A path of a moving point through space.

A line can be thought as taking direction or dividing up an area

The eye travels along the direction of a line because the line is longer than it is wide.  

Fine lines can indicate a feeling of sensitivity and detail.

Dark and thick lines tend to be dominate and be forceful.

In text layouts horizontal lines should not be used too frequently and only for emphasis, not for separating paragraphs of text.


Types of Line:

Line creates a path, if it connects or overlaps it creates a shape 

Gesture is the activity of a line.

A contour line is an image in which one single line follows the edges of a form.

Spacing is a better way to separate text and make it more readable. Vertical lines of text or rows of text are more desirable than long horizontal lines.

Character of a line:

1. The length is dominant

2. The eye flows along the path of a line.

3. The movement along the path is the direction of the line.


In nature the line is implied.

1. Mark

2. Path

3. Mass

4. Edge



Some basic characteristics for describing a line:

Line character will vary depending on the tool used to create the line, the manner in which it is used and the application of size, value, shape, space, and, color.

If you use line in varying weights and directions with definite control placed on its direction, can create optical sensations.

LineThickness.jpg (29292 bytes)  sgrais


- look at the branches of trees, spokes of a wheel, the roads, buildings, sidewalk, bridges, and writing

- also think of the interpretive lines: the line of sight, getting out of line, getting on line, being out of bounds, the border line  

TL.jpg (160438 bytes) Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec Madame Thadée Natanson at the Theater, 1895

  leonardo_anghiari_sketch.jpg (290812 bytes) Leonardo anghiari sketch


A line is a mark made by a moving point and having psychological impact according to its direction, weight, and the variations in its direction and weight. It is an enormously useful and versatile graphic device that is made to function in both visual and verbal ways. It can act as as a symbolic language, or it can communicate emotion through its character and direction

Line is not necessarily an artificial creation of the artist or designer; it exists in nature as a structural feature such as branches, or as surface design, such as striping on a zebra.



Lines can be combined with other lines to create textures and patterns. This is common in engravings and pen and ink drawings. The use of line in combination results in the development of form and value, which are other elements of design.

Expressive Qualities of Line

Certain arrangements of line are commonly understood to carry certain kinds of information.

For example, calligraphy is recognizable as a representation of words, even when we do not know the language.

Kazuaki Tanahashi

Line in the form of maps is readily recognized as a symbolic representation of a place. The place may be a local neighborhood, or the entire world. It may be a carefully measured representation, or a stylized diagram, such as a subway map. In either case, we understand it to be a device by which we can understand the relationship between places; how to get from "here" to "there."

Untitled-1.jpg (2364905 bytes)

Floor plans are a specialized kind of map, a commonly understood device which describes a building.


Line also communicates emotion and states of mind through its character and direction. The variations of meaning generally relate to our bodily experience of line and direction.

Horizontal line suggests a feeling of rest or repose. Objects parallel to the earth are at rest in relation to gravity. Therefore compositions in which horizontal lines dominate tend to be quiet and restful in feeling. One of the hallmarks of Frank Lloyd Wright's architectural style is its use of strong horizontal elements which stress the relationship of the structure to the land.



The quality of the line is in itself a fundamental visual language, to an extent that cannot be claimed for any other single element. Its use is so universal that we are all profoundly sensitive to it. Even without an artist's training, we can extract considerable meaning from the kind of line used in a drawing. It is possible to recognize the soft, irregular lines of a quick sketch from life, as seen in this Delacroix sketch.

  Eugène Delacroix

On the other hand, the crisp, carefully placed lines of the rhinoceros are typical of a more studied, scrupulously worked studio drawing. The lines suggest that this was not drawn from life, but from hearsay. This is also evident from the fact that Durer drew this rather inaccurate image in fifteenth century Europe when he could only have known of this African animal from travelers' tales.

