In this article, I give you my insight on line art and line drawing. After drawing years on end line art and perfecting the techniques related to it, I thought it would be cool to share my thoughts on it and how I see line art. I have always loved line drawing and it’s still one of my favorite part of the when drawing an illustration. And to give you a quick hint, line art is possibly the easiest step there is when drawing a fully colored illustration.
Here is the full list of topics I will be covering in this article:
- What is Line Art?
- Line art in different art software and how to choose the correct one
- How to Draw Line Art?
- When to Know Your Line Art Needs Improvement
- Why You Need Line Art In Your Drawings
- How to Make Money with Your Line Art
What is Line Art?
To start off, we’ll go through what exactly is line art. What differentiates it from for example sketch lines.
Line art or line drawing is a drawing phase where you draw lines intentionally and with a thought on top of your sketch layer. It is a set of defined lines and more than usually are meant to be part of your drawing. Line drawing or line art is usually left to be seen rather than to hide it in the final illustration.
Line art or line drawing is meant to be drawn on top of a sketch layer. So in that sense, it’s usually so that you draw a sketch first and only after you have nailed the sketch drawing, you will move on to line art.
Line art being the last stop just before you start to color your illustration.
I don’t recommend drawing a line art without a sketch layer. As this can be extremely difficult and time-consuming. This also requires you to have a precise vision and image in your head about what you are drawing. Also, keep in mind the final illustration and all details in the drawing. Nailing precise line art without sketch layer is insanely difficult.
Line art is usually seen as the outline for different elements in your drawing. It will create a structure for your drawing and enables you to separate elements from each other.
Gradation and Hue, a shift of opacity and color in line art
Many think that line art does not have gradations but that is a false belief as line art can easily have a gradation effect in place.
Gradation means that the line does not have opacity shift. Meaning the whole line is drawn with only one color (usually black) and that it does not have shades of grey in it. Line art can have gradation effect and that is ok. As line art is something that can be seen as its own form of art. It can have variation in shade and still look as line art drawing.
It is also believed that line art is only drawn with a pure black color, which again is a false belief. Line art can be drawn with any color imaginable. The main point is that the line art is there to either support the final illustration or carry its own and be a line art drawing without color.
Line drawing can already be a finished piece of artwork.
Line art in different art software and how to choose the correct one
Many of the art software available today have the needed features to draw awesome line art. However, what you should take into consideration is the art style you are currently drawing. If it’s a loose style, you might not need software that is specialized in quality line art.
If you want to produce graphical line drawing, usually seen in the graphic design. Adobe Illustrator is an excellent choice. If you are more into anime style, Clip Studio Paint or Paint Tool SAI are good choices. If you want to draw quality line art but it’s not the main thing, Adobe Photoshop might just do it for you.
So you really have to think what kind of art style you are either producing or want to produce. Choose the art software based on that knowledge.
How to Draw Line Art?
Drawing line art starts by choosing/buying an art software capable of producing quality line art. Now, you might be thinking that, ain’t all art software capable of doing that? Most likely they are. But here’s the thing. Some software like Clip Studio Paint does it in a way no other product does. You see, some art software is more focused on certain art style and thus have developed a set of tools to make the line drawing experience as pleasant as possible.
I personally use Clip Studio Paint to draw my line art. I could also use Adobe Photoshop to draw my line art but just because Clip Studio Paint has so much more features and better line art experience overall, I use CSP. It is also easier to continue using one software for the whole illustration and as the coloring is also truly pleasant in CSP, I use that.
When you have chosen your art software it is time to choose the correct brush to do the actual line art. Now, it is difficult to say exactly what kind of brush you should use to draw line art. But to give you an idea, use a brush with a small pixel size and use a large canvas. This way you will get those crisp lines.
There are a lot of elements affecting the end result of your line drawing. So only brush size and canvas size is not enough. You also have to choose whether to use a non-textured brush or a textured brush. You also have to have a certain base settings for your document. Correct brush settings and a bunch more.
So to really draw quality line art that is strong and already looks like finished artwork, you need correct settings in place.
When to Know Your Line Art Needs Improvement
So you have drawn your line art just to see that it looks bad. Or at least not something you intended it to look. You spent quite a lot of time drawing it but the results are not what you wanted them to be. I know.
I’ve been there sooo many times.
There were like millions of times when I was just admiring others line drawing and just dreamed of getting the same results.
