Years ago I did some training in ticket-writing; an art that is quickly disappearing due to computer generated signage that is quicker and tidier and can be reproduced in multiplies by the click of a button. Because of the repetitive nature of the skill and all the training, I find painting a straight line relatively easy, it helps that I paint regularly now however as Im sure it wont always be the case, as like anything, you do get rusty at it!
Now there are straight lines and straight lines, like a natural straight line is not like a perfect line in a geometrical way, for that sort of thing you would be looking at using things like masking tape or a ruler to get it that straight.
So if you have trouble painting thin lines, why not try revealing them instead like I do with my dot paintings or like scratch-boarding does. For the dot paintings you need to start by painting a background colour where you want the lines to be (in the dot today it is blue). Let it dry completely then paint the overall colour (in my example it is black).
While that second layer is still wet, you quickly scratch through the paint to reveal the underlying colour. I use a skewer for mine which works well with either the thick or thin end, but you can use a toothpick or similar sharp object. The technical term for this type of art form is called sgraffito.
Other methods for painting a straight line include using masking fluid or masking tape. The masking fluid can be carefully painted on next to a ruler and when dry you simply create your painting and allow it to dry. The masking fluid can then be rubbed off and reveal your straight line.
A lot of artists like to use masking tape, and if it is used properly it can leave a perfectly straight and even line. You need to be careful of paint bleeding underneath the tape so running your nail along its edge a couple of times to make sure it is properly stuck down is really important. Some tapes need to be removed within 24 hours while others can stay on for a week or so, depending on how long you need it to stay on for would factor into what one you choose obviously!
If the line you want to paint is only small you can use a fine knife like a pallet knife and with thinned down paint run it on its edge along where you want your line, as it’s a non porous material it won’t hold much paint so it will only create a short section.
Another method that is a little risky is taping a piece of string or cotton across the canvas or board where the line is meant to be and do a quick thick layer of paint over the top, then removing the string before it dries, the thick consistency of the paint is really important here as you don’t want it to run into the groove and spoil the line effect you have just created.
Try using a foam brush for straight lines, like the horizon line in the sea. Angle the straight edge of the brush into the paint, and then apply it to the canvas.
You can also use things like oil pastels with oil paint and watercolour crayons with acrylics or watercolour where you simply draw the line on, you can use a ruler for this but Id recommend a piece of card that you can throw away after you have finished as your ruler can get quite dirty.
Or like me, simply practice and practice until you get good at it and do it freehand. You will have mishaps from time to time, but sometimes they can be a fabulous effect and look more real depending on the work. I do use masking tape for certain artwork if it needs it, no point in being a super hero if you don’t need to be after all!
Posted: Wednesday 5 May 2010