Learn how to master line art to create works of art in seconds

don’t know what steps you need to take to master line art? Have you learned all about how to make line art, but don’t know anything about how the drawing technique came about?

When we were kids we used to draw with two unbeatable elements: the “little balls” and the “sticks”. With these we could make from a tree for our landscape, to the rocket that would take us to the moon, do you remember? Well, line art is just that: the oldest, but most powerful form of artistic expression.

To know the most primitive example of line art, just analyze the first known drawing made by a human being on a stone, located “in what is now South Africa” according to Live Science.

On this stone there remain 6 parallel lines, crossed by 3 slightly curved lines – a prehistoric ancestor of the hashtag -. the impressive thing is that this type of line art is more than 73,000 years old!

On the other hand, what has emerged in the caves evolved and many of the best painters in history have experimented with their own line art styles such as Leonardo Da Vinci and his sketches, Pablo Picasso and his abstract line art or the contemporary art of Keith Haring.

Nowadays, this way of drawing is a trend in illustration thanks to professional comic line art designers and artists who have popularized it.

So… Do you want to make a line art design? Here’s what’s involved in this painting technique, and at the end of the article, you’ll find out how to make line art in Photoshop .

get ready to represent your vision with the power of the line!

what is line art?

Line art is a painting, drawing and illustration technique that consists of creating a piece using lines of different weights, thicknesses, angles, directions and lengths to demonstrate shape and/or depth. it’s perfect for learning how to draw!

The definition of line art tells us that it is a drawing that is created with different lines resting on a solid background of any color, although it is usually white. Generally, they are monochromatic illustrations, without shadows, lights or fills -although remember that every “rule” can be broken-.

Now, if you really want to understand what line art is, we must start from its central element: the line.

Obra de arte que representa lo que es line artFrancoise Gilot by Picasso. Source: Fine Art America.

what is the line in art?

The line is in charge of “writing” a form. According to the Paul Getty Museum, the line is an identifiable path created by a point moving in space. It is one-dimensional and can vary in width, direction and length. This is the starting point for understanding the meaning of line art.

In line art, lines delimit the areas, volumes and shapes of matter – abstractly or realistically – as they draw the outline of things guided by your hand and creativity. That is why they serve as a structural element and as an expressive element.

For example, look at this work by Egon Schiele, a linear artwork on a solid background depicting a woman, but focusing on the expressiveness of the lines.

Obra en donde el line art se encuentra en su máxima expresión Girl (Mädchen) by Egon Schiele. Source: MoMA.

Types of lines in line art

Knowing how to do traditional or digital line art may seem simple, but arousing emotion requires a lot of practice and attention to detail.

Before you begin, you should always remember that lines are powerful resources that help you convey a lot of information in a way that is easy to memorize.

Using the different types of lines in a line art drawing directs the viewer’s eye around the artistic composition, therefore, every stroke made should have a foundation, and even the smallest detail of the design has to be in accordance with the rest of the drawing .

So, for the avoidance of doubt, the types of lines you can use in your line art design are:

Horizontal: they convey rest or repose. in line art landscapes, the lines give a sense of space and show their continuation in the plane beyond the left and right.
Vertical: being perpendicular to the ground and extending into the sky, they give a sense of height in any type of line art.
Diagonals: bring movement and instability in a line art drawing, as if something is about to fall.
Straight lines: communicate permanence and solidity. rectilinear shapes with 90 degree angles are structurally stable.
Curves: convey energy and give a softening effect to line art design compositions.

what are the types of line art?

Line art is one of the most widely used illustration, painting and drawing techniques. Nowadays, many line art artists can make super varied compositions, even if there are only two formats:

Analog form. it consists of drawing with the classic paper and pencil (pens, markers, inks, brushes, etc.) or with wood or metal relief engravings (such as stamps).
Digital form. you can create your line art in a traditional way and scan it, or work with a 100% digital drawing as we will show you later in the article.

with either of these two techniques you can create the following types of line art!