It felt impossible to draw a straight line. Without experiencing shakiness of any kind. Like, all my lines were shaky. Then I found a way to swing my hand very fast to reduce the shakiness effect. But with this “technique” I missed the correct connection point like every time. And being honest, that is not a technique to swing your hand across the drawing tablet.
There were so many times when the line art was too thick or too thin. Even thinking about the times when I drew one line at a time gives me chills. In this post, I show you a few things how you can notice that your line art might just need some improvement.
Your line art is too thin or too thick
You zoom out and see your line art is either too thin or too thick. That’s it. It’s there and either you draw the line art again, try to correct it or just give up. I remember when I drew line art for one drawing and when I was ready with it I zoomed out and saw that. Oh crap!
It was way too thin. Like you just couldn’t see the line art at all. This was so devastating to me. As the drawing was something I just wanted to complete. I had to draw the line art again. Every line. Drawn again. It wasn’t much fun. But now I know what to check before starting the whole line art drawing process.
There always has to be a balance to the line art. If it’s too thin, the line art is not visible enough. If it’s too thick it, it dominates the drawing.
There was one character design I really liked. So I started to draw the line art with great enthusiasm. It took a while as it had a lot of details. I got like halfway through and then I zoomed out. Bam! The line art was way too thick. Like I couldn’t separate details and shapes in the character. It looked quite good while zoomed in but when zoomed out. It was way off. Line art was just way too thick.
As mentioned there has to be a balance with the line art.
Line art was drawn a line by line
Yeah, this might sound weird. But look at the image above and you get the idea. So drawing line by line is actually a mistake I made at the very beginning. I just wasn’t confident enough to draw lines like they were meant to be drawn. Also lacked the knowledge on how to draw lines with confidently. I just didn’t have it in me.
So drawing line by line is something you shouldn’t do at least not the way I drew. Otherwise, you will get results that look like there was no confidence in them. And I would argue that confidence is something that is required to draw line art correctly.
As you can see from the image there is a clear difference between the right and left image. When you draw your lines in one continuous movement you will get much better results. Insanely better.
Long lines are not straight or curved correctly
This is probably the one thing most beginner or even advanced artists struggle. You have a drawing that has a long line. Let’s say a hair strand or like the jawline of this toad pictured here. You could swing your arm as fast as you can to nail those lines. What if they don’t connect correctly or if the line curves many times? Can’t swing your arm then.
When I was still having difficulties with long lines. I always had this little mental game of sort that I went through. Like I got ready to draw the long lines. Like I had to prepare myself mentally to draw them. I had to do this because the lines were so difficult to nail down. I knew I had to CTRL + Z (Undo) the lines a million times. Before nailing the line just the way I wanted. It wasn’t too much fun. So I had to have the right state of mind to draw them. I’m not kidding here. This is true.
Long lines are possibly the most difficult lines to draw. Drawing long lines shows whether you know how to draw line art or not. There are steps and techniques that need to be in place to nail those lines correctly.
I use word long line, rather than a straight line because a long line can be straight even when it is curved. You see. Longs lines are the thing that requires the most knowledge. Have you ever felt that short lines are difficult to draw straight? I believe not.
There is just something demanding in the long lines and it is the continuation of the line that makes it so damn difficult to get right. Well, that was the case anyway. Thankfully not anymore.
Lines are not connecting correctly
Yup! You draw a long line and nope it didn’t connect correctly. The lines are not creating a continuous line and you can clearly see there are two separate lines. That is the exact effect of lines not connecting correctly. This can happen when you draw a long line from one end and then you draw the other line from another end, just to meet the lines in the middle. I did this when I was just beginning with line art.
It took quite a lot of times before the lines connected correctly.
Another way is to draw a line and then lifting the pen and drawing another line continuing from the previous line. Sure, this ain’t so bad. You could connect the lines quite nicely but then you would have to have the correct settings in place. And you should have a correct brush for the job and also the correct line art style. So this ain’t so bad.
Correctly connected lines create a uniform line art. So in order to create quality line art and something that looks professional. Connecting lines correctly is a must.
Why You Need Line Art In Your Drawings
It creates structure
What I have always liked about line art is that it gives your drawing a structure. A structure to follow to say. You have some outlines you can follow and truly see how the artwork is shaping up to be. You can kind of like count on it.
