“Line drawing is to understand the world around you; even when the lines create something quite abstract, the interpretation of feeling and observing can come together in beautifully raw and unexpected ways.”Jen Dixon, Abstract and Figurative Artist
Line drawing animation is probably one of the most exciting animation styles out there. It provides animators with incredible artistic freedom. Using only lines, animators can create whatever they dream up in their imagination.
Line drawing is an ancient art form that dates back almost 75,000 years. These days, it’s commonly used in the animation industry to create unique characters and environments.
So, is line drawing animation worth pursuing? And how can you ensure you learn the necessary skills to do it well? In this blog post, we’ll take a look at what line drawing animation is, what types of exercises you need to do to get better at it, and tips and tricks to polish your skills. We’ll also discuss how you can utilize this unique animation style for your animation business. Let’s dive in!
What Is Line Drawing Animation?
You might have heard the typical stereotypes about line drawing: That it’s a “lesser” art form because it’s so simple. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Line drawing animation, also known as line art drawing, consists of using very basic brush or pen strokes that differ in weight and angle to create different forms. It can also be used to create texture and depth, depending on how you utilize it.
Line drawing animation focuses on lines only, hence the name, and it doesn’t include any gradients or shading like other forms of animation – the lines do all the work.
The beauty of line drawing animation is that it can be utilized to create various animation styles: You can utilize line art animation to create two-dimensional and even three-dimensional animation.
Line animation also works great to create abstract, descriptive, or implied imagery. In addition to that, you can play around with thickness, shape, and color. So, even though line drawing animation consists of a pretty simple technique, it provides you with an incredible amount of opportunities to express your unique creativity.
Tips for Getting Better at Line Drawing Animation
1) Familiarize Yourself with the Different Types of Lines in Line Drawing Animation
What makes line drawing animation so interesting and diverse is the fact that you have so many different types of lines to work with. If you want to get good at this animation style, you need to understand and be able to work with different types of lines. These are the ones you need to practice:
These lines are used to create images that relate to nature: They can be smooth, irregular, or even curved. It all depends on what you’re drawing.
Implied lines are an incredibly fun tool in your line drawing animation arsenal. Basically, implied lines don’t physically exist, you just imply that they do – pretty magical, right?
Implied lines depend on surrounding lines and objects to exist. Think of two people looking at each other – there’s an implied line connecting their gaze. Another example is when you draw something like lights on a ceiling – the implied lines will fill the spaces between them. These lines exist in the mind of the viewer only.
In addition to implied lines, you obviously need actual lines to bring your animation to life. These are the lines you’ll use to create the world of your animation.
These lines are also physical and take precision to accomplish. They are mathematically defined, follow a pattern, and typically have sharp edges.
2) Invest Time in Line Drawing Animation Exercises
In addition to knowing the different types of lines you can work with when you do line drawing animation, it’s also important to practice this style frequently so you can continue to improve and wow your animation clients.
Luckily, there are some standard line drawing animation exercises you can do to ensure you improve your line art animation daily.
Drawing with Your Non-Dominant Hand
None of us particularly enjoy drawing with our non-dominant hand. In fact, it can feel pretty uncomfortable and even frustrating at first, but this is a great animation exercise to help you let go of control a little, something that’s vital in creating line art animation.
Image via camstl.org
The best way to do this exercise is to simply try drawing with your non-dominant hand and see what happens. Again, the purpose of this exercise is to practice creative freedom and let go of control. Who knows what that non-dominant hand could get up to? You might surprise yourself.
Try Blind Contour Drawing
This line drawing animation exercise is pretty fun. Blind contour drawing requires you to draw lines without taking a glimpse at the paper until finished.
This exercise is aimed at helping your brain to observe scenery and objects better and then mimicking their shapes on paper.
Image via studentartguide.com
Keep in mind that the goal of this exercise isn’t to create something that resembles the work of Picasso – it’s simply aimed at improving the connection between your brain and eyes. As a bonus, you’ll have fun and possibly have a good laugh when you finally take a look at your handiwork.
Play Around with Gesture Drawing
Also known as movement drawing or timed drawing, gesture drawing is a line drawing animation exercise that focuses on speed.
You’ll give yourself short intervals of time (think 20 to 90 seconds) to draw expressive lines. These lines are typically utilized to capture a character’s emotion or an object’s essence without intensely focusing on detail.
Image via studentartguide.com
This line drawing animation technique is typically utilized to create movements. This exercise also helps animators to improve the speed at which they draw, which, in turn, improves drawing confidence.
Practice Continuous Line Drawing
Continuous line drawing is another fun line drawing animation exercise. This exercise is executed by creating a drawing without lifting the drawing instrument from the page.
