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Drawing Vocabulary


Two sides that are not the same but still balance each other. Video

Atmospheric Perspective

A phenomena in which distant objects appear lighter in tone, less detailed, and bluer or cooler in color. Video

Axis Line

A straight line, sometimes imaginary, that indicates center, movement, and the direction of movement in form.


The area or scenery furthest back in a picture.


Achieved by varying the amount of pressure put on the drawing material or by smudging the material with a blending tool.

Blind contour drawing

A kind of drawing done in one continuous line, in which the pencil is kept moving while the eyes remain on the object, never looking down at the paper.

Cast Shadow

Shadows made on the ground by objects.

Chalk Pastel

A chalk-like crayon made from ground pigment with a binder added.


A drawing material made from charred wood.


The strong contrast between light and dark in a painting for dramatic effect.


A composition technique used to tie specific elements together in a circular fashion – literal or implied.

Colored Pencil

An art medium constructed of a narrow, pigmented core encased in a wooden cylindrical case.


The placement or arrangement of visual elements in a work of art.


A media made of graphite and clay. Most commonly found in white, black, sanguine, and other earth tones.

Continuous Line Drawing

A continuous line drawing is produced without ever lifting the drawing instrument from the page.

Contour Line

Line that defines the edges of forms, separating each area from neighboring ones.


A crayon is a stick of colored wax, charcoal, chalk or other material used for writing or drawing. A crayon made of pigment with a dry binder is a pastel; when made of oiled chalk, it is called an oil pastel.

Cross Contour Drawing

A cross contour drawing contains parallel lines that run across the surface of an object (or radiate from a central point), such as those that appear on a topographical map or a digital wireframe.

Cross Hatching

Using crossed lines for shading.


Lines that travel across a form to describe volume and surface characteristics.


The apparent distance from front to back.


A composition technique that is exhibited through the use of lines that run at an angle, between horizontal and vertical. They are used to accentuate the focal point by creating a tense and dynamic composition.

Diagonal Line

A line that has an oblique or slanted direction. Can help create the illusion of movement and instability.

Dip/Nib Pen

A type of pen that typically consists of a metal nib that is interchangeable in its handle.


A form of visual art in which a person uses various drawing instruments to mark paper or another two-dimensional medium

Ebony Pencils

A type of pencils used for sketching, drawing, layout or design work. They can produce very light values or very dark ones for heavy shadows and dark tones.


Most common types of drawing papers are made from cotton, cellulose, or a combination of fibers.


Referring to the finish of drawing paper. Manufacturers generally offer three traditional finishes, usually labeled rough/unfinished, cold press, or hot press.

Focal Point

The element in an artwork that pulls in the viewer’s attention.


The visual plane nearest to the viewer. It is the front layer in an artwork.


The visual distortion of objects from a particular perspective as they recede in space.

Full Range

Use of values from lightest to darkest in a work.

Gesture Drawing/Line

A quick drawing meant to capture the essence of an object or figure. Line that shows the movement inherent in the object or figure, usually very fluid looking.


A media made of a stable form of carbon, baked to varying degrees of hardness. Found in both stick and pencil form.


This composition technique is demonstrated by using multiple objects or clustered shapes. This visual weight is often the focal point of the artwork.

Gum Eraser

This eraser removes media from fragile surfaces. While it removes the media through friction, it crumbles as it does so, preserving the surface.

Hard Edge

When the edge of a subject is well defined and crisp.


Shading using a series of parallel lines. Achieved by applying one-direction lines to create value; the more the lines, the
darker the value. Contoured lines are used with round objects.


A work of art created to accompany a story or other literary work in print.

India Ink

A fluid carbon black ink, often used for dip/nib drawing.

Kneaded Eraser

This eraser lifts media from the surface instead of friction. Used in the traditional eraser sense of removing marks, as well as subtractive drawing. It can be molded into different shapes and is self cleaning by “kneading” it.

“L” Shape

This composition technique is commonly found in landscapes. By dividing the composition into two unequal parts, (horizontal or vertical) an object is included perpendicular to the dividing line, creating an “L” shape.