Woodcuts and German Expressionism

The quality of line in itself contributes to the mood of the work, and for the artist, the quality of line is a fundamental expression of his/her style

Woodcut is a relief printing artistic technique in printmaking in which an image is carved into the surface of a block of wood, with the printing parts remaining level with the surface while the non-printing parts are removed, typically with gouges. The areas to show 'white' are cut away with a knife or chisel, leaving the characters or image to show in 'black' at the original surface level. The block is cut along the grain of the wood (unlike wood engraving where the block is cut in the end-grain). In Europe beechwood was most commonly used; in Japan, a special type of cherry wood was used.

The surface is covered with ink by rolling over the surface with an ink-covered roller, leaving ink upon the flat surface but not in the non-printing areas.

Instead of the fine-grained hardwoods traditionally used in woodcuts, the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch began to incorporate the grain of softwood into his designs,

percep13.gif (54744 bytes)Edvard Munch, The Scream

and the French painter Paul Gauguin achieved new tones and textures by treating the wood surface with sandpaper.

Woodcut became an important medium to the German Expressionists, who, inspired by the vitality of medieval woodcuts, gouged and roughly hewed the wood to achieve a brutal effect.

Emil Nolde


In the United States, woodcuts gained importance in the 1920s and ’30s through the illustrations of Rockwell Kent and artists working in the Work Projects Administration.


After World War II the artists Misch Kohn, Leonard Baskin, and Carol Summers further developed the woodcut medium in the United States.

  Leonard Baskin


If there is, indeed, nothing lovelier than a tree, Connecticut-based artist Bryan Nash Gill shows us why. Creating large-scale relief prints from the cross sections of trees, the artist reveals the sublime power locked inside their arboreal rings. Gill creates patterns not only of great beauty but also year-by-year records of the life and times of fallen or damaged logs. He rescues the wood from the property surrounding his studio and neighboring land, extracts and prepares blocks of various species (including ash, maple, oak, spruce, and willow), then makes prints by carefully following and pressing the contours of rings and ridges until the intricate designs transfer from tree to paper. The results are colored, nuanced shapes—mesmerizing impressions of the structural integrity hidden inside each tree. These exquisitely detailed prints are collected and published here for the first time, with an introduction by esteemed nature writer Verlyn Klinkenborg and an interview with the artist describing his labor-intensive printmaking process. Also featured are Gill's series of printed lumber and offcuts, such as burls, branches, knots, and scrubs. Woodcut will appeal to anybody who appreciates the grandeur and mystery of trees, as well as those who work with wood and marvel at the rich history embedded in its growth.

Bryan Nash Gill


Paul Klee described the act of drawing as 'taking a line for a walk'.



Jackson Pollock Lavender Mist Number 1 1950

Jackson Pollock, Drawing, enamel on paper, c. 1950..jpg (29255 bytes) Drawing c. 1950

A dripping wet canvas covered the entire floor … There was complete silence … Pollock looked at the painting. Then, unexpectedly, he picked up can and paint brush and started to move around the canvas. It was as if he suddenly realized the painting was not finished. His movements, slow at first, gradually became faster and more dance like as he flung black, white, and rust colored paint onto the canvas. He completely forgot that Lee and I were there; he did not seem to hear the click of the camera shutter … My photography session lasted as long as he kept painting, perhaps half an hour. In all that time, Pollock did not stop. How could one keep up this level of activity? Finally, he said 'This is it.'

Pollock’s finest paintings… reveal that his all-over line does not give rise to positive or negative areas: we are not made to feel that one part of the canvas demands to be read as figure, whether abstract or representational, against another part of the canvas read as ground. There is not inside or outside to Pollock’s line or the space through which it moves…. Pollock has managed to free line not only from its function of representing objects in the world, but also from its task of describing or bounding shapes or figures, whether abstract or representational, on the surface of the canvas.

Hans Namuth

Franz Kline

Bridget Riley 

Kiss (1961).jpg (10582 bytes) Kiss 1961


riley2.jpg (42867 bytes)



Lino cut of a black bear. James Moffitt