basic of line drawing

Picasso is one of the best-known artists in the world. Among his most celebrated works are line drawings that he created using nothing more than an abstract pen stroke. Similarly, other artists like Leonardo Da Vinci and Matisse are known for their line art creations.

It is clear that stencil drawings, though seemingly effortless, have the potential to be stunning masterpieces. Lines form the basics of any picture and are enough to create complete art pieces. So knowing how to turn your photo into line drawings can be helpful knowledge if you are looking to create minimal yet aesthetic art.

aesthetic art

Credit: Pablo Picasso, Woman with Bird

Artists like Picasso have even created beautiful artwork with just one line- which is quite mind blowing! But how exactly can we define line drawings?

What is a Line Drawing?

In a nutshell, line art, contour drawing, or line drawing refers to artwork made with only basic lines and strokes. So, depth and perception are depicted by angling lines a certain way rather than through shading or painting.

A line drawing can be as simple as a picture made of one continuous line on a plain background. But it can also be much more complicated and involve three-dimensional lines, implied lines, multiple gesture lines, etc.

Fredric Forest

Credit: Fredric Forest

Regardless of the kind and method of the line drawing, it can be a powerful and raw expression of emotions.

How to Start With Line Drawing

To master line drawing, you can start by practicing lines or learning Photoshop. But there’s a more straightforward way to turn photos into line drawings using standard technology without Photoshop or drawing skills.

Countless apps in the market today can convert images to gorgeous artwork in seconds. In one click, you can convert photos into sketches and make classic outlines on a white background. You simply need to download the app or visit the website online and apply filters to your photos.

Top 6 Tools to Convert Photos Into a Line Drawing

Let’s look at some of the best tools out there for photo-to-art conversion and learn some easy steps on how to use them.

1. SoftOrbits

SoftOrbits Sketch Drawer helps you add a magical touch to your photographs by converting them into line drawings. You can download it for free and make realistic pencil sketches in a few minutes. These digital drawings can also make gifts like photo frames, mugs, and t-shirts or even act as a tool to practice hand drawing.

If you want more than just a line drawing, the software also includes other filters and effects for shading and color. For instance, you can turn portraits into anime or stencil drawings. Its intuitive technology can automatically identify the tonal values, contours, and hues, so the job will be done for you hassle-free.


Credit: SoftOrbits


Step 1: Choose an Image

The first step after launching the program is to choose the photo you want to turn into a pencil sketch from photo. Drag-and-drop or upload an image through the ‘Add File’ button. `

Step 2: Select the Sketch Style

A menu bar in the upper right corner has three options under ‘Style’, Realistic, Classic, or Detailed Sketch. Choose the preset of your liking after browsing and exploring the art designs available.

The Realistic Sketch effect works well for creating life-like, detailed drawings. It will add shading and highlights and is most suitable for still life or close-up portraits.

Detailed Sketch focuses a lot more on the intricate and specific features of the photo, recreating it as accurately as possible. Because of its sharp focus on details, this style might be more suitable for landscapes than close-up portraits.

Classic Sketch is a much more minimal approach to the photo, using mild pencil strokes and light shading. It focuses on giving a subtle and natural outcome rather than on the accuracy of details.

Since there is a preview option, you can catch a glimpse of the effect on the photo before finalizing and downloading it.

Step 3: Select the Preset

After choosing the style, which determines the overall presentation of the drawing, it is time to pick a preset. It indicates whether there will be shading and color in the picture. By hovering over the many options available, you can preview them before choosing one.

This option is on the top right, under ‘Style’. It helps you decide on the creative medium and appearance of the drawing. For instance, you can select between effects like watercolors, pencil drawing, felt pen, pop art, etc.

This step is where you can choose the artistic preset for line drawing. Some of the best options for line drawing are filters such as Schematic Drawing, Simple Drawing, Felt Pen Drawing, etc.

Pen Drawing

Credit: SoftOrbits

Step 4: Edit the Effects and Settings

It is time to fine-tune these filters to suit your needs by reviewing three options- Contour, Hatching, and Colorization. These can be found below ‘Preset’ in the upper right.

Contour can help you control the darkness and thickness of the pencil strokes of the outlines. You can adjust the strength and intensity of the edges, so you can emphasize or smudge them more based on your preference. Increasing the boldness can give you a stunning outline drawing.

Hatching involves shading using criss-cross lines such that the darker shadow regions would have more zig-zag patterns than lighter areas. This setting will help you adjust the intensity of the hatching in the picture.

By increasing the edge strength, you can exemplify the extent of the hatching at the borders and minimize it at the white areas. This step will lead to a higher contrast image. You can also adjust the intensity of mid-tones and decide whether you need to shade these areas.

