Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Line Weights

Line weights aren't probably something that you're thinking "wow, won't this be fun and useful to learn!" I mean, rendering has some kind of coolness to it, but line weights, when they're working, totally disappear. When they're not working, or aren't there, that's when things can look pretty amateurish.

So with that in mind, I figured I would cover them next. I do have some requests that I'm going to get to over the next little bit, but this was a biggy for me, and relatively easy to get across, I think, so here goes.



This is a simple figure that I drew with a flat line. There's no weight going on here with the lines at all, and as a result it really lacks a lot of depth. You can go ahead and give me grief about the monkey long arm if you like.... It's a quicky!




Now here is the same drawing with line weights added. They instantly give the figure some heft, really help show which forms are in front of others, and even give the figure a sense of lighting! Ahem. If I do say so myself....




Now, lots of people think that this is an inking technique, and traditionally that is true, but nowadays pencilers don't leave these sort of things to chance. If you do, you may get lucky and get someone who really knows his stuff, but do you want to be so beholden to a good inker? Besides, more and more pencilers are forgoing inking altogether now. Many publishers may decide it's easier to go with someone who gives them tight enough pencils that they can be tighter with their budget!


Fortunately line weights are easy, easy to figure out how to do properly and consistantly. Honestly...


Here are the rules as I know them to be. And I know that different people do things differently, but hey, if you like how someone else does it then you need to observe their work and learn their rules! Inside curves, undersides, and connecting points should always have a thicker line. This assumes that you have lighting from above. If you have lighting from somewhere else then adjust appropriately. For instance, the top of Captain America's head could even have a broken line...but if you break the line where it connects to the neck, it'll just look flat and lifeless.




Figure 1 above illustrates this point in very, very simple terms. Where the mounds connect is shored up, but the crests of the mound is broken. The eye completes the line, and the break kind of gives the drawing some air... If you did this the opposite way around you would have something that really doesn't read well.




Figure 2 shows an underside curve. As you can see, it curves inside and under, and it would be a natural place for shadowing if the lighting were to come from above, so that's the place that gets the thicker line. Where it curves up toward the light, it thins out, and could even be broken... Frank Miller's work is such a great example of how drawings can hold up without lines where the light is.

Figure 3 shows how an inside curve goes to a connecting point. I finished one and left one so you could see the difference.

Ok. So that's line weights. But there's something else that's very closely related that I feel like I should uh....relate.


If you can ignore the texture on this picture....I'm almost out of good Marvel paper right now, and even photocopy paper, so I'm using photocopy paper with stuff printed on the other side, and it's showing up on the scanner.... I tried to erase it as best I could, but what do you want? It's free.

So figure four shows two arms. One is a contour line, with no connecting points at all. The second has connecting points where forms overlap. Now, in order to do this, you have to know which forms overlap which, but unless you show that consistantly, it doesn't read. It's very simple, but something I see missing all the time. Broken lines at connections, and overlapping that fights form are major problems in portfolios I see from artists who I know could fix it if they were just aware of the problem. Now take these connecting points in figure four, and throw the line weights on them, and you have a figure that's practically complete!



I'm reading this post, and I'm feeling like I'm not as clear as I could be on one point, so here it is. Figure 5 shows a connecting point that's been broken, and one that hasn't. The broken one is really not a connecting point at all, is it? It's just two floating lines! I would challenge you to tell me which one is in front of the other. Now imagine a picture with this problem repeated all over! It's a flat mess. The connecting point that hasn't been broken though is clear and easy to read. The top line is in front of the bottom.

9 comments:

fatjester said...

Great post! Thank you so much for taking the time to help us other artists improve ourselves with your tips!

matitaimpazzita said...

I'm learning a lot thanks to you!

Great man!

Leonel Castellani said...

Excellent post and even better blog. The Batman and Daredevil paintings look amazing.

Inker said...

Cool, thanks Dave

mech said...

hi david, saw a copy of your dvd once from a friend and it was a great help. I learned alot. I was wondering if you could elaborate more on tangents?

more power.

Ferran Delgado said...

Thanks for the tips! You're very generous...

Martin W. said...

nice blog with beautiful and valuable content here. hope you can keep sharing those insights :)
Thanks a lot!

Jason Michels said...

I've read this post a couple of times and I have listened to your explanation on the Gnomon DVDs, but I'm still not sure I understand what you mean by "inside curves." Do you mean any curve that's concave relative to the larger mass? I could understand a rationale for that if you assume that the light is coming from somewhere in front of the character.

Yami said...

thanks for sharing your art ! ;) your great