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Readers Respond: Have you got a great tip on painting straight lines to share?

Responses: 30


What is the best way you've found for painting straight lines quickly and easily? What tip do you wish you'd know when you first started painting? Help other painters on their creative journey by sharing your favorite tip on how to paint straight lines here.

Pull the Brush Towards You

It is far, far easier to paint a straight line if you turn your work so that you can pull the brush towards you rather than dragging it from side to side. As you paint, you can see how straight the line is. For some reason, our hands know how to pull in a straight line; but trying to get them to drag something from side to side in a straight line is another story. If you must go from side to side, try resting your hand against something straight, like a rod or broom handle, and run you hand along it as you paint. In the days of the Old Masters, they had a straight rod that they would lean against the edge of their canvas to rest their hand on as they painted so they wouldn't smudge the rest of their painting, and they used that to paint their straight lines as well.
—Guest Waitsel

Draftsman's Ruling Pen

For acrylics I use a draftsman's ruling pen to draw lines that need to be straight or curved. tape flat washers to one side of a straight edge or French curve and place the washer side against the canvas to prevent the paint from running under the edge. Mix the paint so it has the liquid consistency of ink and load the ruling pen with a fine pointed artist brush. This method works fine for hair or beards. With hair or beards one doesn't need the straight edge just do it free hand. With a ruling pen one can draw very fine lines or even thicker lines. Draftsmen have used ruling pens to produce inked drawings for centuries. Practice using the ruling pen until you get the hang of it before trying to use it for something important.
—Guest dan o'hearn

Spackling Knife

Flat 10 or 12" metal spackling blade works well to gain a straight edge. press it down, paint your line, lift, and wipe off the blade.
—Guest TK

Horizon Line....

Since I tend to work huge, like on walls I have used the chalklines which you snap and leave a line on the wall. I've also stretched a thread, and used a carpenter's level to make sure ti is straight, not trusting the ceiling or floor to be level. I have also used one of those carpenters tools which casts a laser light across the wall, marking it then with a pencil.
—Guest Theresa Henderson

Use a Rigger Brush

A rigger has only a few hairs for making a fine line, but the hairs are long to hold enough paint for a long line. Guide it with ferrule and your finger tips sliding along a mahl stick.
—Guest SFitch9459

Straight lines

I always do this with a flat brush (size depeneding on length of line). I run the square edge along the line. Gives a lovely straight line edge. For horizons, I often turn the canvass vertical.
—Guest mark@oncreative.net

It depends on the surface

I use a lot of collage on many of my paintings and my surface is seldom absolutely flat or even. I use a ruler and hope for the best. Some days are better than others!

masking tape (yet again)

Place masking tape along the intended line; paint the line as best you can along the tape edge; remove the tape. On the side of the tape, it will be a crisp, perfect edge. On the other side, not so much, but this can even be an intended result, or you may correct imperfections by hand (using the background color, more easily then painting the whole line by hand.

Painting straight lines

I tried a piece of cardboard (didn't want to mess up my ruler) and just followed along the side of the cardboard with the brush and that worked.
—Guest Anita

painting straight lines tip

I pick up a bit of paint from my pallet with the straight edge of a painting knife, size determined by the length of line needed, then apply it directly where I want onto the canvas. Voilá! Works great especially for structures.

Straight lines

Look where you are ending up - not where the brush is.
—Guest jenny

2 ideas

1. hold the brush handle in the direction of the line. 'Follow' the direction of the brush handle. 2. Practice many straight lines in different directions on a page. You will fine one angle and direction by far the easiest. Turn your natural angle.

Quick straight lines with one hand

Masking tape a piece of colored thread on the location of the line (tape only at ends); remove thread after painting line over it.
—Guest Jim Tanner

Tips for painting straight lines

I was working on a boat picture and had to paint riggings. I pondered this for a while as I do have trouble painting a straight line. had a brainwave, I painted the edge of a ruler then placed it on the paper - wow what a marvelous line. The ruler had a metal edge so it was fine, though I don't think it matters what you use, it is the idea.
—Guest jacqui mowlem

Tip on painting straight lines

I think you could probably use two large clips both sides of canvas (in the same direction of the line that you want to draw) and then attach a copper wire to them and straighten the wire tight. Then you could use this wire as a guide to draw a straight line.
—Guest Maryam

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