1. Line art with one line

With one line art you can illustrateportraits, draw nature or any other object. check out this example of line art of a woman with one line!

Como hacer arte lineal con una sola líneaSource: Freepik.

2. Line art for comics

Line art is also used to make comics, manga, graphic novels or fanfics. Once you have your sketch or sketch designed, just ink the outline to get a line art drawing for comics, among others already mentioned.

Caro ejemplo de line art para comicsSource: Reddit.

3. Line art for character design

Line art is also used for cartoon design. it follows the same logic as comics, as it works on a previously designed sketch that is then inked.

4. Line art for coloring

Line art is the perfect starting point for color and watercolor illustrations. that’s why children are masters of line art! in addition to making them into classic stick and ball drawings, line art can be found in coloring books. Who hasn’t even drawn a mandala (a line art drawing) to release stress?

Mándala como un ejemplo de arte linealSource: Freepik.

5. Line art for tattoos

Line art also makes a presence in tattoo design, regardless of the style they handle: American old school, watercolor, blackwork, Japanese, realistic, tribal, etc. check out this example!

Claro ejemplo de line art en tatuajesSource: Pinterest.

6. Line art as art in its own right

Many artists develop their work based on the definition of line art. We already saw the examples of Picasso’s geometric line art, remember? Well, check out this work by Jackson Pollock in which he created abstract line art with only black strokes.

Obra que representa uno de los tipos de lineartNumber 14 by Jackson Pollock. Source: Pinterest.

what are the best programs to make line art?

There is no doubt that learning how to do traditional line art is a totally different exercise than the one done with the help of digital tools. However,technology can be a great friend for beginner users or for experts who want to work down to the last detail with a very high degree of precision.

So, if you have a great affinity with the mouse and want to use it to bring any of your favorite line art examples to life, here are five of the best line art programs .

1. Illustrator

Adobe Illustrator is an excellent platform for bringing any vector image to life and has enough tools to help you create the best line art drawing.

Besides, once you complete the line art work, you have joined all the anchor points and your design is finished, the system will also allow you to fill it with colors and even make a gradient of them.

Finally, remember that Illustrator is not a free program. After the first 30-day trial period, you’ll have to pay a minimum of $12 a month .

2. Paint Tool SAI

It is impossible to deny that Adobe’s programs are among the best for working with all types of line art, but, due to the amount of options and tools they have, they can be difficult programs for beginner artists to master.

So, if you want to find a line art program that has an interface that is easier to understand and at the same time offers very high quality results, Paint Tool Sai is an excellent alternative.

On the other hand, it is important to mention that the free trial has a maximum duration of 31 days. after that, you will have to pay a one-time license fee of $47 .

3. Procreate

what to do if you want to try to recreate some examples of line art but you don’t have a computer? In that case you can turn to an app like Procreate.

Available only for devices with an iOS operating system, Procreate is perfect for creating line art drawings via touchscreen. on the other hand, although you can download it on a smartphone, if there is the possibility, it is best to do it on an iPad to have better control of the sketch.

But… Is it free? Unfortunately not. Anyway, the good news is that its price is relatively low compared to other similar programs, since you only have to pay 10 dollars.

4. Corel Draw

Corel Draw is one of the most dynamic programs to learn how to make line art in a few steps. at first glance it may have some similarities with Illustrator, but, in its more modern versions, it even has some tools that Adobe’s platform has not yet incorporated.

A clear example of this is LiveSketch. through this function, Corel Draw allows you to improve vector tracing between different points, “making use of pressure sensitivity to vary the type of stroke you are creating”, according to the website Cosmo Digital Art.

As for its price, it offers two types of plans:

Annual plan – Offers access to all the benefits and updates of the program, through a monthly payment of $16 .
One-time purchase – Allows you to design in the same way as the annual plan. However, here the purchase occurs in a single payment of $376 and only offers access to the current version.

5. Photoshop

Adobe Photoshop is world famous for its excellent performance when it comes to creating and modifying images, sketches and, of course, true works of art.