When you have the line art in place you can always check from it, how you should color elements. It gives you a framework. It enables you to also focus only on coloring and not to the shapes so much. You have already defined the shapes with the line art. So coloring is building volume inside the lines.
With a structure, you can more easily focus on other things. Volume, shading, lighting among other things. Line art also makes sure you don’t go out of borders. Line art nicely combines shapes together and already makes an image look complete.
Like you can actually sell your artwork at this stage. Line art is somewhat seen as 50% of a complete artwork. So when you have mastered line art and have created a structure for your work. Just put it up for sale. Why not? Someone can easily use that as a base for further drawing on top of it. They would have a structure to follow.
It gives you a guideline
By guideline, I mean how the line art guides your drawing process. When you have line art place it is easy to follow and draw further. Right. So when you have completed your awesome line art. You have structure and a guideline which to follow.
You can focus on drawing one element at a time and move on with the drawing systematically. It gives you a simple process for yourself. Line art kind of places your focus on certain elements at a time. You can focus on the face first. Render that to almost completion. You have the line art in place so you can easily just follow the line art to the next element to be rendered.
Line art gives you a guideline. It makes you focus. It takes away distractions.
Yes, line art in that sense also confines you. Yes. However, if you like to be guided through an image. Like I do a lot. It is only a good thing. I like the fact that the line art is there to guide my hand through the artwork. It makes me go through the image in a peaceful manner.
It really doesn’t mean that you can’t jump from one object to another and gradually render all pieces and elements. Surely you can do that. I usually like to progress rather systematically and build the image gradually completing one section before jumping to another totally.
As always there are many ways for you to progress through artwork. The fact being that line art can guide you through if you let it guide.
It gives you borders
Borders meaning that you draw inside the frame line art has given you. Let’s say you draw a character. You more than likely have it placed around the center of the canvas. Now there is a lot of white space around the character and that is the border I am talking about here.
If you think about the image above (You can read more about this artworks creation process here). It has clear borders. So it gives you borders to work inside it. With these borders, you can easily color just the inside by creating a mask or just filling the outer area. Or whatever is the technique you use to color or render.
With line art, you can truly isolate objects in their own space and refine each one at a time. You might have foreground middle ground and background. Line art helps to differentiate those elements from each other. Like you can see in the below example.
So in this example line art acts as borders for different grounds so to say. It is easy to check whether elements work together or not. You can easily create a silhouette just because of you the line art in place.
Silhouette also gives you a nice way to check whether the image is in balance or if it needs further tweaking.
When you created these silhouettes you can quickly switch between values to see what kind of coloring works for which element. Should the foreground be lighter than the background or vice versa?
Coloring the drawing is so much easier
Just like mentioned before. Structure, guideline, and borders all give you a base for coloring. If that is what you are looking for. To color your artwork. As I mentioned before, you can sell quality line art drawings already. So you might not need to color them if that is not your thing.
However, if you are to color your drawings. Then line art is damn effective for just that. Think about it. Line art gives you a set area which to color. You can select an area with the Magic Wand Tool (Adobe Photoshop) or with Auto Select (Clip Studio Paint) -there are many names to this tool. But the overall idea is that it selects area based on predefined borders, that of which is the line art you have drawn.
So now that you have a selection, you can’t go wrong with the coloring. You are only coloring the area that is meant to be colored. Not accidentally coloring areas that are not meant to be colored.
You see. This small selection tool gives you so much freedom even in contained space. You can color freely when there is a selection active. You can also use masks which work just as fine.
Even if you wouldn’t use any selection tool or anything. Still, the line art gives you boundaries in which you work on. So it really is a wonderful thing to have line art. it is so useful and with it you can already see beforehand how the artwork will most likely look when completed.
It is already a wonderful piece of art even with just a line art in place.
How to Make Money with Your Line Art?
Who would have thought you could make money with line art? But you can. And next, I will be showing you how to do just that. These examples are just a few of the many ways you can make money with your line art. And will most likely be updating the list down the road.
The world is full of opportunities and if you got the willpower and the skills you will do awesome in your life. It is not easy to sell things but with the right audience and line drawing, you will generate sales.
It is up to you how you sell your products. You will decide your success. Believe in yourself and you will do good.
So let’s dive in and see some of the ways you can use to make money with your line art.
