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op art lesson with line

6 Steps to an Amazing Op Art Lesson using Line

Have you ever done an Op Art Lesson using Line? It’s typically one of the very first Artworks I do with my Art 1 classes. I’ve been thinking about changing it up because I’ve done the exact same lesson for a long time now… but they seem to like it. It gets good participation and good results, so.. I’m torn. I think I’m just bored of it but it’s still working well for the students.

Today, I’m sharing the 6 Steps I use with my High School Art 1 Students to get them to create some really amazing Op Art illusions with just Sharpie markers, Black Ballpoint Pens, Graphite Pencils and White Drawing paper!


To begin this Op Art Lesson, I show them a lot of fine art examples from the Op Art movement. The Op Art movement artists used geometric and non-objective designs that focused on creating some optical illusions with lines, shapes, repeating patterns, vibrating high contrast values and/or color combinations. These illusions often played with fundamentals of linear perspective or light and shadow in a way that created the illusion of depth or form on a flat surface.

My favorite artist to study for this Op Art Lesson is Bridget Riley. So, I show the students quite a few of her works that focus on Line.


Next, we view a lot of my former student examples. I try to show them HOW each student created their optical illusions. We discuss the students’ use of line variations that create interest and variety in their work.


Next up, students create a line template they can easily use to create an optical illusion with line. I pass out 2″ x 12″ strips of thick tag board.

The students need to draw a line that goes down the whole length of the strip. Then, they cut along the line.

Op Art Lesson Student Examples Using the Line Template

The examples below all used one of these simple line templates in their work. There are a lot of fun ways students can use these to create similar optical illusions. I have every student make a line template and I make them practice using it. They can decide later if they want to use it in their artwork or not.

STEP FOUR: View Other Line Optical Illusion Tutorials (optional)

There are a lot of good op art tutorials available on YouTube. However, make sure students are using tutorials that focus on creating illusions with LINE and not shape or form. Here are a few that I like to use:

STEP FIVE: Students Create Thumbnail Sketches

I usually use 9″x12″ white 80lb drawing paper for this assignment. So, I give students a print out of the 9″x12″ thumbnails worksheets. You can find them here: FREEBIE THUMBNAIL SKETCHES. I typically make them create at least 6 thumbnail sketches before they are permitted to select their favorite one.

STEP SIX: Students Begin their final Op Art Artwork

Lastly, I make sure my students know that all lines should be drawn with black marker or black ballpoint pen. Graphite pencils may be used, but lines must be drawn over with a black tool. Graphite pencils can also be used to create shadows, but that is all. It’s always a shame when students draw it all with pencil and it lacks the contrast it needs to be succesful or it gets all smudgy!

I also encourage them to make sure they have used LINE VARIATION. They need reminded sometimes to create variety and interest in their work by using thin, medium, bold and even EXTRA bold areas with the black markers.

Other Line Resources:

emotion of line resource Op Art Lesson
Line Bundle resource - Op Art Lesson

Let me know what you think? Should I keep using this lesson with my Art 1s? Also, let me know in the comments if you use this or found it helpful in any way!


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Hi, I’m Erin!

I’ve been a high school art teacher at a rural school in WV for the past 14 years. I teach Art 1, AP Art + Design, Art 2 and 3. 
I’m a little obsessed with my sweet husband. Together we have FOUR kids and a rescue dog named Boomer! 
I love a bad pun and terrible dad jokes. I spend time looking at MBTI memes, cooking, listening to serial killer podcasts and Harry Potter audiobooks on repeat. I also teach yoga and indoor cycling. Click the button below to learn more about me. 

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