Linear perspective

A drawing technique used to create the illusion of depth in two-dimensional artwork. Based on the fact that parallel lines or edges appear to converge and objects appear smaller as the distance between them and the viewer increases.


The part of a landscape that lies between the background and the foreground.

Negative space

The empty space around an object.


The part of a pen that touches the surface and disperses the ink from its capillary channels. Nibs vary greatly in size and shape.

Oil pastel

An oil-based crayon which combines pigment with a non-drying oil and wax binder. A media made of a non-drying mineral oil, pigment, and binder. They are available in a wide range of colors and are incredibly easy to blend and layer. Fine details can be difficult to exhibit and they are prone to smearing.


The placement of one or more objects over one another in order to create the illusion of depth


A media comprised of powdered pigment and a binder. Found in both stick and pencil form. They are available in a wide range of colors and are excellent when used to show value. They can be extremely dusty and smear easily before using a fixative.


A means for showing the illusion of 3-dimensional depth on a 2-dimensional surface.

Pen and Ink

A drawing done in ink which is applied with a nib/dip pen.

Permanent ink markers

The ink in these markers will not come off with water.


Objects that are placed either low or high on the picture plane and seem to be closer to the viewer than objects placed closer to the eye level.

Planar Analysis Drawing

A planar analysis drawing simplifies complex curved surfaces into flat planes, using straight lines.

Positive space

The space made up of the objects or shapes within a composition.


Size relationships of parts to a whole within the composition.

Radiating Lines

A technique used by incorporating lines from various points in the composition to guide the viewer’s eyes to the focal point.


Achieved by applying medium to paper and using an eraser to create changes in value. Used in combination with blending.

Rubber Eraser

The “standard” eraser and most commonly used. Uses friction to remove media from the surface.

Rule of Odds

A composition guideline which proposes that an image is more appealing when there is an odd number of objects within a composition.

Rule of Thirds

A composition guideline used concerning the placement of objects when creating an interesting composition. By dividing your image into a grid, containing nine equally proportioned boxes, points of interest should be placed near the intersecting lines. This helps draw the viewer’s eyes throughout the composition.

“S” Curve

This composition technique is demonstrated through the use of a winding “S” shaped line, the largest curve is commonly used to bring focus to a particular object, while the “S” guides the viewer’s eyes through the composition.


A natural or synthetic solution added to paper to prevent it from absorbing too much moisture. Sizing is added to the paper pulp during manufacturing or applied to the paper surface after the sheet has been formed. Some paper is both internally and surface-sized.


A composition technique that guides the viewer’s eyes around the artwork through the use of a continuous curved line which gradually moves away from its center.


A composition technique used by placing a larger object closer to the center of the composition, with a small object placed further from center. This technique is frequently found in landscapes.


A method of building up value by drawing small scribbled marks. To create more interest, the direction of the line can be varied.


A rough or unfinished drawing or painting, often made to assist in making a more finished picture. A rapid drawing or painting. This may be complete in itself or used for a more detailed project.


A book or pad of drawing paper used by an artist to draw or paint in as part of their creative process

Soft Edge

When the edge of an object is blurred and fades into the background.

Soluble ink markers

The ink in these markers will come off with water.


Achieved by applying small dots to build up darker values. The closeness of the dots determine the value.


A mirror image made from designs of equal proportions positioned in the same location on either side of a dividing line

Tonal Range

Various shades of grey between absolute black and absolute white.


Refers to the surface texture of paper. Heavier tooth paper will reflect lines that appear to have more texture, while a finer tooth will have smoother textures that will reflect cleaner gradations and detail work.


Allow media to be blended without introducing oils through the use of their fingers.


The lightness or darkness of a color

Vanishing point

The point in linear perspective at which all lines in perspective converge and diminish

Vinyl Eraser

This eraser is tough and can erase almost anything. That said, take care when using on thin/delicate surfaces.


Referring to the weight of paper. Typically in the U.S., papers are measured by the weight in pounds of one ream (500 sheets). However, the irregularity of this conventional method has led to the use of metric measurements or grams per square meter (gsm).