Select Page

So, you get inspired by beautiful comic art, you go out and buy a graphics tablet or iPad, you download Photoshop or Procreate, do your rough sketch, start a new layer, name it line art, and-

Bleh.

Mina Grey recently asked about getting smooth and clean line art on a graphics tablet, and honestly it’s something that I think a majority of digital artists have experienced, and there isn’t much out there that provides hope. Yes, you can sort of sidestep the problem by using vectors and paths, but that really isn’t what we’re looking for.
So I thought I’d show you what you can do to improve, smooth, and clean up your line work, using:

1.Confidence & Muscles
2.Technique
3.Surface
4.Gloves
5.Software
6.Tweaks

So the order we’re going in starts up here in your mind, we move down to the shoulder, through your arm, to your hand, then to the tablet, and into the computer. First up:

1. Confidence & Muscles

So obviously, the more practice you have with line art and trying to execute smooth lines, the better they’ll be. This starts with making confident lines, which start and end once, instead of lots of short choppy lines along the way. If you’re a newer artist, you’ll need to train your draftsmanship to make smooth straight lines, an exercise that I talked about in my 5 ways to improve your drawing video, that I still do everyday, is laying a page out straight in front of you and filling it with horizontal and vertical straight lines, then diagonal ones, then circles of various sizes that you start and end once, don’t continue to circle. Take your time with them and treat them like any exercise you’d do to build muscle, but in this case you’re building control.

2. Technique

So your lines in real life are just fine, but your digital lines are still jagged and glorpy. Glorpy! Can’t have it.

It may be time to adjust your speed, and it all has to do with how the software is reading your stroke.

Speeding up your stroke by just a bit will sometimes make your line smoother, but it’s important that you aren’t teaching yourself to draw faster at the expense of having control over your work.

You may also want to adjust how zoomed in you are on your work, you may try zooming in further so that the full size of the stroke you’re making maximizes your total surface size.

3. Surface

For me, having a super glossy surface is a bit problematic for a few reasons. For both my Cintiq and the iPad Pro, I have screen protectors that have a bit of grainy tooth, that feel a little bit closer to drawing on paper with a pencil than rubbing a window with a bar of soap.

4. Gloves

Fourth goes along with 3, which is to use something like this, a fingerless glove. For me, using my bare hand on the Cintiq or wacom tablet tends to make it stick and stutter along, because of *moisture*. Now it’s not that my hands are inordinately clammy, it’s that your hand is on a large screen that is putting off a bit of heat which may cause your hand to perspire.
This pair of fingerless gloves I think I paid about $4 for, so it’s worth it to at least try drawing with them even if you don’t like it. Other alternatives, cutting the fingers off a pair of regular gloves, there are some specialty artist gloves made with stretchy material or only wrap around the bottom of your hand but they’re basically the same, or you could lay a sock or washcloth down under your hand if you don’t plan on lifting your hand much.

5. Software

I would advocate NOT using this product as a substitute for properly training your draftsmanship, or using it as a crutch, but Lazy Nezumi Pro is a plugin for Photoshop that helps you create smoother lines. Basically it lags back a bit from your actual stroke, and it calculates the average position of your line. Now unfortunately, as much as I would love to, I have not used Lazy Nezumi, because it is Windows only, and I (apple logo). As of the posting of this video, the developers of Lazy Nezumi must simply abhor money, and they have not released a Mac version. However, if you like me, are interested in one, they’ve provided this link, https://lazynezumi.com/faq#mac, where you can signup to know when one is available. I would recommend doing that, because you’ll add yourself to the number of people requesting it, and it may incentivize their development to see that a lot of folks are interested.
6. Here are some tweaks that will vary based on your personal comfort and style, as well as what you’re using. If you’re using Procreate, under settings and then Prefs at the bottom is an option to Edit pressure curve. You can adjust it to a point, with the brush you’re using, so that you aren’t pressing too hard to get a clean line. Experiment with it, your mileage may vary.
In Photoshop, under the brush menu, you may want to adjust your shape dynamics, there you can change the amount that pen pressure changes the diameter, a minimum diameter, based again on your personal setup etc.

I hope that any part of this can help you, remember to practice, and that especially if you’re newer, that the personal improvement is worth way more than minor hardware and software changes.