Line Quality


Drawing Basics


Lesson Info

Line Quality

Now let's talk about line quality. Here what do we have here? Something kind of messy. And we know how to sort of clean it up, we've done that before. Well we'll start over. Put your object down right there next to it and look at it and say oh, okay. This looks a little thick. Gonna make that a little thinner. Get your eraser, come back in, erase anything that looks kinda puffy. Okay, anything that has a cutout or a circle is gonna end up too wide, so I make it narrower. Do that to both of 'em. And with my line quality now, I'm really just doing a very steady, kind of a medium, something that's just a little bit darker than the original tracing that I did, but I'm not trying to do anything special to it yet. This is just to clean it up, to make it look more the proportions that I want it to be. Those up there. And Cleo when we're just starting out and just learning to draw, why is learning line quality important? It really gives your drawing a lot of variety and that's when you can...

kind of express more of the feeling in it. Like if I wanted to make these scissors like really violent and cutting I could do sharp and jagged lines. If I wanted to make these look like really soft and pretty scissors I could do softer, fuzzier lines. You can put it in atmosphere, you know, depending on where you want it to be. You really get to make up what you want your objects doing by the kind of line quality and shading and light you put into them. So it's kind of making it your own. If you wanna just do a technical drawing, that would be just making it look as perfect and clean as you could, but when we're doing these sketchy drawings I think it's good to put a little bit more feeling into it and decide what you wanna make the objects doing. Okay so there's one cleaned up. So that's pretty basic. And then I'm going to the next one. These ones are very skinny. So I'm really gonna cut out a lot of stuff. My favorite part is when I get to come in and do the sections that aren't there. Like anything that overlapped that I didn't trace around. I think that's when I really feel like I'm drawing instead of just tracing. Tracing kind of has a little bit of a bad rap because people think you're copying something, but what we're doing is really for position only. It's helping us get a headstart on our composition and our sizing, and we could hold it up and draw it like as if it were a model. It'd take a lot longer and then we probably would get it in the wrong place on the page and we'd have to erase it and start over. That's what happens to me. Okay. So I think you kind of get the idea, if you can see what I'm doing, of just carefully looking at your object, filling it in. I think I'm gonna do this one 'cause it has a little more interest. And Cleo while you're working on that I'm actually gonna pass along a question from one of our online students. Okay. They're curious about what tips you might have for left handed sketchers. This particular person says they always smudge their work. This is Elizabeth asking. Yes. Whenever she draws lefthanded. Elizabeth, thank you for asking because I really wanted to tell you something about that. You need to get out some tracing paper. It could be just another piece of the same paper that you're using. Tracing paper works really well though 'cause you can see what you're doing and it's very slippery. So get a piece of tracing paper. I usually cut it down a little. Oh I have two sheets here. (ripping) There we go. And always keep that over your drawing. So, see how slippery it is? So if you're drawing left handed, I've actually had to draw left handed a fair amount because I used to paint murals and you don't wanna have to climb down and move that ladder every time so you just stretch way over here, and then you stretch way over here, and then you climb down and move the ladder. (laughing) so I've done a fair amount of left handed painting even though it doesn't come naturally to me. So this is what you do. You're gonna turn your notebook upside down 'cause you're probably gonna have a big spiral binder thing here if you're left handed, and then you're gonna keep this over it all the time. So you should all, students in class too, you should all be doing that too. Just get out a piece of tracing paper and move it around so you don't smear your drawing. Once we get to the shading that's really important. Okay I think I'm gonna change this out now. There we go, and so I've drawn around most of these. Just cleaned up the lines. See how I made all of these a lot skinnier? And I went into the centers and I drew all these screws. Now I'm gonna start looking at my line quality. Okay. Where's my other marker? Don't know where it is. Okay. All of these I made on a piece of Arches hot press watercolor paper. So you're gonna get a little different quality on your printer paper that we're using 'cause this is a little softer, but you can come really close. So let's look at all the different things you can do with just this pencil. If you wanna draw a really sharp line, sharpen your pencil. I'm a stickler for sharp pencils. (sharpener grinding) One your pencil starts getting dull, just sharpen it. Don't be lazy. Okay, or if you have a really dull pencil, you know sometime when you're in the really dark spots drawing that's fine, too. I'll keep that going, but sometimes I just draw a little mark at the top of your page just so you know what you can do with your sharp pencil, and then 10 minutes later go try drawing that mark again and see if you can get the same line, and that'll remind you, oh, sharpen my pencil. So we have that sharp one, and then if you have a really dully pencil. This one's kinda dull. Come in you get less controlled mark. You can do a very light pressure and you can hardly see it. Or you can do a very heavy pressure. I'm calling this kind of a doodle line because you see a lot of people drawing, it's one of the most fun ways to draw where you don't do your sketch first and you just start out and you're just like I'm gonna draw a flower, and just kind of like here we go. Be bold, draw a circle, draw your pedals. You don't care if it looks three dimensional or how it turns out, just do it. And that's kind of this heavy, pressured, doodle, it's all very uniform, kind of. Then there's this weighted pressure line, and this really comes from calligraphy or brush lettering, anything that you're using a brush, but I do it with a pencil all the time. And you start out doing really light line and then you press really hard on the same stroke. Whoops, I always break my pencil. Then you do, you know, as you go around a curve you're gonna get like a light spot and then you're gonna get a heavy dark shadow, and then you're gonna come back again