People often comment on the time and patience needed for colored pencil work. Some use the word “tedious” in describing the process. My response is that “tedious is in the eye of the beholder”. If you truly enjoy what you’re doing, it’s not tedious.
But there are times when time is of the essence, especially if you do portrait work or are working toward a competition or exhibit. Having a full arsenal of tools helps you make the most of your time. One of those tools is line control.
4 Straight Line Drawing Exercises
Following are four line control exercises that will help you improve pencil control. I used a 6B graphite pencil for each of these because I enjoy the way a soft lead goes onto paper. You can use any hardness of lead you prefer, or any dry medium you prefer. They’re excellent exercises for colored pencil, chalk, charcoal or pastel.
Parallel Line Exercise
Draw a line. Choose any pressure and value.
Draw a series of lines parallel to the first line. Make them as parallel as possible while drawing freehand. Use constant pressure.
Gradated Parallel Line Exercise
This exercise is much like the previous one with the added dimension of making each parallel line either lighter or darker than the one before.
Start with a line. Make it either very light or very dark.
Make each stroke lighter or darker than the previous stroke (depending on where you started) and make each new stroke parallel to the previous strokes.
See how much gradation you can create just with lines.
A variation on this exercise would be to see how close together you can make the lines and how smooth the resulting transitions can be made.
Hatching Line Exercise
Draw a set of parallel lines with even pressure and line weight.
Now draw another set in an opposing direction. Don’t draw through the previous set of lines. Create an edge between the groups by ending each line with the same amount of space between the first group of lines.
Continue adding new sets of lines in new directions.
The purposes of this exercise are:
- Learning to draw parallel lines at different angles
- Consistent pressure control
- Learning to begin and end strokes precisely and consistently
- Learning how changes in stroke direction affects the appearance of a drawing
Value Shift Parallel Line Exercise
It never hurts to practice pressure application as well as line drawing. This exercise allows you to do both at the same time.
Start with the lightest pressure possible and increase to the heaviest pressure possible as you draw the line. Do several this way, making them as parallel as possible and getting the widest possible value shift without lifting your pencil from one end to the other or going over the line a second time.
After you’ve done a few, start with heavy pressure and reduce pressure as you draw the line.
A variation on this exercise is to use a pencil with a slanted point and change the line width by turning the pencil as you draw.
Most of us doodle from time to time. These exercises are ideal for doodling time whether you’re waiting for a doctor’s appointment, on a plane, train, or bus, or walking the pet of your choice.
They’re also a great way to relax for a few minutes.
And all the while, you’ll be improving line control and finding new ways to make every stroke carry it’s full weight with your next pencil project.