Guide to Visual Elements: Part 1 – Line

In Graphic Design by OCcreative0 Comments

by Erin Nolan

The line is the first visual element of our 8 part series. It is the foundation of all drawing and is extraordinarily versatile. Did you do the homework assigned at the introduction of this series? If you missed it, or forgot, take a moment and get caught up right now. All you have to do is grab a piece of paper and draw every type of line you can think of. Ready? Go! (I’ll wait.)


Ok, how do you think you did? Did you draw straight lines? Curvy ones?

Line in artwork can be used in many different ways. It can be used to suggest shape, pattern, form, structure, growth, depth/distance, rhythm, movement, and emotion.

  • Line as shape

  • Line as depth/distance

  • Line as pattern

  • Line as movement

  • Line as form

  • Line as growth

  • Line as rhythm

  • Line as emotion

  • Line as structure

We have a psychological response to different types of lines, such as:

  • Curved Lines: comfort & ease
  • Horizontal Lines: distance & calm
  • Vertical Lines: height & strength
  • Jagged Lines: turmoil & anxiety

The way we draw a line can convey different expressive qualities:

  • Freehand: can express the personal energy and mood of the artist
  • Mechanical: can express a rigid control
  • Continuous: can lead the eye in certain directions
  • Broken: can express the ephemeral or the insubstantial
  • Thick: can express strength
  • Thin: can express delicacy

Shapes will be covered in part two. Homework for next time: look at everything in the world as a shape. How many shapes can you see in a coffee mug? A car? A cloud? What about people?

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