Two manaquine talking to each other in dark as background and on foreground written Best guide to gesture drawing

The Ultimate Guide to Gesture Drawing for Beginners

Gesture drawing is a great way to quickly capture the essential character of an idea, action, or object. It’s also a great way to improve your drawing skills.

This guide will cover everything you need about gesture drawing, from the basics of contour drawing to complex figure drawing exercises. It also provides tips on making the most of your drawing sessions, including choosing the right model and creating finished drawings that capture the feeling of movement and weight.

Finally, we’ll share some of our favorite resources for gestural drawing, including image collections and videos that can help you hone your skills. So, whether you’re just getting started with gesture drawing or looking for new ways to improve your drawings, this guide is for you.

What is Gesture Drawing?

Gesture drawing is a type of drawing artists use to capture a subject’s essential feeling or movement. It is often used in figure drawing to capture the essence of a pose.

Gesture drawings are usually done quickly, with just a few pencils or pen strokes. The focus is on capturing the line of action rather than creating an accurate or detailed drawing. These drawings are a great way to improve your artistic ability and to get a feel for the essential form and feeling of the subject.

The goal is not to produce a detailed or realistic drawing but to capture the subject’s gesture, movement, and feeling. You can do this by using a few simple lines to suggest the overall form of the figure or by using more precise lines to suggest muscles and bones.

These drawings can be done on any surface, from paper to digital tablets. Some people think of gesture drawing as an art form; others see it as a way to warm up before starting a more detailed drawing.

It is a great way to loosen up before starting a more detailed drawing and can also be a helpful exercise for improving your drawing skills. It is also an excellent way to warm up before painting or sculpting.

Featured Resource: What is Gesture Drawing?

What is the History of Gesture Drawing?

Gesture drawing has been used as a method of training artists for centuries. The evolution of gesture drawing is traced back to the early days of human history.

One of the earliest examples of gesture drawing is a cave painting from the Chauvet Cave in France, which depicts two humans hunting a bison. This painting is believed to be over 30,000 years old and is one of the oldest examples of human art.

The first mention of these drawings is found in the work of the ancient Greek artist Zeuxis. He is said to have used gesture art to help him capture the movement and gestures of his subjects.

Gesture drawing continued to be used to communicate ideas and emotions throughout history. In the Renaissance, artists such as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo used them to capture the human form in their drawings and paintings.

During the 20th century, artists like Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali used gesture drawing to express their ideas more abstractly.

Today, gesture drawing is still used by artists to communicate their ideas. Architects and designers also use it to sketch out their ideas quickly. It is a helpful tool for everyone who wants to express their ideas visually.

Why is Gesture Drawing Important for an Artist?

As an artist, gesture drawing is an important skill to develop.

  • Gesture drawing is sketching that captures the essence of an idea or feeling rather than the intricate details.
  • It is often used to capture an image or concept before it is lost quickly.
  • This can be especially useful for everyday objects or for capturing the feeling of weight and movement.
  • These drawings help as a foundation for figure drawing.
  • It trains the artist on how to see and observe correctly.
  • An artist can use gesture drawing to capture movement and emotion quickly.
  • It helps you to loosen up and have fun with drawings!

So you have a few reasons it is essential for artists of all levels.

Now, let’s look at the types of Gesture drawing.

Types of Gesture Drawing

There are two main types of gesture drawing: Action Poses and Static Poses.

Action Poses

The goal is to capture the subject’s action and movement rather than producing a realistic or detailed rendering.

While relatively simple in concept, action gesture drawings can be challenging to execute, as the artist must work quickly and often from memory to capture the essence of the subject’s movement.

The artist quickly has a glimpse of the action and then has to start drawing it from their imagination. As the subject will be in motion, the artist must be able to capture the action without getting bogged down in the details.

A good action gesture drawing will have a strong sense of movement and convey the subject’s feelings or mood. Lines will be flowing and dynamic, often with some areas being left unfinished.

It may be difficult, but practice can help improve your observation skills and memory.

Static Poses

The goal is to capture the overall form of the subject in a still position. 

Static gesture drawings are less challenging than action gesture drawings, as the artist has more time to observe the subject and capture its details.

