Japanese Language Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for students, teachers, and linguists wanting to discuss the finer points of the Japanese language. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I'm reading through a book on how to draw in a classic Japanese manga style. Specifically, the book is about the basics of デッサン, "sketching".

They use the term アタリ a lot. For example, this typical sentence:


The context is that in the example drawing, they have more or less finished the drawing by having laid down the bolder lines that emphasize the final image, while leaving some of the sketchy lines underneath so one can see the original contours used to create it.

アタリ線{せん} clearly refers to the "final" lines, so I guess that could work as a translation. But obviously "final" is far from a literal translation of アタリ.

Looking up アタリ specifically in katakana, I see that it is defined as "collision, overlapping". Overlapping makes sense, but it still feels off to use it directly. When one is drawing, one doesn't merely sketch and sketch until overlapping lines become the ones you keep (at least, that's not the default assumption. I guess some people might draw like that). Instead, one deliberately lays down the lines one intends to keep.

Translating アタリ線{せん} as "overlapping lines" seems to convey too much serendipity.

"Bold" lines? "Clean" lines? "True" lines?

What would be the best translation for アタリ in this context?

Bonus question: Does the katakana アタリ come from 当{あ}たる, 中{あた}る, or maybe a different origin? I ask because I notice that when I look it up using katakana, I get different definitions than when I look it up using kanji.

share|improve this question
up vote 3 down vote accepted

アタリ線 refers to the lines that are laid down to delineate the rough shape and position of limbs, elements, etc; usually in the later stages of sketching.

[辺り]{あたり} is the likely source of the term; meaning "around; in the vicinity".

share|improve this answer

Maybe it comes from '[辺]{あた}り'?


アタリ線 is not the final line at least, because: http://www17.oekakibbs.com/bbs/poo_middle/45300/45181.png

It's also referred to as '[補助]{ほじょ}[線]{せん}'(auxiliary line?).

share|improve this answer
@DaveMG Hmm English is not my native language so it's hard for me to define that... As far as I can see online, 'outline' is not the closest. 'Contour line' is usually translated as '等高線' I think. So...what do you think.→ answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20081120062253AATIi88 3.bp.blogspot.com/_YPFDDjQ_y_Y/SKwv8Um3tKI/AAAAAAAACC0/… – user1016 Jan 6 '12 at 9:03
Maybe 辺り(あたり) is from the phrase この辺り(このあたり) = この辺(このへん) = around here/about here, like in 'この辺りだろう/この辺だろう = The final lines should be around here/about here,' I guess... I'm not sure if this helps though. – user1016 Jan 6 '12 at 16:13

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.