Colorization, as the name suggests, can help you add a pop of color to your outline drawing. You can also choose which colors you want, so you have a lot of creative freedom here. You always have the option to retain it in its classic black-and-white form.

Step 5: Save the Image

Now you can turn the photo into a line drawing by clicking on ‘Run’. If you are happy with your edits, click ‘Save File’ on top. This step will save your image to the device.

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2. VansPortrait

This program is an AI-based photo-to-art converter that produces outline drawings, stencils, sketches, and anime portraits. VansPortait uses neural style transfers and GAN deep learning technology to achieve this automatically in just five seconds!

It can effortlessly detect the outlines to make the perfect life-like line sketch. It also guarantees that all uploaded images are erased within 24 hours so that you can rest assured about your safety.

They also have tools like a Photo Enhancer, Photo Restorer, Background Remover, Cartoonizer, and more. You can access their intuitive AI-driven technology online or download the software for free. The paid plans start at $4.95 for 100 credits.


Credit: VansPortrait


Step 1: Upload a Photo

The first step is to upload the picture you want to convert to a line drawing. Click ‘Outline Pictures Now’ on the homepage to add it to the program.

Step 2: Turn the Photo Into a Line Drawing

Choose a sketch preset for the conversion from the available options on the VansPortrait Workspace. For example, you can choose whether you want it to be an outline pencil sketch or an anime portrait. Click ‘Start to Process’ to apply the line drawing effect.

Step 3: Save the Image

You can preview your creation before downloading it locally to your devices. Now feel free to share this artwork on social media platforms.

3. Fotor

The AI-driven stencil drawing creator can make outlines of your photos effortlessly. You can generate line drawings and sketch portraits using the advanced AI algorithms embedded in its simple UI. You can also use the app version on your mobile or tablet.

The stencil maker will retain the photo's clarity in the illustration, even though it only takes a few seconds to develop. If you plan to get creative by turning photos into line drawings, you can try landscape or portrait visuals for the best results. Fotor can do much more than outline pictures, having filters for styles like cartoons, pop art, etc.


Credit: Fotor


Step 1: Open the Tool

On the Fotor website page on line drawings, click the ‘Outline Your Picture Now’ button. On the next page, choose ‘AI Art’, which will take you to the AI stencil maker.

Step 2: Upload the Image

Press the ‘Open Image’ button on this page to add the original image you want to convert. You can choose any image to make outlines, be it landscapes, portraits, animals, etc.

Step 3: Apply Filter

From the available effects, choose ‘Sketch’ to process it over the uploaded image. Other options include ‘Sketch 2’, ‘Artist’s Sketch’, ‘Pencil’, etc.

Step 4: Download the Image

Save the image to your device.

4. Vectordad

This vectorizer can easily convert any photo into an outline and produces trendy photo-to-line art. It automatically traces the image to make a lined stencil in seconds, saving you hours of sketching. It can also make basic line drawings, cartoon drawings, etc., for free.

The files, once ready, can be downloaded in the SVG format. It also has a stencil maker app that lets you make outline sketches in PNG or JPEG image formats. The line art converter creates instant stencil designs in a single click on your PC, smartphone, or tablet.


Credit: VectorDad


Step 1: Upload the Image

Choose the photo you want to turn into a line drawing and upload it. It has to be in PNG or JPG format.

Step 2: Add Filter

The outline sketch generator automatically adds the effect and converts the image into a stencil illustration. You can preview the outline and get a sample of the final product.

Step 3: Adjust the Effect

You can then modify the effect settings option to adjust the brightness, the level of detail, etc. It even has a slider for cleaning up that lets you remove the little dots on the sides of the outline for more immaculate edges.

Step 4: Download the image

Now you can save the final outline sketch to your gallery in the format of your choice.

5. PicsArt

PicsArt is a one-stop creative platform for those without graphic design knowledge to create stunning visuals. Its outline sketch filters promise to give you sophisticated line drawings. With a tap, the modern technology in this program can automatically identify the edges and silhouettes of your photo.

There are options to edit the breadth of the outline, the color of the strokes, the background, and the pattern. So, as hassle-free as the process is, you still have the creative freedom to experiment and enhance your picture. PicsArt has a mobile app version so that you can use this tool at your fingertips anytime, anywhere.


Credit: PicsArt


Step 1: Open the App

Launch the PicsArt app on your device and click the plus sign (+) seen at the lower part of the display.

