Mastering Line Quality in Drawing


Have you ever thought about the importance of line quality in drawing?

Did you realize that line quality in drawing is one of the major determining factors in the overall success of a drawing.

Yes, line quality in drawing is essential to the overall success of your completed drawing or painting.

As you finish a drawing or painting, you need to be very aware of Line Quality.  Line Quality will greatly affect how successful the finished drawing will be.  Even if your drawing is absolutely accurate, the finished result could be a failure if the line quality is lacking.

A Line is Like a Melody

Think of a line as a melody.  Let’s imagine for a moment that I am playing a melody on the piano.

I play Middle C once or twice.  Okay, that’s a good start, right?

But what if I just keep playing Middle C over and over in the same way for 10 minutes?  Not good.

Now the melody is boring because I just keep playing the same note over and over and over in the same way.  You quickly become bored with my melody and lose interest.  Right?

A line is exactly the same as a melody. If your line is exactly the same all over the drawing, your eye quickly becomes bored with the effect. And you will lose interest in the drawing.

So you must vary your line throughout the drawing. This is also called “Lost and Found” lines. Let some lines be very strong and pronounced.  And let other lines be soft and fade out, just like in a song melody.

Your drawing will be more interesting and successful as a result.

Take a look at some Old Masters to see how they used line quality in their drawings.

Line quality in drawing
Pencil study of a young woman by Leonardo da Vinci

Pay close attention to the line quality in this drawing by Leonardo da Vinci.

Notice that the line is strongest and more pronounced near areas of importance, such as the eyes, nose and mouth.

And that the line fades out and is weaker in the hair, shoulders and other areas.

Notice that some lines fade out completely, especially in the hair, and then come back a short space later.

This design element of “Suggestion” allows your mind to complete the drawing for you.

Suggestion is more powerful in design than literal renderingDa Vinci knew this well.

Shop now for art prints by Da Vinci.

The drawing below of Libyan is by Michelangelo. It is a red chalk study on parchment paper for the painting in the Sistine Chapel.

Again, notice how line quality adds to the character of the drawings as a whole. Lines are especially dark and pronounced near bone, such as in the ankle of the foot study.

Lost and Found lines occur throughout these studies and help add to the suggestion of form.

Line quality in drawing
Libyan by Michelangelo. Red chalk study for the painting in the Sistine Chapel.

Shop now for art prints by Michelangelo

French impressionist painter Edgar Degas is considered one of the all-time master draftsman. His skill at both painting and drawing is unmatched in art history.

Degas is famous for his drawings, paintings and sculptures of ballerinas. The drawing below shows one of his pencil studies of a dancer.

Notice how the lines in the dress are very subtle and fade out while the lines in the figure are more complete and literally rendered.

Line quality in drawing
Pencil study of a ballerina by Edgar Degas

Shop now for art prints by Edgar Degas 

Are you ready to be a better draftsman and painter?

Are you ready to improve the line quality in your drawings?

Then pick up your pencils, charcoals, paper and join us.

Drawing Exercise

Spend 15 minutes each day for the next 7 days just focusing on line quality in your finished drawings. You can take some of the unfinished drawings from your daily drawings and make sure the line quality is good.

Use Lost and Found Lines and other techniques learned from this blog post to improve the line quality into a finished drawing.

Study Old Master drawings as much as possible to learn and emulate how they used line in their drawings.

Spend a few minutes each day for the next 7 days looking at Old Master line drawings. Many books on art history are available at your local library and you can, of course, always view your favorite artists online.

Recommended Art Supplies for this Drawing Challenge

Do you need some art supplies to get going on this challenge?

I recommend two things to get you started:

  1. A nice set of pencils, charcoals and erasers
  2. A small sketchbook, 9 x 12 inches or smaller
This 18-piece drawing set by Pro Art is perfect to get you started for this drawing challenge.

For the pencil set, try this 18 piece drawing set by Pro Art. It has all the pencils, charcoals, erasers and sharpeners that you will need.

It is perfect for beginners. And perfect for this challenge.

You will want to experiment with different drawing media from pencils to charcoal. That way you can learn what works best for you and for getting different results.

Experiment with the pencils and charcoals to see what variation of line quality you can achieve. Again, experimentation is the key here, you should always be experimenting.

Here is what you get in this set:

  • 8 graphite pencils (2H to 6B)
  • 3 charcoal pencils
  • 2 charcoal sticks
  • 1 sketch stick
  • Pencil sharpener
  • Charcoal sharpener
  • 1 kneaded eraser
  • 1 White Pro art plastic erase
  • Great for beginners
  • Holding and toggle clamps included to keep wood steady and ensure precise cuts every tim
  • Additional two sharpeners and two erasers

I recommend a small sketch pad  for this challenge. Try a 9 x 12 inch or smaller spiral bound.

drawing and painting
This smaller size 9 x 12 inch sketch pad allows you to take it with you on the go. That way you have it with you anytime inspiration strikes. It's a sure way to make sure you get your daily drawings going.

The smaller size allows you to take it with you on the go.

That way you can sketch whenever you see an object that inspires you.

Being able to quickly take out your sketch book and start drawing is an important aspect to this challenge.

The convenience of having it with you at all times is what keeps you on track and able to do the daily drawing, regardless of your schedule.

Does that make sense?

Here's why I like this sketch book:

  • BUY ONE GET ONE FREE - 2 Pack of 75 Page Sketchpads. 50% More than the Competition
  • High QUALITY 60lb (90GSMS) Paper - 100% Acid-Free and Neutral PH. Perfectly Textured for a Smooth Non-Reflective Finish
  • DURABLE SPIRALED BINDING - Each Page has a Perforated Edging for Easy Tearing. Ideal for Framing or Presenting!
  • IDEAL FOR ARTISTS, WRITERS, & ILLUSTRATORS - Highly Universal Product for Beginners or Professionals. Can also be used as a Journal, Diary, or Watercolor Canvas
  • FULL 100% MANUFACTURER MONEY BACK GUARANTEE - If you find any flaw with this book, or any of our products, you get a free replacement or a full refund.

Just to let you know, all of the product links in this article are affiliate links. That means I get a small commission if you buy anything, but it doesn’t cost you any extra. Don’t worry, I’m always honest, open, impartial with my reviews – I only recommend the good stuff – but this affiliate income helps keep the site running.

Please share your images on Instagram and Twitter by using the hashtag #MasteringLineQuality. I can't wait to watch your journey!

Also, if you have had some unique experiences with creating line quality, please share them with us in the comments below.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Mark Gregg

    Hello Gary
    Good advice given freely and honestly. You’ve made me think more about the marks I make and their importance in not just capturing the shape but how they should really contribute to the drawing by being a descriptive part of the shape – if that makes sense.
    Many thanks

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