Image via studentartguide.com
The entire image is created using one continuous line, which varies in weight to create light and shadows within the drawing. This is another great exercise to improve your drawing speed and confidence. It also establishes a connection between your hands, eyes, and brain, improving their cooperation for future tasks.
3) Practice Creating Lifelike Line Drawing Animation Using Different Lines
The goal of most animation styles is to create lifelike imagery, and line drawing animation can be utilized to do just that, despite it being a simpler form of animation.
Use Dark Lines for Intersections and Shadows
When utilizing other styles of animation, you would usually play around with color to create light and shadows. When you’re doing line art animation, you’ll utilize different types of lines to create these effects.
Image via clipstudio.net
You can use thinner pens to create areas that are filled with light. Thicker pens, on the other hand, are great for creating shadows in your drawings. Using this technique will allow you to create a three-dimensional look.
If you're creating line art digitally but want it to have that pen-and-paper look, darkening intersections is a great tactic.
When drawing with dip pens, the ink tends to pool a little at intersections, which gives paper drawings that unique look. Mimicking this digitally can create the same effect and is a great way to add that retro touch to your line drawing animation.
Use Thick Lines Sparingly
Thick lines are great for outlining characters and objects, but you shouldn’t overuse them. For example, when you draw a character, you’ll use thicker lines to create their outline, but you wouldn’t use the same thickness for all their features.
Image via clipstudio.net
Thick lines are typically utilized to showcase the parts of a character or object that you want the audience to focus on, and you’ll want to make it stand out by using thick lines in conjunction with thinner lines. This is a great way to incorporate more dimensions into your work.
Use Thin Lines for Smaller Details
This is kind of a no-brainer, but thinner lines work great when you want to draw smaller details, like a character’s eyes and nails. These features are needed to make the character look realistic, but you don’t want it to stand out.
Image via clipstudio.net
Thick lines definitely won’t do the job here – thin lines are incredible for creating those small features that eventually give your line drawing animation characters that lifelike look and feel.
Use thin lines to draw eyes, pupils, eyelashes, and eyebrows. You can even use thin lines to draw wrinkles if your character is elderly. Another great way to utilize thin lines is when you want to create wrinkles on clothing. These are all details that are easily overlooked but play a vital part in making the character look believable.
Make Use of Varied Strokes for Texture
We’ve already established that using different lines can make a world of a difference in bringing your line drawing animation to life. Using varied strokes is another key ingredient to creating animation that looks believable.
One of the things varied strokes work great for is clothing. When drawing clothing, it’s incredibly important to look at how different materials behave in the real world so you can use various lines to mimic that look.
Image via clipstudio.net
For example, clothes like jackets made from harder materials will have different wrinkles than softer materials used for T-shirts. So, when drawing a jacket on a character, you will likely use thick brushes to create firm lines, while T-shirts will require thin and straight lines for softer wrinkles.
This is a great way to showcase what your character is wearing and make it look incredibly believable.
4) Check Out Line Drawing Animation Tutorials on YouTube
The best way to improve on your existing line drawing animation skillset is to take a look at how others do it and learn from their techniques and unique approach.
YouTube is a great place to start. Channels like Effect For You have some tutorials on how to do modern line art animation in Adobe After Effects, which can be incredibly helpful, especially if you’re just starting out and need to familiarize yourself with the tools and software.
You can also check out Easy After Effects’ channel for a tutorial on how to execute line drawing animation in After Effects. If you’re curious about what’s possible, check out this cool video from Selina Fässler, where she animates an image using a single line.
5) Pay Attention to Your Tools and Mindset
Keep the Resolution in Mind When Working Digitally
Any freelance animator knows that resolution is incredibly important when it comes to presenting quality work to animation clients.
Image via xp-pen.com
When working on line drawing animation, make sure you set the program to draw in high resolution. Around 1200 to 600 DPI is usually best. You can always make it smaller if need be: just make sure you use the correct interpolation method.
Don’t Be Afraid to Rotate the Tablet or Page
Line drawing animation requires you to have complete freedom to draw, which means that rotating your page or tablet is crucial when you want to draw specific lines. Whichever angle provides you with more freedom is the one you should work with.
Image via koreantimes.co.kr
Typically, it’s easier to draw strokes away from your body than towards it. So, instead of uncomfortably trying to draw those lines, you can make them look effortless by simply rotating your work surface. After all, you don’t want an uncomfortable angle to get in the way of the image you envision in your mind.
Don’t Doubt Yourself
Working in the competitive animation industry can be pretty tough at times, and it’s easy to start doubting yourself and your skills along the way. However, if line art animation is something you’re just starting to take on and you already feel miserable about struggling with the basics, you should stop yourself right there.
