Drawing straight lines freehand without using rulers or straight edges as a guide is a useful skill for furthering drawing and sketching skills. Lines obtained with a ruler or another straightedge can appear very harsh and sometimes end up discouraging line movement in the final works.

My aim this month is to focus my energies on improving my skills to draw straight lines which look organic, fluid and somewhat linear. There are a number of drawing books available, and skimming through some available via Scribd (e-book subscription service) there are only a few books that stress the need for mastering the straight line. I have listened to and read both sides of the argument, and I believe that drawing a straight (-ish) line could help me improve my drawing skills.

Youtube is an excellent free resource for learning to draw and paint. I watched a number of youtube videos and took copious notes over a few days. Then I selected the most relevant ones and noted down the key points. I have critically analysed the information and synthesised key points.

Section 1: Mindset

Guideline Source
Clear your mind and focus your intention on drawing a line. (15)
Make Decisive movements when drawing. (2), (9), (14)
Using the “dot to dot” technique focus your eye on the endpoint (target). (3), (13), (14), (15), (17)

Section 2: Stance and grounding

I have to consider how to hold the pencil and what is the best way to use my arm to draw straight lines.

Guideline Source
Different opinions on whether to fix the paper or not:

Don’t fix the paper to the table, as turning the paper would make it easy to get a comfortable angle. (applies while drawing sitting down).

Draw lines in any direction without turning the paper to master this technique.


(1), (6)


(2), (3)

Don’t clench or grip the pencil hard. Allow it rest in your hand. (1)
Both Tripod and Overhand grips can be used. It seems like it’s a personal preference. 1-17
Keep your hands still and keep the pencil still in your hand. (16),
Placement of Hand (different views)

Keep your hand in the air when drawing the lines this will eliminate smudging.

Place the heel of the hand on the paper use the sensation as a guide to draw vertical lines.

Place the non-drawing hand on the edge of the board along the vertical axis and use that as a guide to draw vertical lines.

(2), (10), (14)




Use the entire arm when drawing lines. (1), (2), (5), (6), (15),(16)
Use your biceps and triceps. (1)
Different opinions on the role of shoulder and wrist:

Lock your elbow and wrist and draw with your shoulder as a pivot using your whole arm.

Only lock your wrist when drawing.

Lock your wrist and use your elbow as a pivot to draw short lines.

Lock your wrist and elbow and using the shoulder as a pivot draw long lines.

For vertical lines only bend your elbow and keep your forearm straight.

For horizontal lines, stretch and bend at the shoulder




(6), (7), (8), (15)







Focusing one’s eye

When using the “dot to dot” technique focus your eye on the endpoint (target).

When drawing the lines don’t keep your eye on the tip of the pencil which will result in wobbly eyes.

(3), (13), (14), (15), (17)



Section 3: Drawing the line

Guideline Source
Use the “dot to dot” technique for drawing straight lines. *(see below) (1), (2), (3), (4), (6), (9), (13), (14)
Apply the “ghosting” technique which means go over the target line a couple of times in the air, before drawing lines. (2)
Using the “dot to dot” technique focus your eye on the endpoint (target). (3), (13), (14), (15), (17)
Using the “dot to dot” technique don’t draw the line pressing directly on the starting dot. He used an analogy of an aeroplane landing and taking off. Begin by touching down on the paper and then towards the end lift the pencil off. (4), (9)
“Ready, Aim, Fire” in conjunction with the “dot to dot” technique.

Ready: Hand, wrist and elbow should be off the paper. This will reduce the friction.

Aim; Keep your aim on the target. Where to start and finish. Keep the aim on the target

Fire: Quick and confident. Put the pen on the paper and make the lines.

Keep the pressure and speed as uniform as possible. (1), (10)

Section 4: Practise and experiment

Guideline Source
Draw short lines at first, then increase the length of the lines with continual practice. (2), (7)
Practise drawing different line weights. (4), (7)
Fill up A4 pages with lines to cover the page with cross hatching (very long lines spanning the A4 pages). Try not to turn the paper to master drawing lines at varying angles. (2)
Encourages the use of drawing tablets with a stylus to practise straight lines. (7)


Future Work

I will be drawing 1000 lines per day for the next 4 weeks to master drawing straight lines. I will show my progress and experimentation on a weekly basis. There will also be a post about non-paper methods of practising drawing and sketching next.


  1. How to draw straight line freehand, Art Lessons Online, created 7th Oct 2017, accessed 8th Dec 2019 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WJkkpN7TZt0&t=2s)
  2. How to Draw a Straight Line Freehand (Without a Ruler) – Tips and Hacks (Fine-Art-Tips, created 27th Nov 2018, accessed 8th December 2019) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=haPQ3MigHYg)
  3. How to draw a straight line – freehand! – Architecture Daily Sketches (Themordin, created 5th Dec 2017, accessed 8th Dec 2019) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GFs0-mRWUyA)
  4. How to draw better lines _ Its important (Art of Wei, created 24th Sep 2015; accessed on the 9th December 2019) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QSpLMzJNSJ4&t)
  5. How to draw a straight line without a ruler part 1 (Easyjammer, created on 14th Sep 2011, accessed on the 9th December 2019) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlG_tYryiFU)
  6. Drawing Tutorial – Freehand Lines & Circles (Joshua Hendry, created 29 Mar 2011, accessed on the 9th December 2019)(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Ty4KCPZiCw)
  7. How to Draw Straight Clean Lines Freehand – Beginner friendly (TheSketchAcademy, created 03 Sep 2019, accessed on the 9th December 2019) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GuULwiz_mKU)
  8. ‘The secret to drawing a straight line without a ruler’ – Craig Houghton (by Sktchy, created 19 Sep 2018, accessed on 9th December 2019) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pNGHWr1SeR8)
  9. Sketching Basics 1: All About Lines (Reid Schlegel, created 01 Jun 2017, accessed on 9th December 2019) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cE6JBbTvTp4)
  10. How to draw straight lines Freehand (HTD TV, 13 Jul 2017, accessed on the 9the December 2019) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U8QWGc2fxbk)
  11. Draw a Straight Line (Grant Fuller, created 26 December 2011, accessed on 09 Dec 2019) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=58gHQ_96rRs)
  12. Line drawing practice. Hard Mode: Vertical, freehand, slow (Turbinskiy, 30 Jan 2019, accessed on 09 Dec 2019)(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ERF1GxiWI_M)
  13. How to Draw Lines Like an Architect | Architecture Lessons | #1 (JM Architecture, created on 02 Jan 2019, accessed 09 Dec 2019) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k1sGMKWbOAc)
  14. Joining points method for improving how to draw straight lines (David Lenon, created 18 Apr 2014, accessed on 09 Dec 2019) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F6IjKW77WiU)
  15. LESSON 1 – Sketching Straight Lines (Blake Williford, created on 13 Nov 2014, accessed on 09 Dec 2019) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C9Q-x8hmoCA)
  16. How to Draw a Straight Line (Jeffery Sama, created 25 August 2012, accessed on 09 Dec 2019)(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTDJqy1muhQ)
  17. Howto: Intro to Technical Sketching – Straight Lines (Steven Combs, created 16 Mar 2007, accessed on 09 Dec 2019)(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A2k2x0OVq8A)

One thought on “Fundamentals001: Drawing straight lines without a ruler, a survey and grounds for experimental study.

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