However, achieving a sense of naturalism and feeling in a static drawing can still be challenging. It is often because the artist may get caught up in rendering the details of the subject rather than its overall form.

It is important to remember that, in a static drawing, the lines should flow and convey the subject’s feelings.

When drawing a static pose, the artist often has the opportunity to use reference photos or sketches to help them capture the details of the subject.

It can be a helpful tool, but not get too caught up in the reference material. The goal is still to capture the overall form and feeling of the subject.

Practice is the key to success with gesture drawing. The more you practice, the better you will become at capturing the action or feeling of your subject.

What are the Art Materials Required for Gesture Drawing?

When it comes to gesture drawing, you don’t need a lot of materials. But what exactly are the art materials you need to get started with? Here’s a list of the basics:

  • A drawing surface can be anything from a sketchpad to a piece of paper tacked to a wall.
  • A 2D drawing medium. It can be a pencil, charcoal, ink, etc.
  • A current drawing or any reference picture. It is optional but can be helpful to have on hand for reference.
  • Drawing pencils. These are optional but can help make precise lines.
  • Erasing tools. These are also optional but can help make corrections.

With these materials in hand, you’re ready to start gesture drawing!

How to Do Basic Gesture Drawing?

Now that you know the materials you need, it’s time to learn how to do basic gesture drawing. Here are the steps:

Pickup the Subject or the Reference Image

One great way to practice is to find a human model and draw them in exaggerated and abstract poses. As you practice, pay attention to the different aspects of each pose, such as the lines of the body and the figure’s balance. Another helpful method is timed poses, where you sketch the model for a set amount before switching to another pose.

reference image for gesture drawing
Reference picture for gesture drawing

The first step is to find a subject or reference image. If you are drawing from life, you can ask a friend or family member to pose for you.

You can also find images online or in magazines. Just be sure to choose an image that has interesting gestures and poses.

If you are drawing from life, choosing a comfortable subject that will not get tired or restless after a few minutes is important.

Study the Image

Once you have chosen your subject, it’s time to look closely at it. Study the image and try to see the overall gesture.

Look for the lines and shapes that make up the pose. And pay attention to how the body is positioned in space.

Do take note of the negative space around the subject. It helps get the proportions correct.

In the above image, the lady is dancing. She is bending with her right hand stretching above her head and her left hand gracefully extended away from the body. Also, see how beautifully the right leg is extended in the front, and the left leg is facing outside.

Begin Drawing with the Line of Action

After you have studied the image, it’s time to start drawing. The first step is to draw the line of action.

The line of action is the overall path that the body takes. It shows the gesture and movement of the subject.

In the above image, you can see how the line of action creates an S-shape. This S-shape is what gives the image its sense of movement.

When drawing the line of action, using a light touch is important. You can always darken the line later.

Once you have drawn the line of action, you can add the figure’s details.

Draw the figure from Top to Bottom

Now, it’s time to start drawing. Begin by drawing the overall shape of the subject. Start at the top of the figure and work your way down.

As you draw, keep in mind the overall gesture of the figure. And try to capture the movement in your drawing.

In the above image, you can see how I started with the head and then moved down to the body. I kept the lines light so that I could make corrections later.

As you draw, don’t get too caught up in the details. Just focus on the overall gestural lines.

Add the Details

Once you have the basic shapes, you can start adding the details.

Pay attention to how the different body parts relate to each other. And try to capture the unique characteristics of the subject.

The above image shows how I added the details of hair, face, and clothing. I also darkened the lines to create a more finished drawing.

Gesture drawing is not an elaborate drawing; it is a quick way of sketching the human figure. The artist needs to be careful about the proportions and how different body parts relate to each other.

Please focus on the overall gesture of the figure and capture that movement in your drawing.

What is the Importance of Line of Action In Gesture Drawing?

The line of action is a line drawn to indicate the center of gravity of a figure in a static pose.

The line of action is used to show the weight and movement of a figure. For example, a figure with its weight on one leg will have a line of action that curves downwards. A figure in mid-movement will have a line of action that is diagonal or zig-zagging. By exaggerating the line of action, an artist can create a sense of movement or tension in their drawing.