and it's light. Just kind of like, you can even do a spiral. And it sort of looks 3D already, if you keep going around and around like that. Okay so brand new pencil. (sharpener grinding) Now another one is this chicken scratch is one. You see a lot of people sketching this way. They'll start out sketching and you're kinda carving out a form and you're doing these chicken scratches, and it's really good if you're trying to find your place. But if you keep it, the whole thing this way, and you don't like erase these lines that weren't perfect, then you end up having this kinda like furry pair of scissors, which is good if you want furry scissors. That could be me. But, so that's kind of the chicken scratch drawing. So I would say do some smooth lines and then in certain spots if you're having a hard time finding really where that goes, do your chicken scratches. Another one is the scribbly gesture thing. Gesture drawings are when you just like, there's a great famous one of a dog that I see all the time. And you're just like, okay there's some dog ears, and there's his dog body, and now he's got a tail, and then he's got a few feet. And it kind of starts lookin' like a dog, and they're really fun to do. They go really fast. They're good for especially if the dog is moving. You can get it down really fast. So if there's certain spots like if you want it to look like your scissors are opening or closing really fast you can you know, this pair of scissors has these wiggly marks in it so I would probably just do a gesture in there. I wouldn't really worry about trying to get all that straight because I think it looks a lot more alive and has some movement when you're doing that. Another one, line quality you can do is a dotted line. There's a lot of pictures that are completely made up of dots. I used to have a cookbook that every single illustration, all the shading was done in dots, and if you have the patience for that it looks really good. I don't know if I do. Works great for shading or you just do it in certain little sections. Like if there's a spot right here, I'm gonna erase this line so you can see what I'm doing. You know say there's a spot that's in bright sunlight, and background's light and you can barely tell what's going on there. You do that, but then over here in the shadow maybe it's a lot darker so I'm gonna just really make that darker on that side. The side of the pencil, okay this one I use all the time, this is one of my favorites. And the reason I'm going through all the techniques is I want you to practice all of them and figure out which ones feel the most natural to you, which ones you like the best. Practice those first and just do those ones a lot, and then add some more of the challenging ones it 'cause chances are you'll end up liking those challenging ones. But this one, the side of the pencil, you have your pencil on the side, hold it like this, and then poke the point spot in and this is how you get a good shadow coming behind something. Or, you know, this scissors I know it's rolling up and around this way, so this edge is very sharp right there, but it's gonna roll in. So I'm gonna put the pointiest on the pointiest part of the scissor and I'm gonna drag it in like this. Oops, broke my pencil again. That shows how hard I press if I keep breaking my pencil. But do, you should do that a lot. Okay and then I also, I turn my paper around all the time, because now this other side of the scissors, it's gonna have some rolling over on it too. So I'm gonna come back in this way. I'm always turning my paper around. Okay. Also in between these little loops I'm gonna do that there. They're always in the shade. Okay. I'll fill that in. And then the last line quality I have, I'm gonna call it scrubbing. Also one of my favorites. So you're coming in here and you're like this part in here, that's like really dark in there. There's some rust, there's some shadow, there's just all kinda of stuff going on in there. I don't really know what it is, but it's all like super dark and dingy in there. I'm just gonna like fill it all in and just scrub it out. And then it really makes us, oh that was fun, really makes this thing on top pop out if you leave one side simple and really scrub at the other side. (sharpener grinding) Okay. So what do we have? There we go, okay. Okay so keep going on your lines. And just the line quality, we're gonna call this the messy first draft stage. I'm gonna do the scrubbing on this one too 'cause it's really dark. Okay. So Cleo when you are practicing all of the variety of line qualities that you've been going over, do you tend to incorporate multiple ones in a single sketch or do you go side-by-side and draw the same object over and over again using the sharp, the dull, the side of the pencil, that sort of thing? Yes, excuse me. There we go. (coughing) Excuse me. Within one drawing, I will do several different types of line quality, but you're gonna hear me recommend to this class, make a chart. And we're actually gonna do this later too, with the shading. But if you wanna really learn how to do each of these line qualities, draw one pair of scissors just with the sharp type of drawing. Draw another pair of scissors just with a really dull pencil. Draw the next pair with very light pressure. And once you've drawn this thing however many times I have. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, there's 10 times here and I'm sure you can make up five more. Once you've drawn this pair of scissors 15 times you're gonna start getting a handle on all the different varieties of line quality, and you're also gonna have some that you love and some that you hate. And so that will really help you develop your style, it's when you find the things you love and hate. Okay. So yeah, let's see. I'm gonna maybe just go in and finish one of these. Where's the new little sample? These pages keep sticking together. Okay, so I'm gonna finish this one here. You also, to do a line drawing you don't have to draw the whole thing all over super carefully. I will probably leave half this drawing just as is, and just clean up certain areas that I like. So don't ever think that you have to be really uniform, and if you do one technique in one area you should do it in the other area. Okay. You know, maybe a little shading. These are red. No, these are silver. Okay. Just clean that up a little. How you're doing on your drawings over there? Looking good? Okay. And then I'm gonna really focus on this. I'm gonna leave a lot of those areas plain, and I really like that, so I'm gonna take my detail in this one spot. And I have all these little ruffles that come around it. I'm kind of using like a, this is this weighted pressure, so I'm doing really dark on the tops and light as I go around there.

