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Practical Use of Lines
Lines Lesson 3

Whether lines appear as part of a graphic element, such as a logo or illustration, or the lines themselves are the graphic element, such as frames and dividers, use them purposefully in the overall design.

Some ways that you might use lines in your design are to:

  • Organize, connect, separate
  • Create movement
  • Provide texture
  • Convey a mood or emotion
  • Define shapes
  • Provide emphasis
  • Provide a framework

The examples below demonstrate a few of the ways lines might be used in page layout or illustration. You can probably find examples all around you as well.

examples of lines used to organize, connect, or separate
Above, a solid line separates columns of text, a pair of lines set apart a phrase, and a short dotted line separates a section of text from other parts of the page.

examples of line used to convey movementexamples of lines used to create texture
A few simple lines added to a piece of clip art gives a sense of movement to the airplane. Short, choppy, vertical lines create a grooved texture along the edge of the timepiece sketch.

examples of lines used to convey a certain mood or emotion (coupon, clip me!)Dashed lines suggest a coupon, whether there is one or not. It causes many of us to take a second look at this ad because the familiar dashed line makes us think "I can save money!"

Here are some descriptions of lines and some of the ways they appear in designs:

Organize. A catalog uses lots of lines "to divide the items and descriptions on the pages." — Student ID M010814

Connect. In a brochure "Thin diagonal lines and arrows are used to connect call-outs to illustrations below. Thin vertical lines are also used to show connection between various horizontal layers in the mapping program’s many layers of mapping data." — Student ID C011409

Texture. In a magazine, the "lines are hand-drawn and appear 'nubbly' as they might appear if they were printed on parchment." — Student ID P011631

Movement. On an image of a dancer "layered on top of the photograph are several very fine lines... that swirl around the dancer..." — Student ID T010924

Auxillary Lessons
This course isn't the first time I've addressed the use of lines in desktop publishing. Read each of the following pages (some are parts of longer articles but you only need to read the one page dealing with lines). Use your back button to return to this page after reading each auxillary page.

In Lines Rule! you'll find examples of how rules (typically solid or dashed horizontal or vertical lines) are used in desktop publishing along with additional design tips.

Lines in Logos is part of a longer feature on logo design. This page shows examples of how changing the appearance of lines can convey different messages in a logo.

Finally, Lines with Photos is a quick tip on creative use of mug shots in newsletters. On this page you'll see some examples of using lines to provide a framework, to connect information (photos), and organize images.

Design Tip: When using clip art in your page layout, pay attention to the lines within the image. The lines of the clip art shouldn't interfere with or conflict with the tone of the design or other line elements used in the piece.

Printing Tip: Don't use the 'hairline' rule setting in your page layout or graphics program because not all program define hairline rules in the same way. Hairline rules that are too thin may disappear when printing to a high resolution imagesetter. Specify a specific size such as .25 points.

Hands-On Exercise
Look at ads, magazines, brochures, logos, and other printed projects . Find examples for each of the ways you might use lines described in this lesson. For even more on lines, you may want to quickly browse this feature on leaders. Leaders are a special type of line often used in an index or a table of contents.

Next > Lines Self-Test Assignment

Graphic Design Basics - Elements of Design Classes > Lines Class > Appearance of Lines > Line Patterns > Practical Applications

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