Different Types of Outlines

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So you’ve decided to add linework to your painting. However, have you ever explored using different types of line quality? In today’s blog, I’ll show you some of the more popular line types, and a few less common ones.

A Matter of Pen

Most artists add linework using a pen since pens offer much greater control. But even the type of pen used can affect the line type!

I’ll break down the line type you get with different pens, and how you can vary the technique you use when doing linework. Here are some common ones

1. The Fineliner

A solid go-to for many, although each pen offers one set thickness. For more line variety, different fine liner sizes are needed (or you’ll need to go over some of your lines to make them thicker).

Tip: one way to vary your line here is to break it up instead of having a solid line. It’s a good strategy for drawing things with fur, like animals (using dashed lines), or to make your subject appear softer, like a bubble.

You can also get a scratchier line quality by scribbling a little more, or drawing faster so the line sort of “skips” over the surface of the paper for a scratchier look. In general, though, you’ll get a very consistent and regular line, which is good if you want very precise linework.

2. The Fountain Pen

Some artists swear by the fountain pen because you can choose the ink colour, plus you can get a slight gradient within thicker lines because of the way fountain pens work.

You can also get a variation in line thickness by adjusting the pressure you put on the pen, although this depends on the type of nib the pen has. A more flexible nib produces a wider range of line thickness, even if the nib itself is quite pointed. 

3. The Fude Pen

A specific type of fountain pen with a bent nib. It looks broken, but the bent bit allows for an interesting, jagged line quality when used the right way up. When flipped over (so that only the pointed tip of the nib is used), it produces much thinner lines.

You can turn it while drawing, or vary the pressure so you get a variation in the jagged line. It’s pretty cool if you’re into a messier look! You’ll also get a more “random” line quality because it’s difficult to control exactly how much ink flows out (unless you’re only using the pointed tip for thin lines).

Bonus tip: Don’t press too hard when you’re using just the pointed tip though, as you may dig into your paper too hard. The nib might also break, or bend in the wrong way.

In the hands of a seasoned sketcher, the fude pen can make both expressive and delicate lines, making it a very unique tool for linework.

4. The Brush Pen

Brush pens are somewhat of a newer invention, combining the convenience of a pen with the feeling of a brush. With it, you can create linework with a brushstroke-like quality, with even more line variation than with the fountain pen.

While they’re a little more difficult to control (like a paintbrush), you can make more expressive lines with them, and even get a “dry brush” stroke by drawing quickly. You can even splay the bristles like a real brush to get a fur-like texture!

They also come in different sizes, but as long as the bristles come to a fine point, you can still get thin lines from a bigger brush pen.

5. The Felt (or Fude) Brush Pen

This is a variation of the brush pen, where you can still get a brush-like line quality but without the “dry brush” texture. This is because instead of bristles, the “brush” part is made of a stiffer yet still flexible piece of felt, ensuring that the tip will always be pointed.

This means you can’t splay the bristles like you can with a brush pen, but it also allows for greater control over line thickness and quality. They can still be quite expressive though, plus they’re even more convenient to carry around

6. The Chisel Pen

This is a pen with a chisel tip, whether it’s a graphic pen or a fountain pen. That means the nib is much broader than your usual pen and can create lines with a calligraphic look to them.

Of course, you can just use the edge or one of the pointed edges to draw, which will produce a line like a fineliner pen. However, if you hold it so the entire flat edge of the pen touches the paper, you can get both thin and thick lines that twist and turn as a ribbon would.

It’s a little different from the brush pen, as the nib is inflexible, which makes the transition from thick to thin lines fixed at whatever angle you’re holding the pen. If you constantly adjust the angle of your pen to the paper, you can get a bit more variety in the line quality, although at that point you might find it a bit too difficult to control where your pen goes.

A Line for Everyone

While all these different lines and techniques may seem daunting, it’s fine to just pick the one you like the most and experiment with it. Alternatively, if you don’t want to splurge on getting different pens, you can explore all the different lines you can get with what you have. You may be surprised at just how much you can do with a single pen!

Either way, I hope you had fun following along, and have a better understanding of how a line’s quality can affect the overall look of your art. And don’t be afraid to try! There’s always something for everyone.

What is your favourite type of pen and line to use? Have you explored any other types of linework? Let us know in the comments below!

Also, if you’re interested in learning more tips and tricks on making art, feel free to subscribe to our email newsletter. Whether you’re just exploring or in for the long haul, we’ll notify you of all the latest happenings with Etchr!

Nicola Tsoi is a practising graphic designer and illustrator based in Hong Kong. During her downtime, she likes to watch birds do funny things, search for stories, and bake up a storm. She keeps a pet sourdough starter named Doughy. 
Tagged with: Art Tips Ink
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1 Comment

  • thank you for the review of line technic I’ve never tried a fude pen but it sounds like fun and wonder if you have a recommendation?

    Jim Orlowski on

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