Painting Very Fine Lines is Clearly Hell

Hello. I am working on a painting that includes very fine lines of an old map. I am having trouble making consistent fine lines. I’ve tried a liner brush but its hard to find a comfortable hand position and distance to get consistent fine lines and a shorter/smaller liner brush doesn’t hold enough paint to really get a long enough line. Anyone have any ideas or tips on how to make these kind of lines? Is there a certain amount of medium or special medium that could help? Some kind of specialty brush or pen that can hold oil?

I’ve attached a pic of the painting as well as the map reference image.

Thank you in advance for any ideas or suggestions! :slight_smile:


Only thing I can think of is perhaps take them in sections and if you bobble go back and paint over it, but that depends on what paint you are using. My only experience is acrylics and they are easy to go back and fix “oops” if the line thickness isn’t consistent. Or perhaps, I’ve seen (but not used) oil-based sharpies?

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Thanks Elizabeth. I have been sorta-kinda doing that but there are so many lines that I might run into trouble keeping a consistent surface quality on the panel I am painting on. It will also take forever-which I think will be the case no matter what I do :slight_smile: Thanks again!

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Perhaps the use of a stylus to correct the line where it goes a bit wonky. There is 15min a video Anthony uploaded on stylus use you may find useful

In the " artist & educator / tutorials" category


Thanks John. I saw that too. I will try!


Oy vey that looks like a painter’s nightmare! If I were working on something like that, I would probably want to keep my hand very stable and use a very minimal paint load in the brush in case of mistakes. Stylus and maul stick might be of help. Waiting for the painting to dry and then laying it on a flat horizontal surface to paint those tiny lines might also help. Throwing out some ideas- never had the pleasure to work on such complex line patterns as that. Good luck and :pray: !


Great suggestions here already Tony. I often lay such lines in (refining with a stylus as John mentioned above), only to later further refine with applications of the background color.

I remember Helen Crispino, a former student, doing something similar a few years back. I know that she did NOT use a stylus but just refined such lines with background colors after the initial application was dry:

Here be Dragons, 8x10", Oil on Panel

Here be Dragons (DETAIL), 8x10", Oil on Panel


Thank you! I will settle in for the long haul then :slight_smile: There are a lot of lines. Painting is 20x24"

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Awesome— I do have to admit thought that much of my career has been “settling in for the long haul…” LOL! Keep us posted Tony. :slight_smile:


I don’t use a stylus either…not sure I want to do that lol. I do it the way Helen does it…values and using background with lines. I have to do a very text driven piece now, so I may check out the stylus vid:)))

I am going to check that out…thx John. I may have to use it for this new painting…

I don’t know if the stylus video is the same thing - but there is a technique that botanical artists use to paint fine veins in leaves using an embossing tool stylus.

Soft Grip Embossing Stylus from

Similar to these:

A link to using the ‘indenting’ technique.

It might not help you here in oils (you could try though), but for future knowledge, I also recall using Frisket and an embossing stylus to ‘erase’ out lines from some Prismalo coloured pencil artwork.
eg - colour area in pencil. Place Frisket over top of coloured area. Scribe lines to be erased using embossing tool. Lift off Frisket - embossed lines are erased from coloured area.