How to Draw Straight Lines

How to draw straight lines freehand without a ruler

Are you having trouble drawing straight lines?

You aren’t the only one!

It is the biggest question that I get asked, “How can I get my lines straighter?”

The good news is that with a few simple changes to the way that we draw, we can achieve straight lines.

I have put together this new video to show you how.

7 Tips for getting straighter lines

Straight Lines

Drawing straight lines can be difficult, especially for beginners. These tips will make it easier for you to draw much straighter lines than before but it is important to recognise that when drawing freehand, even the best artists will have some imperfections in their straight lines. Those subtle imperfections are acceptable and normal for freehand drawing. They often add more character and feeling to the drawing.

With lots of practice and applying the tips that follow, we can improve the quality of our lines to achieve much straighter and better looking lines. Here are my 7 great tips to help you draw much straighter lines:

1. Loosen your grip

Most drawing beginners will hold the pencil with a tight grip. Gripping tightly will activate more muscles in our hand and arm to try and control the pencil. The more muscles involved, the less chance there is of getting a straight line. We want to relax and lighten our grip so that we are gently controlling our pencil rather than pushing it into the page. Hold the pencil further up the shaft (about half way along) and grip it only with light pressure.

If you would like to know more about how to grip your pencil, have a look at this article.

2. Press lightly

The harder you press the more resistance there is on the page which results in wobbly lines. The more resistance there is, the more work we need to do to control the line. Pressing lightly will allow the pencil to glide gently on the paper with reduced resistance in will result in a straighter line. Lightening your grip and pressing lightly on the page will make a huge difference to your drawings.

3. Use your arm muscles instead of your fingers

Our hands have 34 muscles to control the fine movements of our fingers. Co-ordinating all of those muscles fast enough to keep our pencil moving in a perfectly straight line is next to impossible. Instead of using those small finger muscles to draw a line, use your your larger shoulder and arm muscles. There is much less margin of error by using these larger muscles.

Keep your hand and wrist muscles still and use your whole arm to draw the line. This will result in smoother, straighter lines.

4. Draw faster

This may seem counter-intuitive, but the slower we draw, the more our brain tries to compensate for any small wobbles. Drawing a faster line from the shoulder will get a straighter result. We don’t want to go so fast that we loose control of the line, but just fast enough to reduce the amount of wobble in our arm and hand to get straight lines. This one will take quite a bit of practice.

5. Practice the line before drawing it

Just like a golfer might take a practice swing before hitting their ball, practicing the line before you draw it can help you work out how to draw the line before you do it. Hold your pencil just above the surface and practice the action before applying the line. This will free up your muscles before committing to the line and also ensures that you have enough free movement to make the line.

6. Position yourself so that your arm has free movement to make the line

Since we are now using our whole arm to make the line, it is important to make sure that you have enough room to move your arm without hitting obstacles or needing to twist your body. We don’t want to have to compensate for restricted arm movement, that will just introduce wobbly lines.

If you need to, you can turn your page to a position that allows better arm movement. I like to stand up while I’m drawing, it gives me much more freedom of movement.

7. Guide your hand

If you need perfectly horizontal or vertical lines (for example if you need to draw a horizon line), you can use the edge of your page as a guide to run your hand across to ensure that your line is parallel to the edge. You’ll need to hold your hand muscles perfectly still with your finger or palm resting against the edge of the drawing surface and use your arm to make the move. You can adjust the grip of the pencil to extend it further into the page or hold it closer to the tip of the pencil for a line that is close to the edge of the page.

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