How to Paint a Straight Line With Oil Paints

Written by jeffrey brian airman
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How to Paint a Straight Line With Oil Paints
Long-handled paint brushes are easier to keep steady over long distances. (a row of used paint brushes image by Gleb Semenjuk from

You can paint a straight line with oil paints by using a few helpful tools. It takes some oil painters years to paint straight lines on a canvas using a freehand technique. Many painters rely on straight edges and adhesive tape to guide the lines in a piece so they appear straight upon close examination. Increase the chances of achieving straight lines in oil paintings by employing aids that make the task much easier.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Locking easel
  • Canvas
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Painter's tape (optional)
  • Script brush
  • Mahl stick (optional)

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  1. 1

    Lock the canvas into position on a steady easel and hold the ruler onto the canvas. Align the edge of the ruler with where you want to paint the straight line and draw a faint pencil line along the edge.

  2. 2

    Pull the ruler away from the surface of the canvas and examine the light pencil line for position and straightness. Erase and redraw the line until you are satisfied. You may choose to apply painter's tape to one or both sides of the line to protect the adjacent sections of the canvas.

  3. 3

    Load the script brush with a medium amount of oil paint and press it gently to the farthest part of the line. Draw the brush toward you slowly, keeping equal pressure on the canvas and moving at a steady rate. Some artists use a mahl stick to steady their painting hand and keep it up off the canvas.

  4. 4

    Pull the painter's tape away from the canvas as soon as you have finished painting the line. Be careful not to drag the tape through the fresh paint.

  5. 5

    Practice the technique over and over to get faster and draw straighter and more even lines. After a few attempts the tape will not be necessary.

Tips and warnings

  • A mahl stick is simply a long stick, usually with a soft end, that is leveraged against the side of the canvas to provide a perch for the painting hand. You can make a basic mahl stick by shoving a half-inch wooden dowel into a rubber ball.

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