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5 Techniques For Creating Simple Line Drawings in Animation

ben marvazi 2020

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The Art of Simple Line Drawings

In the intricate tapestry of animation, the simplest elements often hold the most profound impact. 

Among these, simple line drawings stand as a cornerstone, demonstrating that minimalism can indeed include depth and sophistication. In the hands of a skilled animator, a mere line can evolve into a compelling narrative, an expressive character, or a vivid setting.

This is where the true elegance of simple line drawings lies – in the ability to create something profoundly moving from the most basic of elements.

a line drawing of a bird flying

Cover GIF by Olle Engstrom via GIPHY

This blog aims to explore five critical techniques that animate these simple line drawings into powerful narratives. Our journey through these techniques is not just about refining skills; it's about understanding the language of lines in animation

From beginners to seasoned professionals, these insights are designed to elevate your animation craft, enabling you to communicate more dynamically and effectively through your art.

Technique 1: Understanding Line Weight

When we dive into the world of simple line drawings in animation, one of the first and most crucial concepts to grasp is line weight. 

Understanding Line Weight

Line weight, in its essence, is about the thickness and thinness of the lines we use in our drawings. It might sound straightforward, but the power it holds in animation is anything but simple.

In the realm of simple line drawings, every line tells a story, and the weight of the line is its voice. A thicker line can shout, drawing attention and asserting dominance in a scene. On the flip side, a thinner line whispers, subtly guiding the viewer’s eye without overwhelming the overall composition.

a spiral line drawing animation demonstrating line weight

GIF by bonnieversum via GIPHY

This dynamic interplay of line weights is what brings depth, emotion, and emphasis to your animations.

Think of line weight as a tool for creating contrast and focus. In simple line drawings, using varied line weights can help differentiate between foreground and background, highlight key elements, and convey texture and lighting. 

It’s about using the thickness of lines strategically to guide the viewer’s perception and enhance the storytelling aspect of your animation.

How to Practice Line Weight

Here’s a practical tip: when working on your simple line drawings, experiment with line weight by applying pressure to your drawing tool. Notice how different pressures create different effects. 

A digital drawing tablet can be particularly effective for this, offering a range of sensitivity settings to fine-tune your line weights with precision.

Technique 2: Playing with Perspective

In the world of animation, perspective is not just a technique; it’s a storytelling tool. When it comes to simple line drawings, mastering perspective can elevate your work from flat illustrations to dynamic, engaging stories. 

Understanding Perspective

Perspective in line drawings is all about creating a sense of depth and space, making your animations more immersive and realistic.

The magic of perspective lies in its ability to create a 3D illusion on a 2D plane. By understanding and applying the principles of perspective, you can bring a scene to life, giving it depth and dimension. 

perspective animation of a squirrel falling down


In simple line drawings, this is particularly powerful as you are working with minimal elements. Every line counts, and how you place these lines can drastically change the viewer's experience.

One fundamental aspect of perspective is the horizon line and vanishing points. In your simple line drawings, establishing these elements can guide the viewer's eye and create a sense of depth. 

For example, lines that converge towards a vanishing point can create the illusion of a road stretching into the distance, or buildings receding in a cityscape.

Another key element is scale. By drawing objects smaller as they get further from the viewer, you can create a sense of depth. This is crucial in simple line drawings, where you need to convey space and distance without the aid of detailed backgrounds or shading.

How to Practice Perspective

Here’s a practical exercise: try sketching a basic scene using simple line drawings, focusing on implementing perspective. Start with a straightforward street scene with buildings. Notice how using perspective lines leading to a vanishing point makes the scene more dynamic and gives a sense of depth.

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Technique 3: Emphasizing Movement with Minimal Lines

One of the most captivating aspects of animation is its ability to depict movement. In simple line drawings, this becomes a delightful challenge: how to convey motion effectively using the fewest lines possible. 

This minimalist approach can lead to some of the most expressive and dynamic animations, where each line serves a purpose in illustrating movement.

Understanding Movement

The key to depicting movement in simple line drawings lies in understanding the essence of motion. It’s not about drawing every detail; it’s about capturing the gesture, the direction, and the energy of the movement. A single, well-placed line can suggest the trajectory of a moving object or the posture of a character in motion.

