Line Drawing Techniques

When we first pick up a pen or a pencil, the first mark on the paper is a line. A line leads the eye from one part of a work to another. A line is one of the seven elements of art, shape, color, texture, form, value, and space.

It creates the structure, defines form, traces contour, and creates a tonal variation. The various line drawing techniques can give rise to various awestruck masterpieces that are indeed valuable and worthy of great appreciation.

A line drawing essentially uses a individual line to indicate the variation of planes. A plane is an edge where two sides of an object come together. Line drawing or line art consists of different lines. In the world of art, a line can be either two-dimensional, three-dimensional, descriptive, abstract, or implied.

Simple line drawings are the most essential elements of visual art. It eliminates the need for shading or color gradients so that the focus can be only on the lines. Simple line drawings can be black and white, but not necessarily. They can be either sketches or complete artwork in themselves.

The vital importance of line art is not just limited to paintings and drawings. Its horizons extend to sculpting and photography as well. For instance, sculptors use lines while blending material into various shapes or photographers create an implied line through their cameras' angle.

Line Drawing Techniques
Line Drawing Techniques

History is evident of the significance of the simple line drawing in art. Many incredible artists have created influential art using the line as the principal mean of visual experience.

The ancient sculpture group Laocoon and his Sons, which resides in the Vatican museums in Rome, is a marvelous art that greatly influenced the artists of that period to employ implied lines to create harmonious compositions in sculpture, drawing, and painting.

Leonardo Da Vinci's remarkable work Leda and the Swan reflects great and detailed line work to build up to form and dimension. One of the most famous works of Henri Matisse, The Dance, relies heavily on the contours he created. The bold flat color and striking outlines gave rise to a beautiful piece of art that leaves an indelible impression on the minds of the people.

After getting to know a brief theory behind the simple line drawing, let us proceed towards implementing this fantastic art by learning how to make a line drawing of a face.

Related Posts:

Line Drawing of a Face

The face is the most expressive part of the entire human body. Portraying the features along with the emotions on paper can be a slightly tricky task. A step-by-step approach can guide the artists to concentrate on minute details to reach the final destination, pleasing the eyes.

Pro Tip: It would be beneficial to use a blue HB pencil. Take care to use the pencil gently and not press it hard. The darker the impressions, the more difficult it would be for you to erase the under-layers/construction lines.

  1. Begin with Two Circles Start by making two overlapping circles. The intersection point of these circles will determine the position of the eye. From there, draw a vertical line down the circle, which will provide the human head's basis. You can also experiment with different size circles to result in different head dimensions. You can go for more squashed circles for a broader and chubby face, while you can use more elongated circles for a longer head shape.
  2. Drawing Construction Lines on the Face. Draw two lines from either side of the circle. This will tell you where the eyes and cheekbones will rest. From the center intersection, draw an isosceles triangle and mark out where you want to keep the mouth. Now draw two other triangles for the eyes, with their tip pointing inwards towards the triangle's tip drawn for the nose. This would also help you to locate the eyebrows and the eye sockets.
  3. Focus to Line Up the Features. Always focus on keeping the eyes, nose, and mouth on the same plane of the face. This will help you to avoid a weird final design. You can imagine that the features are wrapped around a cylinder to have a natural curve. The top of the eyebrow and bottom of the nose should be positioned so that they can be lined up with the ear. Lining up the features by imaging them wrapped around the cylinder results in a more natural look than a flat design.
  4. Draw the Eyes. The eyes are the most expressive part of the human face. A focused and intense look will be highly impactful. Define the brow bone by extending the nose bridge past the eyelids.
  5. Draw the eyebrows along the eye bone. To indicate a shadow from the eyelid, give the top eye a thicker line and add a light source for a more natural look. While a more extended eyebrow will be more inclined towards a feminine look, thick bushy eyebrows will emphasize masculinity.

