What is Line?

Line is one of the first visual elements that artists experimented with and has remained an important element in art and design throughout history from the first cave paintings to modern day comic books and manga.

"A Line is a Dot that went for a walk"

Paul Klee

A line is defined as the path of a moving point through space, though personally, I prefer artist Paul Klee’s definition “line is a dot that went for a walk.”

We can describe every line in 4 ways, Length, Weight, Direction and Line Quality.

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The simplest way to describe a line is its length. Lines can be long or short, or even ‘teeny’. We can also compare the length of a line using words like longer or shorter. 


The three main directions we talk about are Horizontal (like the horizon line), Vertical (up and down) and Diagonal, which is anything in between. Diagonal lines can be almost any direction so you often have to be more specific about the direction of these lines. 

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Current (1964) Bridget Riley 

We can also the direction of lines compared to something else. So, you’ll have probably heard about Parallel lines in Maths. These are lines that travel in the same direction. 

In maths, these have to be straight, but Artists are a bit more flexible, so we can have parallel lines that are curvy or jagged like this painting by British artist Bridget Riley. 


In Art we talk about the weight of a line to describe its thickness or how dark that line is. Thicker and darker lines are considered ‘heavy’ whereas thin and pale lines, which are described as ‘light’.

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You can try this with a pencil. Try varying the pressure and angle of your pencil

Try holding the pencil closer to the tip for heavier pressure and further away when you want to press lightly.

Line weight can be used to create depth in line drawings like this drawing by Vincent Van Gogh and is crucial for practices like calligraphy. 

"I sometimes think there is nothing as delightful as drawing" 

Vincent Van Gogh

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Street in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer (1888) Vincent Van Gogh 
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The quality of a line is not about whether it is good or bad. Line quality is about the way a line looks or our emotional response to that line. For example, Jagged lines can seem harsh or aggressive whereas curvy lines can seem calming. 

"Every single line means something"

Jean-Michel Basquiat