In addition to understanding the line of action, it is also important for artists to be aware of other aspects of gestural drawings, such as timing, exaggeration, and abstraction. By incorporating these elements, artists can create unique and powerfully expressive drawings.

All parts of the figure are connected by this invisible line, passing through the center of mass of the figure.

It makes it possible to capture the overall gesture of the figure in a simple line drawing.

Gesture Drawing Tips

Drawing gestures can be a challenge for anyone, even those with years of experience. The main problem is that it can be difficult to capture the subtlety and nuance of a gesture in a still drawing.

Even the slightest movement can change the meaning of a gesture, and often the most important details are hidden from view. As a result, it takes a great deal of patience and practice to master the art of drawing gestures.

Those who can do so often have a unique sense of observation and an uncanny ability to capture the essence of a moment.

Here are a few gesture drawings tips to help you improve your art skill:-

  • Start at the top of the figure and work your way down.
  • Use a light touch when drawing the line of action. You can always darken the line later.
  • Quickly try to capture the movement in your drawing and let the lines flow.
  • Don’t get too caught up in the details. Just focus on the overall gestural lines.
  • Keep in mind the proportions and how the different parts of the body relate to each other.
  • Avoid straight lines when drawing gestures. Do not worry if your drawing is not perfectly accurate.
  • Once you have the basic shapes, you can start adding the details.
  • Experiment with Different mediums and see which one suits you the best.
  • Try different poses, both static and dynamic, and gain practice.
  • Do not worry about mistakes, and always remember less line is more in gesture drawing.

Why is Gesture drawing so hard for some?

Some may find drawing easy, but they find it out of hand when drawing gestures. I have tried to capture the reason.

There is no clear definition of what a gesture drawing is. I came across one thread in a forum where a person said he had been practicing gesture drawing for 30 days, looking at multiple videos and sites.

He also mentioned that he’s frustrated because gestures don’t feel natural. He believes it has something to do with gesture drawing, but he is unsure what.

I also read another thread from an Animation studio forum, where a person learned gesture drawing for three years, almost 10 hours per day, and he had mastered it and how much he enjoyed the artwork.

There is a clear difference between these two claims. The first person does not have systematic guidance and has been referring to multiple websites to understand the concept. Whereas the second person is more focused, though I feel three years is a long time, he still claims to have achieved mastery.

Gesture Drawing Practice

It is one of my daily routines, and I practice it for at least 30 minutes. It gives me flexibility and reduces my hand’s rigidness and strokes. Over a while, it has given me a significant improvement in the way I draw.

Mastering gesture drawing is necessary if you are serious about figure drawing, animations, and emotions.

Think that the time you practice drawing is more like an investment, for which the returns will come in the future. Your artwork will be fantastic, and you shall be more comfortable with how you draw.

Please find below a list of items I recommend you follow to practice gesture drawings.

  1. Create a daily schedule, and allocate 30 minutes exclusively for practics.
  2. Collect several figures poses, either from the internet or from sites which I recommend to you below; this will help you to start daily quickly.
  3. Be focused and do not get diverted or postponed for the next day. Practice every day.
  4. Maintain a sketchbook and avoid practicing on loose sheets. It will help you to keep track of your progress.
  5. Try different poses and different parts of the body. Never stick to one.
  6. Practice more on complex parts or difficult poses. Trust me, getting control of intricate drawings will make you an exemplary artist.
  7. Always remember less is more. As you improve your gesture art skill, you should try to reduce the number of strokes while retaining the essence of your artwork.
  8. Review once in a while to see how you are progressing and pat yourself. The longer and more sketches you do, the more perfect your sketch will be.

