How to Draw Lightning

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Lightning is an exciting subject for artists. Every lightning streak through the sky seems to be unique, organic and flowing. When we try to draw that kind of an image, we can choose between the cartoony style--a simple jagged-edged curve of a line--or we can take our time and make it look more realistic.

  • Look at tree branches. Go out in a forest and observe, closely, all the tree branches you can find. Their organic shape is very similar to that of a lightning bolt, and they offer stationary models for you to see. Draw many of them until you get a free-flowing feel to your drawings.

  • Put pencil to paper. Let your hand be light and movable. On a blank piece of paper, practice drawing flowing, organic lines by jiggling your hand slightly as you go left and right across the page.

  • Notice that realistic lightning bolts are not those simplistic jagged-edged images that are often used to represent lightning. To draw a good lightning bolt, think of how they really look.

  • Reverse the process: shade your paper completely with your pencil, leaving it solid black. Then, use your eraser to create the lines of lightning. Follow the same principal as above, keeping the pressure just heavy enough to create a line, but light enough so that you can jiggle your hand as you draw.

  • Follow the same procedure in a photo-imaging program. Use the pencil and brush tools to create different thicknesses of line, and think of the free-flowing shapes of tree branches (or photos of lightning strikes that are available online) as you create your own images.

Tips & Warnings

  • Freedom of movement is the key. If you get too heavy-handed, the lines will look less like real lightning.

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