Tip for drawing clean lines


When I first got my Wacom graphic tablet it took some getting used to.  In addition to having to adjust some settings, there was just the problem of getting used to drawing in a 4″ x 6″ area while looking at a computer screen that is more like 12″ x 18″.  Llearning to draw without looking at what my hand was doing was a challenge in and of itself.  Although I managed to do some art with it, most of it wasn’t very good and I was getting frustrated.  A friend suggested a I try a simple drawing exercise to help train my hand muscles.  Its a very simple exercise and I’ll pass it along here.

Each day get out your graphic tablet and open up whatever graphic software you use to draw.  Practice drawing 50 horizontal lines going left to right, then 50 horizontal lines going right to left; follow this with 50 vertical lines going top to bottom and 50 more going bottom to top.   That’s it, the whole thing shouldn’t take you more than 5-10 minutes.

When drawing don’t “choke” your stylus, keep your hand relaxed and focus on making smooth clean strokes.  When you tense up and draw very slowly (trying to be careful) you’ll end up with a lot of little squiggles in your lines that don’t look very good.  Drawing digitally is, in my experience, less forgiving than drawing on paper.  The stylus is sensitive and tends to pick up every small quaver and jitter in your hand motion, which only gets worse when your hand is tense and you grip tightly (as we tend to do when we draw slowly).  Instead of slow tense movements, you want to make quick clean strokes with confidence and your lines will come out looking much better.  Eventually.

It takes practice.  My first day doing this my lines were often more diagonal than horizontal or vertical and few of them were actually straight.  If that happens don’t get discouraged, its normal.  Don’t stress if you make mistakes or things don’t look right, this is practice after all.

Line Practice Day 1

Line Practice Day 1

On my first day of practice my lines were pretty bad, actually, they were horrible!  (no really, I am an artist, I can draw! lol)  As you can see on Day 1 I just could not draw a straight line with my tablet.  I was making a lot of mistakes, most of which I wasn’t consciously aware of.  For example, gripping my stylus too tightly (which is why the lines are so heavy) and because of that tight grip I actually had less control over my lines.   Also, I had a tendency to drift to the left (I’m left handed, if you’re right handed you might find yourself drifting to the right).  On my vertical up stroke I also often “hooked” the end, because I was pulling my hand back before I’d fully lifted the stylus.  That’s the point of these exercises, to help you become aware of what you are doing wrong so you can correct yourself.  Most of the mistakes you’re making are actually easy to correct once you realize what it is you are doing wrong.  When you notice something wrong with your lines, like the end being bent or hooked, or maybe your lines tend to drift to left or right, just be more aware of that and adjust your hand motion.  Just keep at it, correcting the mistakes and building muscle memory doing the right things.

By the second day of doing this practice my lines were noticeably better, though still far from perfect.  But on my third day of practice about 30% of my lines were quite straight and clean.

Line Day 5

My practice sheet from Friday, after 5 days of practice.

As you can see, by Friday, things had dramatically improved.  My lines are lighter, straighter, crisper and cleaner.  I’m not hooking my ends anymore and the lines are generally more uniform.  That’s after just five days of daily practices that only took about 5 minutes of my time each day.  Not only are my lines much better, but I’m drawing with much more speed and confidence which is how it should be.  When every line you draw must be slow and methodical, art isn’t much fun.  When you learn to draw quickly, you can get the images in your head out quickly and that allows you to focus on enjoying the creative process itself.

Once you get the hang of straight lines, do the same thing drawing squares, triangles, and circles (hint, you don’t have to draw exactly 50 of each, but you should fill a page with each; the point is to practice through repetition).  These are three of the most important basic shapes you use drawing and once you are able to draw them comfortably drawing other things becomes much simpler.  You may also notice you draw things more quickly without giving up quality.

Hope you found this tip helpful.  As always, keep being creative!


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