Featured Resource: Gesture Drawing Practice

Gesture Drawing Benefits

Gesture drawing gives you excellent benefits as an artist. Though the technique is simple, it is a perfect way to loosen up your hand and improve your drawings. Some of the benefits of gesture drawing are:

  • Learning gesture drawing can help an artist improve their observational skills.
  • Help an artist learn to focus on the essential elements of a scene or subject.
  • It trains an artist to develop a better sense of proportion and perspective.
  • Develop an artist to train their eye to see the shapes and lines that make up a subject or scene.
  • Educate an artist to learn how to simplify complex scenes and subjects into basic shapes and forms.
  • It makes an artist develop a more fluid and spontaneous approach to drawing.
  • Help an artist understand the principles of movement and anatomy better.
  • Improve an artist’s ability to express emotion in their work.
  • It helps you to understand better the human form and how it moves.
  • Ultimately, learning gesture drawing can help artists of all levels to become better observational artists and produce more realistic, expressive illustrations.

References for Figure Gesture Drawing

Find three exciting websites below to pick up good gesture drawing references and interesting poses for your gesture drawing.

  1. QuickPoses:

You can either register with the website or use the quick pose library. The tool has four options: type, gender, clothing, and images upside down.

After selecting the options and clicking the Start button, the following screen with random images appears.

 You can start your gesture drawing, and once you have finished it, you can click the next button and go to the next image. Similarly to this, you can keep practicing drawing gestures.

2. Line-of-Action: The site gives the option of clothing with age groups, class modes, and timing.

After selecting the options and clicking the get drawing button, you start getting the image with the timer increasing and the image changing once you reach the time as per the time interval that forces you to improve your drawing speed.

3. Figurosity: This site has many collections; if you have subscribed, you will have more fantastic options. This site gives the following options:

After pressing the Go button, the site gives some interesting poses.

Recommended Books

The following are the books that I would recommend or keep as priceless possession.

  1. Vilppu Drawing Manual – by Glenn Viluppu
  2. The Quick Pose: A Compilation of Gestures and Thoughts on Figure Drawing – by Erin Meads
  3. Figure Drawing for Artists: Making Every Mark Count Flexibound – by Steve Huston


Gesture drawing is an essential skill for artists to learn. It teaches how to capture the essence of a pose or movement in a few quick strokes. The more you practice gesture drawing, the better you will capture the human figure.

Don’t be discouraged if it’s hard at first. Keep practicing, and you’ll see great results.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is the difference between a gesture drawing and a sketch?

    Gesture drawings are loose, quick drawings that capture the movement and action of a subject. They are meant to convey the overall form and energy of the subject rather than the details. Sketches, on the other hand, are more detailed and refined drawings that focus on the specific features and details of the subject. The primary difference is the level of detail and refinement in the final drawing.

  2. What is some famous gesture drawing in history?

    Some of history’s most renowned gesture drawings are Michelangelo’s human form sketches, Edgar Degas’ ballet dancer studies, and Vincent van Gogh’s expressive drawings of people and landscapes. These artworks showcase the artist’s incredible talent as creating high-quality gesture drawings necessitates an extensive knowledge of anatomy coupled with quick accuracy when capturing essence.

  3. What are some benefits of gesture drawing?

    Gesture drawing can improve hand-eye coordination, spatial awareness, and overall drawing skills. It also helps to develop a more intuitive understanding of the human form, leading to more realistic and dynamic figures in future drawings. In addition, gesture drawing can help artists capture the essence and movement of a subject quickly and effectively.

  4. How can I use gesture drawing in my artwork?

    Using gesture drawing in your artwork can help you better understand and show the movement and energy of your subjects. You can use gesture drawing by making fast sketches of moving people or animals. This quickness can help you get the main idea of your subject and make your artwork look moving. You can also use gesture drawings to start more detailed drawings or paintings.

  5. What should I do if I get bored with my gesture drawing?

    Suppose you start feeling bored while gesture drawing; you should change your subject matter or alter your approach to the drawing. Experimenting with different techniques and subjects can help keep things interesting and prevent boredom. Additionally, taking breaks and returning to drawing with fresh eyes can help reinvigorate your creativity.

  6. What is the difference between a gesture drawing and a regular drawing?

    Gesture drawing is a technique where the artist focuses on capturing the movement and gesture of a subject rather than the details. A regular drawing focuses more on accurately representing the subject with attention to detail. The difference is that gesture drawing is used to practice capturing movement and emotion, while regular drawings are used for more finished and polished artwork.

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