Drawing of Additional Features

  1. Draw the Nose. Draw two straight lines down from the inner corners of the eyes. These will behave as the guidelines for the nose and will determine its width. Now draw the nose in the box which has been created. Start by drawing a diamond shape diagonal for the tip of the nose. Proceed further to illustrate the nostrils. Add line weight and shadow to the bottom of the nose.
  2. Draw the Lips. From the center of each eye, draw two vertical lines to mark the lips' outer boundary. Under the nose, place an isosceles triangle, extend it so that its tip touches the nose. Draw a horizontal line through the center of this triangle, and with it as a base, draw a shape identical to the cupid's bow. You can experiment with different shapes of the lips. You can even try to convey her, h,' s' through the lips to draw figures into a conversation.
  3. Finish with the Hair. Keeping in mind that the hair is more significant than the scalp, begin by creating a basic hair shape. Now give the direction to the hair by drawing strokes down the crown. Draw the hair shape with thicker outer lines and thinner inner lines. You can add some weight to the bottom of the hair with some curls for a more natural look. You can try different hairstyles for your figure according to your will.
  4. Male and Female Face have Different Proportions. The male and female proportions differ significantly. You can follow some tips that are not necessarily binding but can help you develop a specific design in gender. The male face is angular and more complex, whereas the female face is softer and rounder. In females' cases, fuller lips, larger eyes, and rounder cheeks will help you create a more natural look.
  5. With an eraser, erase all the construction lines that run through the face to achieve the final drawing.

What is Contour Line Drawing?

The word ontour' is French for the word outline.' Contour line drawing is an artistic technique. A contour line drawing includes outlines, shapes, and edges of the scene but does not involve fine detail, color, and surface texture.

The focus is primarily on the subject rather than the minute details. With varied line-weight, like darker lines in the foreground and paler lines in the distance, the illusion of three-dimensional form, space, and length can be conveyed.

Contour line drawing is a slow study of the anatomy of the model. It involves imagining that your pencil is running on the model and not on the paper. If you let your eyes guide your hand, then the resulting line art drawings will be expressive and lifelike.

Using line alone, you can avoid the need for medium color and tone and solely focus on shape and proportion. It paves the way for more realistic representations of your subject. Contour lines can vary from simplistic design to complex ones.

Contour drawing is used by cartoonists and illustrators all the time, and they provide some of the best examples for contour in action, with the help of line weight in the drawing. You can make an object either sink in the background or jump out of the paper. Contour lines can be used to indicate the change in depth or define lights and shadows.

Example: A contour drawing by Ultima Thule exhibits a contrast in the sharp black lines and the dripping green. In the entire drawing, there is the application of color (green) in just one place, which creates a dramatic focal point.

What is Blind Contour Drawing?

Blind contour drawing is one of the most creative forms of line drawing. It emphasizes the fact that while drawing, you need to have an active presence about the scene. In this drawing, the artists closely observe a view and every shape and edge. They draw the scene without looking on the paper.

The aim is not to come up with realistic drawings but to build a close connection between the eyes, hands, and brain. A close observation stimulates our consciousness of tactile values so that the picture can have the same strength as represented in our object to please our tactile imagination.

Blind Contour drawing often provides a delightful experience as the finished art seldom results in little resemblance with the object. It is a practical step for the beginning and teaches you to pay attention to minute details. It also provides a stress-free experience without fear to come up with the correct outcome.

Example: The drawing, water lilies by one famous artist, Claude Monet, is a beautiful piece of art that reflects how a blind contour drawing can result in a mesmerizing creation.

Why is Blind Contour Drawing Important?

Below are a few points that accentuate the importance of the Blind contour drawing.

  1. It increases focusing skills.
  2. Contour drawing strengthens eye and hand coordination.
  3. Serves as a warm-up exercise before the drawing session
  4. Since you do not need to perform a quality check on every single line each second, it saves a lot of rendering time.
  5. It breaks the artists' obsession with what is in the paper and instead forces them to concentrate on every edge and shape that they see in the object.
  6. Contour drawing strengthens the inner visions as the artist concentrate on his mind as well as his eyes.
  7. It helps the students to draw more realistically rather than going for a drawing that uses their memorized symbols only.
  8. Ultimately it elevates the artist's awareness and helps him translate between what he sees and what he puts down on the paper.

What is Cross Contour Drawing?

Cross Contour drawing consists of lines similar to that which appear on the topographical maps or the digital wireframe. Mostly there are parallel lines that run across the surface of the object or radiate from a point. Cross contour lines can be horizontal or vertical or even can be drawn at varying angles.

These are the lines with which the artist's eye's movement is reflected in and around what he sees. While the contour line describes the edges, Cross contour lines mostly exhibit form and volume.

Cross contour drawings need not always be mechanical, but understanding the cross counter enables you to create impressive marks that render more energy to your drawings.

Lines are drawn closer together in the distance and farther in the foreground. This form of line drawing helps you to gain familiarity with the volume and three-dimensional forms.

