Thursday, January 10, 2013

Guides for painting perfect lines

Two blog readers have shared some practical insights about tools for guiding painted lines.

From Nick Freeman:
"You made reference in your Berkey post to different methods of achieving straight lines/edges in paint, always a challenge. I've found that commercial bridges are either too low to the surface or too unwieldy. Out of necessity, I came up with a simple, inexpensive aid years ago that has proven to be effective.

"No doubt you've received other/better solutions, but I wanted to share mine.

"Materials are: 18" wooden ruler with metal edge, the handle from an Arttec sanding pad, 3 5/8" dowels (from Hobby Lobby or such) and some wood glue. After cutting the pad handle in half, affix and add dowels as shown in Fig. 2. The outrigger provides stability with minimal contact to the painting surface. The dowels provide sufficient height away from the painting surface so that the ferrule of the brush can be rested against the ruler's edge.

"As the photos indicate, this implement has been in use for a long time and has been a great help. Looking forward to seeing other ideas from you and your readers.
Very best regards,
Nick Freeman"
After seeing the post about John BerkeyMario Zara suggested another tool for guiding painted lines.

"Actually, I really don't know what name I would give to that tool (neither in English nor in Italian!), but I can give you some more information. The tool is mentioned in the book (which I bought in digital formGouache for Illustration (page 33), where it's called "Holbein RGB" (see also the attached image):

"The Holbein RGB may look like another gizmo doomed to gather dust, but it isn't. The RGB kit consists of a plastic ruler with a groove and a glass rod with a ball tip that rides snugly in the groove.

"With it you can draw not only perfectly straight lines with a brush but also precise curved lines. For straight lines, you hold your brush alongside the glass rod—in somewhat the same way you hold chopsticks. You hold the brush well away from the rounded tip of the glass rod as it rides in the grooved ruler.

"Where the RGB really comes into its own is in drawing precise curves with a brush. The rod and brush follow the edge of a French curve as easily as a straightedge. The glass rod is also a splendid tool for burnishing cut marks left in the surface of a support by overzealous cutting of a frisket. The RGB is a slick little tool.

"The tool is commonly used in Japanese animation studios. See for example here (search 'ruler'):"
Thanks, Nick and Mario!


Judy said...

I wonder where you would buy this rod and ruler device? Couldn't find one online---

Judy said...

please let us know if you find a source

James Gurney said...

Judy, I think the glass rods are available at medical or scientific supply companies. They have a rounded ball-like tip on one end. Here's one source (scroll down):

Tom Hart said...

Great tips. I especially like the straight edge idea. As neat as pre-made tools are, it's nice to be reminded that with a little ingenuity - and usually very low cost - some really great gear can be home-made. Love the classic, organic look of that straightedge tool. BTW, it looks like the dowel tips were tapered to minimize the surface contact.

N C Freeman said...

Tom, those tapered wooden dowels (and other shapes) are available at big box craft stores, so no extra effort necessary. Thanks!

Unknown said...

Yes! Thank you for this post. I am currently painting the molding on a window frame which has so many parallel lines. If something is off it's very noticeable - leads to frustration. This will give me much more control.. Thanks again.

Jeff Z said...

In Syd Mead's Gnomon Workshop video series, he demonstrates a custom-made clear acrylic bridge that he uses. It's at least an inch taller than commercially-available bridges. Rather than using a tiny dowel point, it has broad contact areas at the bottom to distribute weight. He further pads those with masking tape, it looks like. Since he works in gouache, that probably works better than pointed legs, which would dig divots in the fragile medium.

Rich said...

How to achieve those lines in oil painting etc?
John Stobart had been mentioned in a recent post; which made me look at his paintings: All those ancient and gorgeous sailing ships, including thousands of riggings and fine-lined tightropes rendered with such accuracy.

How did he achieve this? This entry here gave me some answers.

WWick said...

A recent trip to the newly refurbished Yale art galleries had me wondering how Gerome could have painted very fine, closely spaced curved lines in perspective across a canvas nearly 5 feet wide. I imagine some sort of mechanical assistance must have been employed.

The painting is "Hail Caesar! We Who Are About to Die Salute You" of 1859.

I found a link to the painting, but you have to look carefully to see the lines.

smudgemaster said...

Hello Mr. Gurney,
I come to your Blog often (everyday) and see that you sketch often wherever you are in pencil and watercolors. Could please do a post about your sketching supplies that you take with you and how you do this. I have a sketchbook and have started taking a few watercolor pencils with to sketch but I noticed you also take paints along. If you all ready posted this, I guess I'll just have look again.
Thanks for all the great posts,

James Gurney said...

Smudgemaster, try this link for a list of supplies:

Tara Wefers said...

I have located the Holbein RGB product!

It is a discontinued product. Very few in stock. Approx cost $20-$30 US.

While supplies last:
Vermont Art Supply
Ask for John (owner)