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November 2, 2013
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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
ShadowLiepard Featured By Owner Jan 21, 2015
how  to make the lines thinner/thicker without it looking weird on photoshop?
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.
ShadowLiepard Featured By Owner Jan 22, 2015
i use a touch pen on my pc and what are tablet drivers?
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).
ShadowLiepard Featured By Owner Jan 22, 2015
So I can't make the lines that way?
Nsio Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I guess so
ShadowLiepard Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2015
What drawing software is best for an iPad mini?
Wolfivy Featured By Owner Jan 7, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you so much for this! This tutorial was unbelievably helpful for me.
Kennuhs Featured By Owner Jan 6, 2015  New member Hobbyist
How do you pull off the slight thickness variation in straight lines. Ive been trying so hard to literally no avail.
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.
Kennuhs Featured By Owner Jan 6, 2015  New member Hobbyist
Is that the actual pen and tablet's sensitivity, or in the drawing program.
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
Kennuhs Featured By Owner Jan 7, 2015  New member Hobbyist
Okay! I'll give it a shot. Thanks beyond words.
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!
futarinokizuna Featured By Owner Dec 14, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Wow, that skating first I thought it was easy, then I try it and I lost on 3rd loop ._.
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.
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.
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'
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!
marceydevimon78 Featured By Owner Sep 11, 2014  Student Traditional Artist
Frienddesign Featured By Owner Jul 15, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Caradeblush Featured By Owner Jun 21, 2014
Thank you so much for this! I have such a hard time with drawing smooth lines! 
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!
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!
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?
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.
VexiWolf Featured By Owner Apr 2, 2014  Student Digital Artist
Awesome, thank you very much for the input~ :meow:
alaskatrailmutt Featured By Owner Mar 5, 2014
Helpfulness! :) Thanks for the tutorial!
Samhadj Featured By Owner Feb 20, 2014
Insanity-Installed 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 

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
Kenichi-Kageharu Featured By Owner Jan 18, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
thanks for the line tutorial. useful for me to draw better lineart.
isit01 Featured By Owner Jan 17, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Just came for a "Cirno post checkup" and saw my hairy problem here haha.
Nice Cirn- i mean, post.
Neo-Dokuro Featured By Owner Jan 17, 2014
I'm just gonna go fav all your tutorials, dont mind me. Falling in love with your work <3
Project-AYA Featured By Owner Jan 7, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
your loops... they are OVER 9000!!!
VoraciousAmphy96 Featured By Owner Jan 4, 2014  Student General Artist
Really helps if you are a beginner like me xD
EndArtica Featured By Owner Dec 25, 2013  Student General Artist
This is an incredible tutorial! I feel like I can rethink about how I draw from scratch and get so much better with some concentrated practice thanks to you! Time for some secret ninja training! 8D
TracyWong Featured By Owner Dec 12, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
Extremely helpful! Thank you for sharing so many of your great tips with us! :hug:
innocent-rebel Featured By Owner Dec 9, 2013  Student General Artist
I can't even begin to explain how helpful this is. Thank you.
raynetempura Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2013
Wow, what an excellent explanation. Thank you!
catucker001 Featured By Owner Dec 2, 2013
I shouldn't speed read or glance over things... I misread Number three on stuff about lines as "The feeling of the pieces changes with how you stroke it" ... and then choked on my tea and just about died on top of the coffee table. Dramatic- I know. <.<
Nsio Featured By Owner Dec 3, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Haha!! Hang in there, and keep your imagination in check lol x'D
catucker001 Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2013
Oh shush you. You probably had more moments than a mid-puberty boy in catholic school while you were "Studying the female form." I'm not going to sit and take that comment. XP But seriously, I've been exhaling darjeeling for a while. Death by tea. Dx
alphabetsoup314 Featured By Owner Nov 28, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Very helpful tutorial, with lots of examples of where to apply these principles. 

Other notes:
I think the bomber plane comparison really helped explain using lines to convey motion. That was something I was struggling with. Also, I like that you added in a tip about how to hold your drawing instrument to get dynamic lines. 
Yamuii Featured By Owner Nov 17, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
dynamic lines and characters is definitely something my drawings need more!
I really have to practice this! :D
Thank you so so much for these tutorials ;u;
catucker001 Featured By Owner Nov 16, 2013
I have NEVER thought of a way to practice motion-sight cohesion. I am off to practice some pringles right now. I ALWAYS have trouble with my lines. D: I attempt dynamic marking, which is much more natural than those shaky whatsits, but my control gets too far off for the line to be of any use. Or its on the wrong angle. I solved this buy using Manga studio 5ex, which has a vector correction feature, but its very tedious adjusting a single line a billion and a half times to get things right. Thanks for your tutorials. I'm off to make some loops. <3
Nsio Featured By Owner Nov 17, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
You're welcome :)

I used vectors a lot when I got my tablet. The fact that you need to look away from your hand makes it rather difficult and inaccurate to draw with tablet. I'm more confident with traditional pencil, so I usually scanned a pencil sketch, and practiced drawing on tablet by tracing my own drawing. I still used the vectors for the final lineart. As you said, its really tedious to adjust the vectors though. At some point, I started drawing sketches on tablet too. I always drew two stage sketches, initial and a more refined one and kept using vectors for final. Thanks to this practice, I can now draw the whole drawing without vectors.

Tracing your own work trains your precision with a tablet, so it's pretty useful. I don't know if Manga Studio has pen stabilizer feature, but in Pain tool SAI I have set the stabilizer rather high to get rid of some inaccuracies.

If your tablet is small, it may also make it a bit harder to get a good line, especially on larger screens.
catucker001 Featured By Owner Nov 27, 2013
I have a stabilizer and I keep that cranked up to the max. I have determined that a large bit of my problem comes from the fact that the tablet is small so you nailed it in one go. :D I can do things on paper that I can't with my tablet- mostly because my muscle memory is already trained to create objects of a certain scale physically and it doesn't translate to the same size/distance/pressure- i.e. as it would on-screen with the tablet. I know why people kept saying, "Don't get that size!" I thought it would be better to have more portability but didn't realize I'd be sacrificing accuracy to have it. I'm getting more comfortable with Manga Studio 5 and rarely use vectors unless I'm really struggling with a particular area. Even then, I'll make a quick vector layer, get that part done, and head back down to my raster layer. Its been a fun process so far, learning everything again. I haven't done most of this since I was in High school <3
Taiinty Featured By Owner Nov 14, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
I'm trying to do the skating practice, it's so much harder than I anticipated it being!! D8 haha >v<
haris-san Featured By Owner Nov 14, 2013
where has this been before!
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