Example: Cross-contour drawing by Matt Louscher of a shell conveys the bumpy surface of the shell beautifully. The shell pieces that are farthest away from the human eye are kept thin and light, while the closer ones are darker and thicker.

This drawing reflects that the direction of the contour drawing should relate to the object. In this case, the lines are drawn projecting out from the center of the shell.

Picasso's Line Drawings?

Pablo Picasso was a genius artist whose works span a wide range of artistic movements and mediums. With simple drawings, he created some marvelous art pieces that are immensely popular today amongst artists. His simple line drawings were straightforward yet powerful. From still life and animals to human form and mythology, his masterpieces included all as the subject.

His work, The Bull, shows how he worked on it bit by bit to reduce the complex image to a single fluid line that still possesses the beast's supreme power. His simple line drawing was elementary yet impactful as he created a stunning piece using a single unbroken line. This helps the newbies for a relaxed drawing. The pure art, though, looks very simple at first but has its own challenges during implementation.

The best lesson which Picasso's paintings teach is drawing without constraint. Through his drawing, he showed his viewers all the aspects of life- light and dark, sorrow and joy, etc.

Example: One of the most famous paintings of Pablo Picasso is Guernica. Guernica is a town in northern Spain that was bombed on 26th April 1937. The painting is considered one of the most impactful anti-war paintings in history.

Since its creation, there have been a plethora of interpretations of this painting. The painting focuses on two main characters: the bull and the horse, which are essential creatures in Spanish culture. In a simple yet powerful way, Picasso has voiced the agony, distress, loss, and varied emotions that are the outcomes of war.

What is One Line Drawing?

One line drawing, which is also called a single line drawing, is the kind of drawing made with a single line. This is another way for artists to simplify the complex world around us. The drawings created by Pablo Picasso are one form of one-line drawing.

This involves capturing the complex and the true essence of the image in just one line. It can be focused on a theme such as animals, full-body illustrations, portraits, or erotics.

One-line drawings are not aimed at coming up with realistic creations, but they focus more on giving wings to the artists' imagination and the objects they see in their own way, with their hands not restricted by the professional elements.

Sometimes one line drawing can really pave the way for some beautiful creations that are enchanting to look at and decipher but difficult to understand the underlying symbolism.

Example: Picasso's animal sketches are the most popular amongst his artistic works and are an excellent example of one-line drawing. He created many one-line drawings of varied animals like an owl, dog, penguin, etc., which are represented in truly minimalist ways, which also symbolize that they are amongst the cheapest reproductions to produce.

There are many different kinds of one line drawing out there depending upon the artists, such as:

  1. Smooth versus rough one-line drawings.
  2. Analog versus digital one-line drawings.
  3. Line drawings. With or without color.
  4. Lines drawings with sharp corners.

Continuous Line Drawing

Continuous line drawing is another creative form of art in which the drawing is formed without lifting the drawing

instrument from the page. In other words, it makes use of a single unbroken line to develop the image. The lines can be thinner and thicker but should never break.

It is commonly used as an exercise as it forces the artist to carefully observe the subject's perceived lines. At the same time, continuous line drawings can also stand independently as a complete work of art.

What is Continuous Line Drawing?

Continuous Line Drawing
Continuous Line Drawing

Continuous line drawing expects the artist to move his pen continuously till the end and stop only when the drawing completes. Along with edges and shapes, the pencil should move back and forth across the paper's surface, doubling the lines so the drawing is created in one go.

This type of drawing helps the artist to focus on eye-hand coordination.

Continuous line drawing allows the artists to develop confidence and drawing speed.

It eliminates too much attention and care and trains the artists to apply their brains and skills to come up with an outcome in a shorter time.

Continuous line drawing also saves the artists from the interference of a thinking mind and trains them to focus on observing their subject. It helps the artists enhance their observational skills, and each time they do so, they are strengthening their drawing skills.

It is almost like creating a wire sculpture of the subject in which lines are immensely crucial.

Imperfections are evident in the continuous line drawing; however, these imperfections are the only ones that sometimes make the visual art more interesting. The best thing about Continuous line drawing is that it can be done anywhere with any material that forms a mark. The ultimate goal of the continuous line drawing is to reach an end design without breaking the continuity.

Abstract Continuous Line Drawing Activities

In contrast to the Blind contour drawing, continuous line drawing allows the artist to look at the paper. In the end, the artists can see some surprising results because of the imperfections that happen midway. Though your eyes see the object, your mind perceives the lines.