Class Description

Do you want to learn how to draw but don't know where to start? In this class, professional painter & illustrator Cleo Papanikolas shares fun, beginner-friendly drawing techniques that can turn anyone into an artist. This class will help you overcome your fear of the blank page and focus on putting pencil to paper so you can draw the way you always wished you could.

In this class, Cleo will cover the fundamentals in drawing including:
  • Using different pencils for line quality
  • Applying different shading methods
  • Practice measurement and proportions in your work 
Cleo will help you embrace imperfections in your work with step-by-step exercises that apply key drawing techniques. 

Join Cleo and get started drawing today! 


Rhonda Bender

This class is about two hours long. Overall it is a friendly and accessible approach to introducing some basic drawing techniques and tools that is appropriate for those who are nervous about or just novice to drawing. It lets the student jump in by tracing a basic outline which is then detailed. Towards the end the instructor demonstrates a more advanced type of tracing using a tablet as a lightpad, and there is also helpful information on how to trace one's own work to transfer it to better paper or slightly alter the drawing to be larger/wider/etc. The middle portion has overview information on types of lines and methods of shading. These aren't super thorough examinations of those topics, but should be ample to complete the exercises and drawings included and recommended in the class. Likewise, the overview of drawing tools and papers is an overview, but strikes a good balance between overwhelming with too much information, and giving students enough info to know what tools they need for basic drawing and how to use them. There is a brief overview of how to use the sight size method to draw freehand more accurately. This is a subject that could easily be an entire class topic on its own. Some will find this enough info to get going, others might prefer expanded information and more details on this. The more complex subject of ellipses in perspective is touched on only briefly. (Perspective is also a complex subject that needs a whole class of its own, so this is understandable.) In contrast to some other reviewers, I did not have a lot of issues with the filming and camera angles. A lot of time was spent on the angle of looking at the drawing in action. However, it is clear that material was edited out from the live version. The edited version doesn't follow the drawing of every exercise through to its conclusion, and sometimes segments end or start abruptly.


I like it. it's not very in-depth but it gave me the courage to start drawing, and I had so much fun. Great for beginners.