Secondary Visual Arts Curriculum


Drawing With Four Kinds of Lines

Learn to draw.......

Traditional drawing skills are based on four main kinds of lines:

1. Construction lines
2. Contour lines,
3. Cross contour lines
4.  Gesture lines

1. Construction lines

What skills are necessary for making accurate drawings?  What is the difference between the kinds of lines artists use when they draw?

Drawing accurately depends on being able to measure things with your eye and to translate those measurements to your hand.  Study the examples of the drawings shown here.  With most drawings, an artist begins with construction lines.  These kinds of lines measure the proportions of the object, the distance between one thing and another and their relationship to the whole.

2. Contour lines

The outer edges of the shoes pictured here, use a uniform line to describe the edges.  In the example of the hand, the edges of the hand are done with an uneven line that registers small details.

Contour lines describe the edges of things.  A contour line can be sensitive and describe the nature of the surface it describes, or be an even line, like the lines in coloring books. 

3. Cross-contour lines

Cross contour lines describe the interior surface of an object rather than its edge. 

In this detail of  Albrecht Durer’s self-portrait drawing, you can see both a sensitive outline and an accurate description of the surfaces of his skin and clothing using cross-contour lines; these also registers the values (light and dark) of the surface.

4. Gesture lines

Gesture lines do not stay on the surface of a subject and do not accurately describe appearances, rather, they show action and attitude.