Sell your line art drawings online, like in eBay
There’s no reason why you couldn’t just sell your line drawings as a finished artwork. Just think about it, there are a lot of people just wanting to buy line art drawings only because they look so awesome. I personally like line drawings damn much and appreciate everytime I see some quality line art. I can’t be the only one out there that thinks this way.
There are some artists that sell line art drawings just on eBay alone. Line art poster is not something you couldn’t sell. Right? I mean, what is stopping you? You are creating an awesome artwork and even if you would color it. Why wouldn’t you just sell the line art part already?
Some of the line art posters listed on eBay have a price range of $20-$200, I mean that is a nice income from just a line drawing.
I think selling line art drawings online is basically endless. The only thing stopping people doing that is usually two things.
- The amount of work related to post the artwork for sale.
- The doubt inside you that you don’t make a sale.
What can you really lose? By posting your line drawings online and giving them a price tag, only gives you the ability to earn income from your art. Why not go for it?
You can always try and if it’s not working for you. Try another platform. Be creative and try to find platforms that are showing line art work on their first page. Just dive in and believe in yourself.
Commission requests and projects from clients
Did you know that line art is actually one of the key phases that can already be invoiced from a client?
Usually when you get a commission request or a project request from clients. There are more than often 2-5 phases to the illustration. This is from a project perspective. This time, however, I will be talking from line art point of view and from that perspective you can invoice line art even if the order was to draw a fully fledged colored illustration.
You see, line art is kind of the middle point when doing a commission work.
There is a lot of work to be done to the point of producing line art but there’s a lot of work also after the line art. So this way you can invoice the already made work. And as a general tip, do always invoice the line art part and only after the customer has paid for the work, complete rest of the illustration.
This is general advice and for a simple commission. For some serious projects, you should divide the invoicing into multiple parts. Invoicing all major drawing phases.
So whenever you get a commission request you can already invoice the line art part and then continue working with the client. This way you will already get to carry home part of the money involved in producing the artwork.
Line art commissions
You can also get line art commissions. Where the client only wants line art drawing and nothing else. It could be that the client wants to color the line art drawing later on. Or the client might just like the art style and the line drawing you create.
So there is always the possibility of earning money just by drawing line art. And when you become a master at it, you can produce some seriously cool looking line art and get paid to do just that. Not even having to color your work. Just sell the lines.
In these cases you should keep in mind what kind of rights you give to the client and whether he/she can sell the artwork later on. So do keep in mind how you want your work to be shared or further produced later on.
Print on demand products also known as POD
Print on demand stores is an awesome way to monetize your artworks. The name means exactly what it suggests, your products are printed and usually shipped to your customer whenever they make a purchase. This way you don’t have to keep any excess stock of merchandise. Your products are manufactured only when there is demand for them.
This is an awesome and easy way to create your own product catalog without a lot of effort.
I have used POD shops for a while already and have nothing bad to say about them. They really do take care of everything for you. You can read more about print-on-demand business here.
You just create an awesome drawing and just upload it to the store of your choosing. Tweak the images so that it is presented nicely in your product. Create a nice description and that’s about it. Now you have your own little shop with your awesome art inserted into a varied selection of products.
Just to quickly list some of my favorite Print on Demand (POD) shops for you to check out:
- Design by Humans (most of the sales I have, come from this store)
First and foremost a t-shirt store. So might not be the best place to sell line art. Then again, just create a thick line drawing and color the line art. Upload it as a .PNG file and you got some damn awesome artworks printed to t-shirts. Just an idea for you.
Easy to master the shopfront. Create a plethora of products with ease. I think Redbubble has one of the easiest user interface + product creation front you can get. I mean, it is so easy to use and more importantly fast. You can quickly modify your images to fit the selected product. Just upload your image and enjoy the view of your very storefront.
A quality store with a nice selection of products not available on Redbubble. Works very much the same way as Redbubble, slightly clunkier to modify the uploaded image. But then again, you can think of this way that you only upload it once and then you are all good.
My go-to site to get art prints and especially to sell my art prints. Have been making sales through this store and really like how the illustrations are presented in the store. All looking quality and something you definitely want to decor your wall with. highly recommend this shop.
As you can see from this image (taken a screenshot from the front page), there is a line art drawing that has been picked by the curaters.
So there you have it. My little insight into line art and how I see it. There is a lot more to talk about line art but I think this article is already a nice place to start. If you liked the article, drop a comment and tell us what was your favorite thing about the article.