just be reasonable with it.
8. An illusion of overlapping lines add three dimensional feel. Also pay attention how the panties sink into skin ;)
9. The line thickness can also add the contrast between two objects. For example, if you draw an arm on a surface, it's natural to draw the lines towards the surface bulkier (as if they were shadows).
10. "Lost and found" refers to a broken line that we can read as a solid line. Very often it's better to draw things with broken lines rather than solid lines. Of course it depends on the image you want to gain.
11. Number 10. principle can be applied on corners. If the surfaces are part of the same object, it's often better to draw the line between them thin or broken. If there is a gap or two separate surfaces, the line is solid. Note that curvy surfaces don't really have corners (duh!), so you need to give the impression with contrast instead or mind the surfaces later in coloring.
12. This just illustrates the fact that there are no lines in reality, but it can be still represented with lines.
13. Hatching should be drawn with quick and parallel lines, with equal thickness and gap between lines.
14. You can make quite a bunch of textures with lines.
15. You can also draw many patterns with lines. However, it's often better to draw only small patches there and there and leave the rest to the imagination. Not only you save a lot of effort, the drawing will be a lot easier to look also.

Skating practice:
Skating is a good term for this little practice. The purpose of this practice is to be able to draw the very same shape many times as accurately as possible. You can do this kind of skating practice with any kind of shape, but I find that "pringles shape" is the most natural and challenging enough. When I draw that shape very quickly, it's my hand's "muscle memory" doing the job. The moment I start thinking, I make mistake.

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Daily Deviation

Given 2013-11-13
:iconsachi-pon:
Sachi-pon Featured By Owner May 12, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
"Then, when I'm somewhat confident, I draw just one quick stroke. If it's good, then great! If not, then I erase it (Ctrl+Z is so convenient!) and try again."

this convenient quick erase thing doesn't work for trad. artists though... lol

other than that, great tutorial XD
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:iconhugalot:
Hugalot Featured By Owner Apr 29, 2015
I draw hairy lines but it doesn't turn out THAT hairy but damn i'm unsure how i should continue from here. I like doing OC stuff because... its a hobby but if i stop doing hairy lines i start doing wobbly lines... should i just keep going from hairy to wobbly to eventually dynamic or should i continue hairy with the dynamic in mind trying to practice it? also i have one of those small wacom bamboo so maybe large dynamic lines are a bit harder? Anyone got experience on this matter?
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:iconnsio:
Nsio Featured By Owner Apr 29, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Yeah, I'm afraid that small bamboo tablet will make it harder to draw proper lines, though it's not entirely impossible. At least check that in your wacom driver settings you have "Force proportions" selected, otherwise the screen tablet ratio might be skewed (in other words, if you draw a perfect circle on tablet, you get an ellipse on your canvas...).

I would practice on real paper, because that's much, much easier. You can apply traditional skills on digital medium after all.

You may also try "passive" line practicing. That means practicing something entirely different while gaining some experience on some other field at the same time. In this case, whatever you are practicing, you will still need to draw those lines, so you may get better at drawing lines even though you aren't actively practicing it ;) (it's still advisable to focus on just line drawing every now and then).

For example, when I'm drawing my pose practices, I'm actually practicing body language and visual story telling as well, which are important for comic drawing. By doing this, I don't need to come up with a story, plot or panel layouts, but I still get to practice things that will be useful in comic drawing. When I'm practicing panel layouts, I don't care about the line quality, because that allows me to draw far more pages in shorter time and with less effort. I'm still sketching things though, so I get rough practice on poses, viewing angles, backgrounds etc. Quantity over quality.
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:iconandromedano:
AndromedAno Featured By Owner Apr 17, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
This is exactly what I was looking for. I'm going to need to practice. Thank you :)
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:iconcherryle3:
Cherryle3 Featured By Owner Feb 11, 2015
500 loops uwu
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:iconcjwiguna:
CJWiguna Featured By Owner Feb 2, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Well, thanks to program that have stabilization feature, such like SAI, clip studio, or Krita

Making line is easier than before! (in computer. Cause, still, pencil is the best for control :v)
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:iconmethodael:
Methodael Featured By Owner Feb 1, 2015
For the 4 practice shapes/lines, are they supposed to be done in one go or stroke by stroke i.e. red arrow, 1 stroke, continued to blue arrow with another stroke.
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:iconnsio:
Nsio Featured By Owner Feb 1, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
In one go. The point is to draw one continuous line. This reveals precision drop after few loops.
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:iconmethodael:
Methodael Featured By Owner Edited Feb 1, 2015
Ah alright, as for the 'pringles' shape, how would one define the moment it goes 'wrong' because continous drawing with pencil just ends up with a very thick version of the shape, would it be 'wrong' at that point? Would practicing these shapes make practicing drawing a circle obsolete?
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:iconnsio:
Nsio Featured By Owner Feb 1, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
If you want strict rules, you are doing wrong the moment you deviate from your first "pringles". While it's not absolutely necessary to trace the shape 1:1, the point in that practice is to be able to replicate the same shape several times as closely as possible. This trains muscle memory, which makes it easier to draw definite shapes later on (such as drawing eyes consistently).