Ranging from drawing flowers, animals, and buildings, there are many abstract continuous line drawing activities that can provide excellent exercise to the students for the initial days of drawing and result in a masterpiece of art.

Step by Step Procedure for a Continuous Line Drawing

Pro Tip: Using a pen for this task is recommended since it is not erasable and is easy to photograph. Try to use a pen which allows you to shade the darker areas more easily. An A5 format paper would be preferable to an A4 as it will take less time.

However, papers of smaller sizes than this can make it quite tricky to add minute details.

After studying the necessary procedure of Continuous line drawing, you can apply the same process for drawing multiple objects like a flower, human face, animals, an eye, a hand, etc. How the drawing starts, what turns it takes, how the pen moves entirely depend on the artists and may differ.

As an artist, you are the director of the art that you create. While drawing, you just have to make a point and start with the same and keep putting the details on the paper as you observe until you complete it.

  1. Feel the object. The very first step includes feeling the object with the closed eyes. Feel its surface, edges, and boundaries. Open your eyes and take some time to analyze where it starts and where it goes. What shape does it have- rounded, flat, etc. Focus whether it has sharp edges or corners. Feel in terms of the line rather than colors or form. Before beginning to put it on paper, draw its image in your mind.
  2. Lift the pen only at the end. The most unique factor in continuous line drawing is that you lift it only at the end of the picture whenever you put the pen. In case while drawing, your hand slips or you are tired and can not continue anymore, that is ok. In such cases, It is recommended to start from where you left off.
  3. Draw the outline. Initially, concentrate on finding the initial focus of your point. After this, draw the outline. Be very gentle, and don't press the nip of the pen hard. There are chances that there will be mistakes made while drawing the outline. Ignore them as they can be overcome later on after shading. Once the outline is done, it becomes easier to fill in the details. After drawing the outline for the image's focus, similarly, draw the outline for the rest of the image like the background elements with one continuous line.
  4. Trackback when you meet an end. Whenever there arrives a point when you feel that the detail has ended and it is difficult for you to decide how to begin with the next step, it is advisable to follow the previous line until the next point in the drawing. This step helps you to fit everything in the drawing. It is also possible that you may make mistakes. You need not bother much for the same for now as after the shading step, the mistakes will not be visible. Thus always make it a point to make the outlines as light and smooth as possible.
  5. Shading. Use pressure to differentiate between the more robust and softer shades. Shade all the dark areas to give the drawing the flair it deserves. To provide shine to the primary object and make it an element of focus, strengthen its outline.

Sometimes the final drawing may not turn as per your expectations and appear a bit messy, but it would help you to excel in drawing in the long run. The second time you draw the same thing, it will feel much more comfortable. The number of enclosed repeated shapes that occur naturally in the drawing renders a unified look to the continuous overlapping line drawing.

Below are specific guidelines that would be effective for continuous line drawing.

  1. Always use an implement that permits a free-flowing line.
  2. Keep your drawing implement in close contact with the paper.
  3. Start by defining the basic outlines of the object.
  4. Focus on perceiving only those lines which are visible on the subject. This includes the area of contrasting values. For instance, during continuous line drawing of a horse, it may consist of white hair on the face of the horse.
  5. Give enough attention and describe both the edges as well as the internal shapes.
  6. Use continuous overlapping lines and vary the weight of the line.
  7. Though perfection is difficult to achieve, moving your hand at a similar speed may help you create more accurate proportions and shapes.
  8. Try repeating the drawing with different tools to find out what suits you best. For instance, you would be comfortable with a graphic pencil instead of an ink pen.
  9. Loop and zigzag to return to different areas of your drawings and create more detail.
  10. Let your hands be guided by your eyes, not the other way round. Continuous line drawing is all about perception and synchrony.


A line is the basis of visual art, and the different line drawing techniques help the artists implement the visual designs by taking their own ride. Lines in art enable you to create better textures which results in what we call modern masterpieces. Today contemporary art is incomplete without lines. The tradition of a simple line drawing continuous through the sculptures and painting created by cutting-edge artists.

The line drawing techniques can help the artists enhance their drawing skills and leave an impactful impression on the minds of the people of this world with a form of art that becomes eternal in history pages.


Ian Walsh is the creator and author of and an Art teacher based in Merseyside in the United Kingdom. He holds a BA in Fine Art and a PGCE in teaching Art and Design. He has been teaching Art for over 24 Years in different parts of the UK. When not teaching Ian spending his time developing this website and creating content for the improvedrawing channel.

Recent Posts