Of all the programs available, it is one of the most chosen for working with line art drawings and, in terms of cost, it is similar to Illustrator: 12 dollars a month, after passing the 30-day free trial .

So, if you dare to capture your talent in line art on Photoshop’s digital work table, we will now go into detail about everything you need to learn to achieve it without any problems.

how to make line art in Photoshop?

Although line art can be created analogically, with pencil and ink directly on paper, here we will show you how to create it in pixels. of course, creating line art with the mouse will never be able to match the feeling of making the artwork with a pencil, but it can be an excellent alternative to give life to unique works.

So, as we already mentioned, basically any design program can be used to create line art. However, one of our favorites is Photoshop, because it is a very versatile software that not only works for line art, but also for photo retouching, logo design and more.

let’s take a look!

1. Get familiar with line art brushes

Brushes are your main tool for learning how to make line art in Photoshop. Brushes work by adding a stroke to a layer and can change its appearance depending on the pressure you apply to your tablet stylus or PC mouse.

the fun part is that you can experiment with different brushes and configure them to your liking! how? The basic options for customizing a line art brush in Photoshop are:

Brush tip shape.
Blending mode.

With Photoshop brushes you can achieve different textures, thicknesses, weights and details in your stroke and give more character to your minimalist, abstract or any other type of line art.

2. Design your sketch

Before making a line art, you must have the sketch of your design. If you are a beginner, make sure your sketch is very clean and has thin strokes to make it easier to draw line art and not get confused about which line to go over with the brush.

how to come up with the concept for a sketch? Felo Lira, illustrator and teacher of our online course Introduction to illustration with wacom, recommends to start with 3 elements and do an exercise where you join them together. You can practice how to do traditional lineart with a sheet of paper and a pencil.

check it out! Here Felo Lira connected 3 different elements in a sketch for line art: a dog, a guitar and a branch.

Arte lineal en ejemplos para lograrloSource: Introduction to illustration with Wacom online course.

3. Import your sketch into Photoshop

Once you’re happy with your sketch, you need to transfer it to Photoshop and then continue with the type of line art you’ve chosen. Scan it, import it into Photoshop and clean it up. clean it up? yes! There are two alternatives for that :

Lower the opacity of the sketch and, on another layer, modify its outline. You can add corrections to the design on the fly.

Ejemplo para demostrar como mejorar el lineartSource: Online course Introduction to illustration with Wacom.

If you no longer want to make any changes to the sketch, go to the “Levels ” window (Command + L or CTRL + L) and set them to leave the whites completely white and the blacks blacker. You now have the “sketch” for your line art.

Ejemplo de uno de los tipos de lineartSource: Introduction to illustration with Wacom online course.

4. Create the line art

With your sketch ready, let’s get started with the line art! First you must choose a size that favors a clean and clear rendering. It is recommended to use a format between 2000 and 5000 px, and between 300 and 350 dpi.

With these settings ready, follow these steps to learn how to make a line art in Photoshop.

Select one of the line art brushes for Photoshop that you like and give it the thickness and color you want. To start with, you can use the G pencil or realistic G pencil in black color with an intermediate thickness according to the size of your canvas.
Lower the opacity of the sketch to make it easier to distinguish those strokes from the line art.
Create a new layer exclusively for line art.
Outline your sketch. here you can make a free stroke or use curves.

Resultado de como hacer arte linealSource: Online course Introduction to illustration with Wacom.

5. Keep in mind these additional tips

Learning how to make line art in Photoshop is not that complicated, but if you don’t have a lot of experience yet, it may be that lack of knowledge, nerves and anxiety can play a trick on you.

So, in addition to following the steps mentioned above, we also recommend you to apply the following additional tips :

Feel free to redo the line art if you don’t feel comfortable with the result. Do it slowly, calmly and with a lot of love.
if your hand is too shaky, you can apply the “Smooth tool of the brush so that Photoshop automatically corrects the stroke.
play with the thickness and weight of the lines to give more character to your line art drawing.
you can also use vector layers for your line art design.