Drawing circles is just as important as these shapes. The shapes I presented here just have additional twists in them, making them harder to replicate consistently.
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:iconmethodael:
Methodael Featured By Owner Feb 1, 2015
Sorry, I'm a little confused. So basically by drawing random shapes over and over again, it'll ultimately help to produce consistency in drawings in the future? In that case, would the size of the random shapes I'm drawing matter?
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:iconnsio:
Nsio Featured By Owner Feb 1, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Well it's not like you will learn drawing perfect boobs just by drawing random circles :D But you will learn to control your pen so that you will more likely get the shape you want. Then it's just about applying that skill on anything you draw.

It mostly depends how large drawings you are going to draw. Either way, it's important to practice full arm range from small to large. Generally smaller is easier but if you draw just small, you won't be able to draw large shapes because they require different arm motions.
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:iconmethodael:
Methodael Featured By Owner Feb 1, 2015
Alright, thanks man, sorry to trouble you so much with my questions. I may pop up again at another one of your tutorials in the near future, hope you don't mind.
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:iconshadowliepard:
ShadowLiepard Featured By Owner Jan 21, 2015
how  to make the lines thinner/thicker without it looking weird on photoshop?
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:iconnsio:
Nsio Featured By Owner Jan 21, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Hopefully you are using a digital pen tablet instead of mouse. I assume you do. If you don't, get one.

Make sure that you have tablet drivers installed and running. You should be able to test this in the driver configurations. If pen pressure is working, adjust the sensitivity so that you can easily draw both thin and thick lines (also mind how hard you actually press the pen). Also make sure that your brush settings allow pressure detection and that the minimum size of the brush is at 0%.

Now it should be just up to the precision of your hand. I'm afraid that photoshop doesn't have pen stabilizer, so the lines will easily look wobbly.
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:iconshadowliepard:
ShadowLiepard Featured By Owner Jan 22, 2015
i use a touch pen on my pc and what are tablet drivers?
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:iconnsio:
Nsio Featured By Owner Jan 22, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
You could have provided a bit more information about your your hardware and setup. Sorry, I don't know anything about touch pens, they apparently work differently in comparison to regular digital pen tablets. I'm afraid that if you are using a tablet pc or touch screen + touch pen, you may not be able to get as precise lines as on dedicated digital pen tablets (such as on Wacom intuos or Cintiq).
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:iconshadowliepard:
ShadowLiepard Featured By Owner Jan 22, 2015
So I can't make the lines that way?
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:iconnsio:
Nsio Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I guess so
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:iconshadowliepard:
ShadowLiepard Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2015
What drawing software is best for an iPad mini?
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:iconwolfivy:
Wolfivy Featured By Owner Jan 7, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you so much for this! This tutorial was unbelievably helpful for me.
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:iconkennuhs:
Kennuhs Featured By Owner Jan 6, 2015  Hobbyist
How do you pull off the slight thickness variation in straight lines. Ive been trying so hard to literally no avail.
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:iconnsio:
Nsio Featured By Owner Jan 6, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I have set pressure sensitivity to very firm and then I control the lineweight by controlling the radius of the pen. That said, even when I'm drawing thin lines, I use at least 5x or 10x larger pen. I also hold the pen so that my ring finger prevents the pen from pressing too hard on the surface. I start lightly, and gradually add pressure and then lift the pen. The subtle nuances come from these factors as I move the pen across the surface.
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:iconkennuhs:
Kennuhs Featured By Owner Jan 6, 2015  Hobbyist
Is that the actual pen and tablet's sensitivity, or in the drawing program.
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:iconnsio:
Nsio Featured By Owner Jan 7, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I have set the pressure sensitivity trough tablet driver, but I also do changes on software side when I feel it's appropriate
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:iconkennuhs:
Kennuhs Featured By Owner Jan 7, 2015  Hobbyist
Okay! I'll give it a shot. Thanks beyond words.
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:iconflamegod7:
flamegod7 Featured By Owner Jan 4, 2015  Student General Artist
Thank you for your great tutorials! They are very helpful--maybe even more helpful than some of my art classes!
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:iconfutarinokizuna:
futarinokizuna Featured By Owner Dec 14, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Wow, that skating practice...at first I thought it was easy, then I try it and I lost on 3rd loop ._.
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:iconeternal-ii:
Eternal-II Featured By Owner Nov 7, 2014  Student General Artist
and idiots like chris hart say you don't need the basics like this to learn art. :|

