Whilst some line drawings are extremely intricate and detailed, the same technique can be used to create simple and quick outlines or "hints" of a subject, rather than sketching a realistic impression. Line drawing is a great way to build confidence in close looking and identifying key features and shapes in your drawings.

In this blog, Vicky Thompson, Senior Learning and Engagement Officer, takes you through some of her line drawings to help inspire you to experiment and create your own simplified line drawings.

Equipment needed:

  • Paper 
  • Pencil 
  • Black pen 
  • Rubber 

Over to Vicky:

Start by dividing your paper up. Since we are just starting out, we'll begin with smaller drawings and you can build from there.

As a beginner, always start your drawing in pencil – this way you can try lots of different lines before settling on your final line to go over in pen. Look carefully at what you are drawing. Line drawings are all about focusing on the outlines and core lines of an object or view. Part of the skill is deciding what to include in your line drawing and what to leave out.

I find it helps to draw from photographs, rather than life, as the subject has already been transformed into a 2D image, so the tricky part of working out where the lines might be has already been done. But of course, you can draw from a 3D subject directly in front of you if you wish. For example, I took this photograph of a church on one of my daily walks.

1. I started by sketching the outline of the church, placing where the steeple would go, marking out the roof and placing the corners of the building and the windows. I think the best line drawings are the simplest so I decided that I would leave out some of the details, like some of the buttresses. I also decided to simplify the grand window.

2. Once I had sketched it out, I then went over it again with my black pen. At this stage, I edited as I went. I changed some of the positioning, I made the edge of the roof a thicker line, and I got a bit creative with the front window. I also added some detail to the roof to make it clear it was a different material to the walls of the church.

3. Finally, I rubbed out the pencil marks and neatened up some of my lines with my pen.


I also had a go at some other photographs from past travels. I used the same method for this photo I took of the windmill at Kastellet, Copenhagen. The illustrative style allows you to use a lot of creative licence when doing line drawings. I thought some birds in the sky would add a little bit of character to the image.


This photograph of the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco has a lot going on in the background and foreground and all around the building. For my drawing, I wanted the building to be the focus, but I also wanted to experiment with adding trees to provide some context and scale to the building. I framed this drawing in a circle as it allowed me to not worry too much about the background or wider details, and makes for a more interesting frame than a square or rectangle. For the trees I just drew wobbly lines to give the impression of wide, flat branches. Some simple squiggles in the foreground worked great for the bushes!


These pumpkins were more of a challenge. There is a lot going on in the original photograph, with lots of different textures from the hay bale, but also in the different types of pumpkins. After sketching out the rough circles to place the pumpkins, I experimented with ways to create different textures. Lots of little lines, dots and dashes seemed the best technique. Once I moved onto using my pen, I adjusted some of the shapes of the pumpkins and looked again at how the lines curved out from the stems to make them look 3D. I added the fence as a background, so I felt it needed a clear border to mark the edges of the drawing, so I used a thicker black pen to create a thick border.

Remember, when drawing lines, you are in control of what you include in your drawing, and what you leave out. If something feels too complex, or you can’t think of how to simplify it to create the line drawing style, just leave it out, or adjust it. You aren’t trying to create an exact, life-like drawing - you are creating a heavily simplified illustration.

The best way to practice this drawing style is to do little doodles. Since you don’t want to add too much detail, smaller drawings are easier as you aren’t as tempted to try to fill the empty spaces. What about drawing everyday objects around you? Your mobile phone? The TV? A Camera? What about your house? Or your mug of tea and biscuit?

We would love to see your creations, share them in the comments below or on socials.