By the way, Litio Castillo, illustrator and teacher of our online course Character Illustration: Fanart and Originals, teaches us that:

It is not necessary to follow the sketch 100%, in the line art we can add things or make them different, since the sketch is just a suggested guide of what we want to achieve.”

Finally, keep in mind that if the lines are too thick, they will stand out once the drawing is painted. But, if they are too thin, the outlines will barely show through. here it’s a matter of how you want to do your line art example!

Hombre aprende como hacer lineart en PhotoshopSource: Freepik

Tips to improve your line art

As with any art, mastering any type of line art takes practice. So, here are some tips to help you learn it much faster. don’t limit yourself!

1. Keep it clean

Use the lines to clearly delimit the different areas of your line art drawing. Don’t go over and over these lines again and again. Remember that good line art is generally sharp, well defined and easy to read.

2. Use the flattening

In this case, once again we turn to Felo Lira, who, through his knowledge, teaches us that:

“Flattening is basically when you generate light or shadow only with black and white tonal values.”

Look at this example of line art, Felo Lira started painting black lines and gradually moved them away to give the illusion that black becomes white. this is the flattening technique!

Ejemplos de resultados de programas para hacer lineartSource: Introduction to illustration with Wacom online course.

Flattening has a completely aesthetic function and serves to generate volume. It’s not mandatory in line art, however, you can include it to give a little more detail to your illustration.

Ejemplos del arte lineal en su máxima expresión Source: Introduction to illustration with Wacom online course.

3. Vary the weight of your lines

Experiment with different line weights. You can use different line art brushes in Photoshop with different tips, textures, thicknesses, etc.

You can add a medium-thick stroke for the main lines, start with a thick stroke and finish with a thinner one, or use thin strokes to add small details or shading lines. Using bolder lines will help you keep your line art drawing looking dynamic.

4. Play with the canvas while you’re tracing

If there’s a line in your line art design that you’re having trouble making, you can rotate the canvas to find a more comfortable position. and how to do that? simple! Go to the “Image” tool > “Image Rotation” and move it to the desired position.

You can also hide the sketch layer from time to time to verify that the line art progresses as you want and you don’t find yourself lost among the strokes.

5. Practice and practice

Get in the habit of keeping a sketchbook with you at all times to practice your strokes and do exercises to loosen your hand beforehand. Don’t get frustrated if the line art example doesn’t come out the first time. As with any artistic technique, practice makes perfect. experiment and discover your type of line art!

Best books to learn how to do line art

Taking line art to digital platforms is an excellent idea, but, if you have more affinity for the old school and your goal is to learn how to do traditional line art, you can’t miss the books mentioned below.

1. LineArt Collection

LineArt Collection is a work by Guy Waisman, in which you will find a collection of “geometric designs inspired by line art drawings” distributed in 282 pages, according to Amazon.

So, if you are interested in acquiring a work of these characteristics to take classes on line art, this material is excellent. The only thing you should keep in mind is that there are only English versions and its price is $30.

2. Mandala Grayscale & Lineart

If you have a passion for mandalas and you are also interested in learning one of the most popular types of line art, the book Mandala Grayscale & Lineart by Maria Schiavone is the right choice.

It is characterized for being a summarized work, economical and very rich in details, since it has only 30 pages, written in English, and its price is 10 dollars. not to be missed!

3. The Fantastic Line Art of Arthur Rackham

is it possible to learn about history and line art at the same time? yes, it is! And one of the best ways to do it is through the book The Fantastic Line Art of Arthur Rackham by Jeff Menges .

In its 176 pages written in English, you will find the most amazing line art drawings by Arthur Rackham, remembered as one of the leading illustrators of the 19th century .

So, if you want to get a copy, the price for a new one is $14.

Mujer aplica los conocimientos obtenidos en libros de line artSource: Pexels

Line art forces you to describe shapes and ideas with monochromatic strokes, taking them to the most essential abstraction. That’s why it’s the perfect technique to practice with the different elements of art such as light, texture, perspective and composition.

let’s draw!

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