I think this sorta thing actually helps you later when you start experimenting with styles.
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:iconalicesacco:
AliceSacco Featured By Owner Edited May 12, 2015
Really he said so?
Maybe he is one of those talented folks that doesn't need to practice to be able to draw well, because he has innate above-average dexterity.

I'm not good at drawing, but surely, I can draw straight line free hand (and with both hands) because I practiced at drawing straight lines free hand over and over.
I still have problems with curvy lines, for this I keep drawing random circles for practice.
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:iconeternal-ii:
Eternal-II Featured By Owner May 20, 2015  Student General Artist
actually, his art is very terrible and a lot of the stuff in his books aren't even his. He doesn't properly credit the artist like he says he does, they're not really noticable, really tiny texted in the back as if everything is all his doing. He does mention somewhere, but as i said it's not really noticable cus he wants it to be all about him. He's not a good guy to learn from for beginners, for beginners it's best to learn from actual how to manga books that have good art in it done by themselves and anatomy in it as well, not just a quick rush from one part of a step to another. THat's all his books are, really, chris's books are a "how to rush and be good at art in the manga style" . How do I know? I own his books and has been following his activity that he tries to sweep under the radar whenever someone calls him out on his bullshit. I am thinking about donating all of the books he has to charity or "half-priced" instead of burning or throwing them away cus I want my money back. :-| 

To avoid waste of money in the future from crappy how to artist i'm thinking about just learning on my own based on what i see, and getting advice from actual GOOD artist that have good work and tell you things you need to learn as a painter/artist. :)

Problems with lines is everybody's thing, I still can't draw proper circles, but that's what the templates are for! I use them for practice until I learn how to properly make shapes :-D

You can also use a cup to start with or a quarter to help with circles! And they got triangle or circled shaped rulers at hobby lobby or office max. And templates/drafting supplies.

I hope this helps!! It has been helping me.
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:iconalicesacco:
AliceSacco Featured By Owner May 21, 2015
He still draws better than me.
To learn to draw shoulders, I also took references from one of his drawings (though for most, I 'learned' by copying and observing real shoulders).
Is one of the few that takes in account the whole articulation of the shoulder (clavicle, scapula, humerus) that allow a great degree of movement for the arm (you don't only rotate your arm, you can move it slightly upward, downward, forward and backward, thanks to clavicle and scapula). Many artist forget about that, and when they draw somebody that raise his arm, the whole drawing turn awkward.
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:iconeternal-ii:
Eternal-II Featured By Owner May 23, 2015  Student General Artist
Yes, but you can also learn movements from watching other people move around, and by watching gymnastics on the sports tv to see how flexible the body can really get. I didn't use any books to help me get better at drawing (I started at first but stopped). I use everything by what I see. I like to add a touch of my fantasy into art every now and then, and I love using vibrant colors, but I also keep color theory in mind as well as hues/shadows/lighting, the way light works, etc etc, and anatomy of the human body even if I draw in the  cartoony/anime style, which I prefer doing, cus it's more fun that way. I also like experimenting with eyes to see how far I can go with combining semi/hyper-realism with anime style coloring. :-D I've seen artists on here do that and they're great artist! I want to reach that level one day and I won't get there by looking at books whose art is as bad as mine or worse. 

Seriously, looking at how people around you move everyday is the best way to learn about body movements and what the body can do and what it cannot. :D 

There's also a few photo books that you can pick up of humans doing incredible (and nearly impossile but non photoshopped) Poses!! You can pick them up at Barnes + Noble, I have a few laying around here and there. :-D And I'm sorry hun, but anybody draws better than chris. Plus his personality and attitude is terrible. 

If you wanna learn from him go ahead, no ones stopping you. Just be wary of any mistakes that you find in the books when it comes to anatomy, dont' copy what you see from those books, if you like the pose then draw the pose but based on what you know the body can do. :D


Happy learning sweet heart!
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:iconalicesacco:
AliceSacco Featured By Owner May 23, 2015
No, usually I learn by myself too, but I look to tutorials here and there, sometimes I can miss important things (I had hard time with basic forms, for example. I'm learning just now. I also have problem with intuitive perspective, and I tend to exaggerate it.
I rarely copy from the works of another human being. I know everybody can draw wrong things. Even Leonardo.