Practice will inevitably lead to progress, so every time you start second-guessing yourself, simply try again.
Line art animation typically appears very simple, but it takes a lot of practice to do it well. In the beginning, you might notice that you’re drawing too many lines, but as you keep practicing, you’ll be able to commit to a line you want to draw and execute it with ease.
Never Stop Practicing
If you want to get good at line drawing animation, you need to practice your drawing skills daily.
The best way to ensure you keep practicing line drawing animation is by keeping a sketchbook at hand. That way, if you find yourself waiting at a doctor’s appointment or simply have a moment of free time, you can simply take out your sketchbook and practice.
Another great tip is to approach your drawings as warm-ups. That takes off the pressure to draw the lines perfectly, and you might be surprised at how much your work improves when you’re not so hard on yourself.
The Benefits of Line Drawing Animation
Now that you know all about line drawing animation, what it is, how it works, and how you can improve your skills when it comes to creating it, you’re likely curious about the unique benefits of this style. Let’s dive in.
You Eliminate the Grey Area
Unlike more traditional animation styles, line drawing animation eliminates the grey area. You work with a solid background and lines – it’s that simple.
The background and lines can be any color, but typically line art is created using classic black and white. It’s simple, yet impactful, and often animators use this style to create complex subjects.
You Can Create an Entire World with a Single Line
Traditional animation requires attention to fine detail and long hours of hard work to get the characters and surroundings just right. Line drawing animation, however, allows an animator to create an entire world using a single line.
This doesn’t mean that the characters and environments the animator creates with this style are necessary simple – line art animation lends itself to both complex and simple designs. Animators use light and dark lines interchangeably to create different dimensions.
The beauty of line art animation is that it allows animators to communicate different forms, environments, and characters to an audience in a way that seems incredibly simple yet believable and lifelike. This animation style is by no means inferior to other animation styles and can be utilized in many different ways for animation client projects.
How Freelance Animators Can Benefit from Using Line Drawing Animation for Their Business
Now that you’re basically an expert at line drawing animation, you’re likely interested in how you can utilize this unique and wonderful style for your animation business. There are a couple of ways your business can benefit from line drawing animation.
It Can Be Less Time-Consuming Than Other Animation Styles
For freelance animators, time is money, so getting projects done as quickly and efficiently as possible is crucial. Line drawing animation can help you do just that, given that you do it digitally.
When done manually using pen and paper, line drawing animation can be quite time-consuming. Editing your drawing will take hours, and you don’t have the option to erase faulty lines repeatedly without making a mess.
When you use line art software, however, you can streamline the process and create your animation much faster, as well as edit, reduce the size, and re-do some of the work without much of a fuss.
You can also invest in line art software templates that can provide you with a basis for an animation project. You can use the template to create something completely new and unique while also saving a ton of time.
Digital line drawing animation also doesn’t require you to buy any extra tools to get started – all you need is the right software, and you’re off to the races. Some line art animation software also allows users to use third-party plugins, which can help you to speed up your work considerably.
There Are Free Line Drawing Animation Software Available to Start Out
It’s no secret that animation software can be pretty expensive, but one of the perks of line drawing animation software is that there are a wide variety of software options out there, and plenty of them are free.
Typically, free software has its limits, but many free line art animation software offers an impressive inventory of tools.
Usually, the software would provide you with a pen tool, an eraser, and a color palette, as well as additional tools you can play around with, depending on the type of software you choose. Try free software like SketchBook, Adobe Fresco, or Clip Studio Paint.
Low Budget Videos Are In Demand
The world moves at an incredibly fast pace, and the demand for quality, low-budget videos is increasing. According to a Google Trends report, 6 out of 10 people prefer to watch online videos rather than regular television broadcasts.
This means that advertisers are starting to change the way they present their brands and products, and low-budget videos are starting to become more and more profitable.
If you have animation clients who would like you to frequently create videos for them at lower costs while keeping the quality intact, line drawing animation could be the perfect style to accomplish that.
Not only can you save money if you make use of free software, but you can also create these types of videos faster than you would traditional animations. It’s a win-win situation all around.
Perfecting Line Drawing Animation Can Be a Game-Changer for your Animation Business
Line drawing animation is an incredibly versatile animation style that can help you stand out among your competitors in the freelance animation industry, not to mention that it’ll showcase your versatility in your animation portfolio.
Line drawing animation requires practice and skill, but once you master it, this animation style can help you to create videos in less time while also delivering incredible quality to your animation clients.
Many underestimate the power of line drawing animation. While it looks simple, this animation style can be utilized to create incredibly complex and lifelike animations when done correctly.
If you’re a freelance animator who isn’t afraid to step out into the unknown and try new things, check out or Animation Accelerator course, which will help you to build a successful animation business.