Creative Line Drawing

pencil line drawing of a hollyhock

Pencil line drawing of hollyhocks.

This lesson concentrates on simple line drawing and its creative possibilities.

The line drawings you see here were all created from a photograph of hollyhocks. The idea for each new version came to me as I was focused on creating the current image. I am presenting them to you in the same sequence they occurred to me.

Take Away: If you want to add creativity to your drawings, try not to pre-think it too much. Instead, start drawing normally and then listen to your instincts about the possibilities.


  • A photo with a clear subject.
  • Tracing paper.
  • #2 or HB pencil.
  • Fine tipped black pen.
  • Colored pencils.
  • An eraser.
  • Water colors and a small brush.
  • A scanner, a printer and an image editing program.
Traced line drawing.

Traced Line Drawing

The Line Drawing

You can draw any subject this way, but flowers are excellent for line drawing because of their beautiful shapes. This technique isolates the subject from the background, so your photo doesn’t have to be a particularly good one.

Make a copy of the subject with tracing paper and a sharp #2 pencil. A good way to do this is to tape the tracing paper to the photo and then tape or hold them to a window on a bright day. The outside light shinning through makes it easy to do a tracing.

Even though nature is beautiful, she isn’t always perfect. You can improve your drawing by “fixing” and rearranging elements if you want to. For example, I moved a bud or two and re-drew a leaf that had been half eaten away by bugs. (No comments on my gardening technique please!)

pencil line drawing - Three Hollyhocks

Three Hollyhocks Composition.

Create Another Composition

Try using geometric shapes to help compose a new image.

Make two “L” shaped paper frames and use them to frame the drawing differently. Look at the negative and positive spaces around the drawing (negative space is the space not occupied by the subject) and then move the frame until they look balanced.

Draw a circle around the whole thing on tracing paper and see how the drawing “sits” in it. The geometry of the circle might suggest changes. Try this with an oval too.

An elongated oval suggested some additions were needed to me. Here’s what I added and how I did it.

I used an oval to help place a hollyhock stalk on each side of the main one. To do that, I held the tracing paper and the original line drawing together and moved it around over the photo until I found a place for each new stalk that balanced inside the oval.

I drew the side hollyhocks with varied line to add interest.

To create varied line, use hard and soft lines. Here’s how:

Some edges of your subject probably fade into the background or look less distinct than others. Make the indistinct lines softly with very little pressure on the pencil. Draw the clearly defined edges sharply with more pressure.

This technique makes the hard edges seem to come toward you and the soft edges recede into the background, and that creates a subtle three dimensional quality in the drawing.

ink line drawing of a Hollyhock

Hollyhock Ink Line Drawing

Listen To What The Drawing Suggests

Let yourself be open to what you feel the image needs next, and try not to be critical when an idea is first “budding.” Ideas are tender at that stage and need lots of care.

I drew this version of the drawing with a fine tipped black ink pen. This hard edged look has no lines fading into the background to give it depth, and all the lines are exactly the same width too. This drawing is now all about sharp clear line encircling interesting shapes.

To get a black crisp line, put another piece of tracing paper over the drawing and go over the lines with a pen. This sounds easy but takes some practice to do well. It’s common for the pen to slip near the end of a drawing when your hand gets tired, so take a break now and then.

Another ink drawing tip is to end each section of the line at an intersection with another line. For example, where a stem line touches a leaf line. This helps hide the little blobs of ink that sometimes appear at the beginning and ends of lines.

Colored pencil line drawing of Hollyhock

Hollyhock In Colored Pencil


This Hollyhock had shocking red blooms and asked politely for a color version of itself.

I scanned my drawing and used an image editing program to colorize the lines because that makes an especially delicate looking and colorful line.

You could trace over the line drawing on another piece of tracing paper with sharp colored pencils or pens too.

Line Drawing With Photoshop Filter

Line Drawing With Photoshop Filter

I used Photoshop and a scan for this version of the hollyhocks.

Photoshop and Photoshop elements have many filters you can play with!

Line drawing with water color of Hollyhock

Watercolor Hollyhock

Watercolor Filled Line Drawing

Depending on the type of tracing paper, you might be able to add watercolor on top of it, but if your tracing paper is too fragile, transfer the line drawing to watercolor paper.

I used a small brush so I could could keep the watercolor inside the lines, and added water to the colors until they were so transparent that the lines easily showed through.