Stephanie Bower

Stephanie Bower | Architectural Illustration: | Sketching Workshops: | Sketches: on Instagram at @stephanieabower & | Urban Sketchers Blog Correspondent | Signature member of the Northwest Watercolor Society

Monday, July 2, 2018


Welcome to a series of ten blog posts with tips for better sketching!

#1: Long Lines

Let's start at the beginning, the foundation of any sketch... a good line! A good line 
not only defines shapes and detail, it conveys a sense of energy and personality. Let's talk about how to make LONG LINES, as this can be a challenge when working on location or in a sketchbook.


Anyone who has seen me sketch knows I rely on a straight edge for making long and accurate lines at the beginning of a sketch. I use an  8" 30/60 degree Architect's Triangle that I carry in my waterproof zipper bag with my pencil and sketchbook.

Using this tool started for me with this sketch, at Fatehpur Sikri near Agra, India in 2011.

Looking at this amazing expanse of space and architecture, I was faced with a huge sketch some 24' wide. I struggled quite a bit with getting long was taking forever and frankly, they looked awful! In a moment of desperation, I pulled out a small triangle I was carrying, and voilá, I could snap long, straight lines QUICKLY! Speed is the key. I do this at the beginning of a sketch to SPEED UP and also add energy and some accuracy to my line quality. 


-- Using LIGHT lines at the beginning, architects call them "construction lines", as you lay down the foundation of your sketch.

--I use the straight edge at the beginning of my sketch to set up the big shapes in perspective, then I put it away and just DRAW. Drawing without the straight edge is important for adding character to your drawing as it imbues your sketch with the qualities of your unique hand!

--Work quickly. If you find using this tool slows you down, then ditch it! It's not perfection, it's about speed.

These are the foundation lines of my chiesa sketch in Civita di Bagnoregio, where I teach a workshop every summer.

You can see the long, straight lines done at the beginning of the sketch, then how I go over those guidelines with freehand lines to add the information and character. You can also see my trusty triangle and pencil.

Our hands and arms naturally want to make long lines that are curved, based on the radius of our arms. We can learn to compensate for this curve by intentionally drawing UP as the line gets longer, or an easier and more successful way is to draw lines in segments.

In the piazza of the Italian town of Casaprotta, zoom in and you can see the long lines of the border are actually drawn in segments. Instead of OVERLAPPING the line, which makes the overlap look really obvious, pick up your pencil or pen and ever so slightly separate the lines with a tiny bit of space. Your eye will naturally connect the two, and you won't perceive the gap!

Long lines of the border are drawn in segments to keep the long line straight! Wiggles are OK and can add energy to the line.
Below, you can see how the long line is made in slightly separated segments, and the lower line tends to show the overlap. These are drawn with a .5 mechanical pencil, a fine line, so it is a little hard to see these difference, but with a thicker pencil or pen, they become very obvious!!

Try using these methods to draw long lines in your next sketch!


  1. Stephanie, you are a powerhouse instructor. You instructions are easy to understand how to draw lines and use them to create perspective sketches, and how to apply watercolor. So fabulous.

    1. Dear Gail, you are overly kind as usual! Thanks so much, that means a lot coming from you!!

  2. As a keen follower of your Craftsy course and other material you have published (the wonderful Perspectives book) I am very grateful for even more instruction through your blog

  3. So generous as always! Love your work and love you!!!!

  4. It is so generous of you to share your tips abd the way you explain makes it so easy to understand.