When I look at tutorials, then I try to see if I can see the same thing in reality.


Anyway, I still believe his drawing are better than mine. 
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:iconeternal-ii:
Eternal-II Featured By Owner Jun 7, 2015  Student General Artist
to each their own! As they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder! :)
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:iconmistyful617:
mistyful617 Featured By Owner Sep 17, 2014  Student Digital Artist
I LOVE YOUR TUTORIALS they explain everything other tutorials don't. Thank you very much.
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:iconccdragon-93:
CCDragon-93 Featured By Owner Sep 16, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Wow. Your tutorials are great! I'm rally a hariy sketcher, so I desided to do the skating practice and ended up surprising myself. My years of drawing have left me with quiet some muscle memory, now I just need the confidence to trust that one stroke to be correct n.n'
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:iconwarai-kentshu:
Warai-Kentshu Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Wow this is a really good tutorial. I really like how you used muscle memory to explain this. o3o gives me some hope <3
Thank you so much!
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:iconmarceydevimon78:
marceydevimon78 Featured By Owner Sep 11, 2014  Student Traditional Artist
;)
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:iconfrienddesign:
Frienddesign Featured By Owner Jul 15, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
COOL!
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:iconcaradeblush:
Caradeblush Featured By Owner Jun 21, 2014
Thank you so much for this! I have such a hard time with drawing smooth lines! 
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:icons4ndm4n2006:
s4ndm4n2006 Featured By Owner Edited Jun 12, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
This is really good advice and practice.  I notice when I am not "warmed up" when drawing my lines are typically more "hairy".  and thanks for this!
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:iconshikylusion:
Shikylusion Featured By Owner May 27, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
I have the "Hairy line" problem... I end up using the vector tool on my works but this... Changed my mind and I'm gonna start to practice the lines... Very helpful tutorial!
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:iconvexiwolf:
VexiWolf Featured By Owner Mar 31, 2014  Student Digital Artist
I'm curious, at about what scale do you do most of your pictures? I usually do mine very large so I have a lot of work space, but by doing that I am doing a much more sketchy style of work--which is definitely not what I want in a final piece. I also have problems drawing in certain directions such as horizontally and from right to left. I usually turn my digital canvas 90 degrees in the direction closest to what I need, but then I frequently revert to a more sketchy style of art. It takes me a good 2 hours to try and clean up my picture as much as possible and it would be nice to not have to do THAT much clean up. I would like to have the smooth lines that I see in so many people's artwork, including yours. What would you suggest I do to fix this problem?
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:iconnsio:
Nsio Featured By Owner Mar 31, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Hmm, scale is a bit flexible when working digitally, but when I draw on paper, I usually drawn my characters A5 paper sized. When I draw on cintiq, I use very similar hand movement as on paper. When I used to draw on intuos 4 tablet, the range of my hand movement was a lot wider. So regardless the size of digital drawing, I draw it like it was A5 or A4 paper sized.

I usually draw my lineart sketchy first so that I just get rough idea what I'm going for. Then I make a new layer and draw the lines as if I was inking them. That said, I try to draw each line as if there were only one chance to make it. Of course I need to undo and redraw a lot, erase and fix, but this way I minimize the clean up, because I keep the drawing clean and I also clean the drawing while I'm still drawing it. When I'm done with the drawing, I reduce the size to 70% so that the small mistakes will blend in smoothly in the drawing.
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:iconvexiwolf:
VexiWolf Featured By Owner Apr 2, 2014  Student Digital Artist
Awesome, thank you very much for the input~ :meow:
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:iconalaskatrailmutt:
alaskatrailmutt Featured By Owner Mar 5, 2014
Helpfulness! :) Thanks for the tutorial!
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:iconsamhadj:
Samhadj Featured By Owner Feb 20, 2014
thanks
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:iconekoglitch:
EkoGlitch Featured By Owner Feb 9, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist

I have no words to explain how much help this tutorial has helped me. For years I have been searching for a tutorial like this to help me stop doing thick, over-pressured outlining (and sketches which is frustrating me the most). Whenever I ask my friends that do fine outlining/sketching for tips they simply say to do it lightly, which wasn't much help. Just, thank you so much, definitely going to check out your other tutorials! <3 

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:iconfaelyndra:
Faelyndra Featured By Owner Jan 28, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Your tutorials are awesome thank you so much for putting in so much time for others! <3
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