Step 2: Upload the Photo

Add the original image you would like to edit to the app. If you don’t have a particular picture in mind, you can select one from PicsArt’s ‘Free to Edit’ gallery of stock photos.

Step 3: Scroll Through the Effects

If you click ‘Editor’, you can choose ‘Effects’ to browse the sketch drawing filters available in PicsArt. When you tap ‘Sketch’, you will see many photo editing options, including six primary sketch filters. It helps to compare them and find the most appealing one.

They have a ‘Simple Sketch’ filter, providing a minimal, classic outline of the picture you want to transform. They also have some variants like the ‘Total Sketch’ filter, which creates a basic silhouette sketch on a white background, like paper. The ‘Double Sketch’ remixes the image so it has two outlines of the portrait figure.

The ‘Shape Sketch’ filter creates a line drawing online using geometric shapes and patterns. As the name indicates, the ‘Mirror Sketch’ filter flips or mirrors the illustration. The ‘Background Change Sketch’ creates a line drawing of the main subject while giving you complete control over the appearance of the background.

Step 4: Adjust the Filter

If you ‘press and hold’ the ‘Sketch’ effect you want to apply to your photo, you will open up the settings to edit the image further. To modify the color of the outline strokes, click on the colored circles here.

Adjust the horizontal slider and vertical slider to reposition your line drawing contour. There are also options to edit the width of the edges and its transparency level. Once satisfied, click the ‘Apply’ button in the top right corner.

Step 5: Download the Image

Tap' Next' to save the final result locally and share it on your socials. You would have an aesthetic line drawing in your library at this point.

6. RapidResizer

This free stencil maker uses its technology to automatically detect and trace the outlines in your pictures. You can convert a photo into a line drawing online using RapidResizer, which is also helpful for many other purposes. Apart from stencils and patterns, you can make paintings, wood working, stained glass art, and edits in different craft styles.


Credit: RapidResizer


Step 1: Upload a Photo

On their website, add an image by tapping the ‘Select an Image From Your Device’ option.

Step 2: Adjust the Photo

In RapidResizer, there is no ‘line drawing’ filter as such to apply. You can produce stencils of your liking by modifying options like Edges, Thin, Threshold, and Adaptive. You can also adjust the stencil design's darkness, sharpness, etc., and this will indirectly help you edit the background.

Step 3: Download the Image

The last step is to save the image, although sharing it directly on Pinterest is possible. The website also has specific online service options for printing the line drawing in any size on one or more pages. You can make coloring pages after you print them out and use them for painting.

Ideas and Examples For Line Drawing

Whether you want to draw a stencil sketch by hand, use Photoshop, or turn a photo into a line drawing online, brainstorm and explore options. You can make a line sketch in many ways based on illustration techniques and final appearances. Let’s look at some ideas and examples for line drawing:

Blind Contour

You can create a blind contour sketch by challenging yourself not to look at the paper. Observe the subject or objects in depth, and let your hand take control of the creation on the sheet.

The final result may not be perfect or realistic, but this exercise improves hand-eye-brain coordination. It can be a relaxing and fun activity that leads to unique and unexpected outcomes.

Art Studio Instructor

Credit: Art Studio Instructor

Gesture/ Movement Drawing

A gesture drawing is done in a few seconds with quick, light, and expressive strokes using a smooth medium. These instinctive sketches can represent movement, actions, etc., as well as the shapes and forms of the subject matter.

This exercise is also a great starting point to ease into sketching. The rapid speed and fluid flow of movement drawing can capture the reference’s substance.

Foothill Art

Credit: Foothill Art

Continuous Line Drawing

In an unbroken line drawing, the artist creates an image without removing their pencil from the sheet. It is made of a single free-flowing, continuous line, so it is also a fast drawing exercise that can warm up your artistic abilities. It builds hand-eye-brain coordination and works best as a quick, intuitive drawing rather than a well-thought-out sketch.

Ryan Prakoso

Credit: Ryan Prakoso


While these drawing ideas create contours, adding highlights and shadows for contrast can also be a part of line drawings. To shade, use small dashes and crosses for hatching or cross-hatching, dots or circles for stippling, and irregular strokes for scribbling. Out of these techniques, artists typically use scribbles to create tonal variations.

Liz Y Ahmet

Credit: Liz Y Ahmet

This ultimate guide to outline drawings has hopefully given you insight into what they are and how you can turn pictures into line drawings. You can convert an image into a stunning piece of art with a few simple clicks without having to learn how to use Photoshop.

Line drawings are often simple and minimalistic, yet emotional and profound simultaneously. You can add a pinch of magic to your boring image by using a filter and turning the photo into a line drawing. So get started on this fun, creative project without further ado!