How-to Paint And Pen Straight Lines

M. Giraude’s laurel scroll showing
interlinear and filigree lines.

For years I’ve fussed over painting straight lines on a scroll. I keep coming back to starting with a ruler and light pencil lines then painting over those lines. The problem is when you use light intensity paints like pink, white, or yellow you see the pencil line through the paint making them seem gray. Unappetizing.

Is there a better way to paint straight lines? 

Whether you’re painting precise interlinear text lines or diapering on your scroll, there’s a way you can get them done with success.

For scrolls, I use a ruler and a sharply pointed small round brush or a dip pen. The brush size depends on the line width you want.

I’ve used a bridge without success because it seemed too bulky, but maybe I should have bought a different one. I have better results with a ruler and a brush or dip pen. 

Here are two videos showing you line-work tips. The first is Steve Mitchell’s. He’s a professional designer, illustrator, and watercolor artist. Steve’s video shows you several ways to create precise lines, both tiny and wide, using different techniques. The second is P. J. Holden’s. He’s a professional comic artist. I offer you this one because of its low angled camera view; it’s almost on the paper. 

Steve Mitchell published his video Dec 8, 2014, on his YouTube channel, Mind of Water.

PJ Holden published his video Sep 28, 2016 on his YouTube channel by the same name.

Although I describe how to use a brush to do this, you can also use a pen to rule straight lines. Here’s how.

Firmly prop your ruler at an angle with your hand, raising it high enough so only the brush’s metal ferrule touches your straight-edge. Hold the brush’s ferrule firmly against the ruler and have the bristle point just touching your support. Stroke the brush or pen steadily down the length of the straight edge making your line. 

Tip: use a light touch and go quickly, but more importantly don’t look at the pen or brush’s point. Look ahead at where you want it to go. This takes practice at first, but it’s worth it. Looking at the pen’s tip causes your line to ugly wiggle. If your line isn’t exactly on the target you’ll still have better results than if it’s wiggly. 

Another tip is to use your arm’s natural swing when you position your paper or pergamenata. If you’re right-handed, it’s easiest to paint a line diagonally from your lower left to the upper right. so move your support so your line goes in that general direction.  

When your scroll design calls for straight lines, you don’t want to spoil it with distracting, wiggly lines. Practice running a few lines before adding them to your almost-finished scroll. You’ll be knocking them out in no time.

Categories: How-to

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