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Line Anatomy

Drawings are made up of lines. In a shaded drawing, lines become edges that form the boundary between two different values. In a color drawing or painting, lines become the boundary between two different colors or values.

Lines can be straight or curved. Creating lines that are simple and decisive is more important than creating an accurate line that is complex or appears to have been placed with a lack of confidence. For example, a wobbly curve should be drawn with a confident C-shape. Limit lines to C-shapes, S-shapes or I-shapes. Simplifying an object into these basic line shapes will speed up drawing time, give the appearance of confidence and provide stronger clues for identifying structural forms.

Lines can be thick or thin. Line thickness indicates light direction and gives the appearance of depth. The thicker the line, the closer or farther away an object will appear depending on which side of an object’s boundary the thickness is added to.

Lines can be hard or soft. Line softness or hardness indicates the light source’s relative size to an object. Objects that appear large or far away from the light source will have harder line edges. Line softness or hardness also indicates atmosphere and distance from the viewer. Soft edged lines tend to recede into the background indicating distance and perspective.

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