To master this, start by studying the basics of motion. Observe how objects and living beings move in real life. Notice the lines of action that define their movement. In your simple line drawings, try to replicate these lines of action. For instance, a curved line can represent a person running, with the curve indicating the direction and speed of the movement.

frame by frame animation portraying moving objects

GIF by Ori Toor via GIPHY

Another effective technique is the use of consecutive lines or 'streaks' that follow a moving object. This technique, often seen in comic books, can be employed in animation to emphasize speed and direction. In simple line drawings, a few streak lines can powerfully convey rapid movement without overcomplicating the image.

How to Practice Movement

Here’s an exercise to practice: sketch a series of simple line drawings showing a ball bouncing. Focus on using just one or two lines to depict the ball in each stage of its movement. 

Notice how the line changes as the ball moves and how this simple representation can vividly suggest motion.

Technique 4: Creating Depth and Texture

While simple line drawings might seem flat at first glance, with the right techniques, they can be transformed to display depth and texture, adding a new layer of richness to your animations. 

This technique is all about going beyond the basics to create drawings that have a more three-dimensional feel, even within the constraints of simple lines.

a 3d illusion scene using animation from The Croods movie

GIF by The Croods: A New Age via GIPHY

Understanding Depth

The secret to adding depth in simple line drawings is variation and subtlety. By varying the thickness, density, and direction of your lines, you can imply depth and texture. This variation can indicate contours, shadows, and surface qualities, bringing your drawings to life.

Understanding Texture

For texture, consider the nature of the surfaces you’re depicting. For example, smooth surfaces might be represented with clean, uninterrupted lines, while rough textures could be suggested with more jagged, varied lines. The key is to imply the texture without drawing it explicitly, allowing the viewer’s imagination to fill in the details.

How to Practice Depth and Texture
textured animation of green goop

GIF by Felipe Villarreal via GIPHY

An effective way to practice this is by drawing objects with different textures using only line drawings. Try sketching a furry animal, a rough tree bark, and a smooth stone. Focus on how you can represent these textures with simple lines.

It’s important to remember that when it comes to creating depth and texture in simple line drawings, less is often more. Overdoing it can lead to cluttered and confusing images. 

The goal is to find that sweet spot where just enough line variation is used to suggest depth and texture, without overwhelming the simplicity of the drawing.

Technique 5: Integrating Line Drawings with Other Animation Styles

One of the most exciting aspects of working with simple line drawings in animation is the potential to blend them with other styles and techniques. This integration can lead to unique and innovative animations that stand out in their creativity and storytelling.

The beauty of simple line drawings is their versatility. They can seamlessly complement various animation styles, from traditional hand-drawn animation to modern digital techniques. 

a line drawing inspired animation of a girl doing parkour

GIF by moneycommmmme via GIPHY

For instance, combining simple line drawings with watercolor backgrounds can create a delicate, artistic feel. On the other hand, using them with bold, graphic shapes can result in a more modern, stylized look.

When integrating simple line drawings with other styles, it’s important to maintain a cohesive look and feel. The key is to ensure that the various elements complement rather than compete with each other. This might involve adjusting the color palette, line quality, or animation timing to achieve a harmonious composition.

How to Practice Integrating Line Drawings

In practice, try creating a short animation that combines simple line drawings with another style of your choice. Pay attention to how the different elements interact and how they can be used to enhance the overall narrative and visual appeal of your animation.

Using Simple Line Drawings In Your Animation Business

Simple line drawings, with their minimalist charm and expressive potential, are more than just basic sketches. They are a fundamental tool in the animator's palette, capable of conveying complex ideas and emotions with just a few well-placed strokes.

line drawing of an animator drawing on a tablet


By mastering these techniques, you can breathe life into your animations, making them more dynamic, engaging, and emotionally resonant.

Want to learn how to use these techniques to draw more clients to your animation business or studio? Our Animation Business Accelerator Program provides insights, resources, and a supportive community to help professionals navigate the evolving landscape. 

If you’re an animator who’s looking to start your own studio or grow your career, check out our blog on How to Start an Animation Studio to kickstart your animation career today or give our free Masterclass a try first if you’re curious.

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