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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
:iconfrienddesign:
Frienddesign Featured By Owner Jul 15, 2014
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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:iconinsanity-installed:
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 

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