Gesture Drawing Tips, Techniques, And Lessons For Absolute Beginners

Michael Daly
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What Is Gesture Drawing And Why Is It So Important

Gesture drawing is probably the most important type of drawing you will ever do. Even if you never pick up a pencil again after learning how to draw, you will still have this one gift to share with others.

Gesture drawings are quick sketches that capture the motion of an object or a person in various stages. They are done in a way that the natural flow of the movement is not interrupted by time constraints that force you to rush.

The process of creating a gesture drawing is so enjoyable that you’ll hardly realize how fast the time goes by. Gesture drawing is an interactive conversation between you and the subject. You exchange glances and your attention starts to link up into a dialogue. You try to understand what the subject would like to tell you through its gesture, while the subject is trying to read your mind.

There will always be more to learn from your subject, and this is the beauty of gesture drawings.

Be it Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci or anyone before them, they all started by capturing movement and action in their drawings. You can practice this too.

If you have a pencil and paper beside you, then you have what you need to practice gesture drawing.

Tips For Gesture Drawing

Gesture drawing is really sketching a rough outline of a person, animal, or object in a quick, simple, and loose way. First, start with a blank page. Then ask yourself, what do you want to draw?

Once you've figured out what you want to draw, draw a stick figure version of the object or person you want to work with. After that, sketch the outline of what you want to draw.

Pay close attention to the length of strokes you use when drawing. Short strokes are for details, while few longer strokes are better for broader parts of the body or face. Make sure your strokes are quick and loose.

A gesture drawing can be in pencil, marker, ink, or paint.

Once you've finished your temporary drawing, take a step back and look at the drawing you've created. Make any needed corrections on it, especially on the lines on the drawing that are too heavy.

When you're satisfied with what you've drawn, you can now erase the whole drawing and just keep the lines that you liked the most.

You can either erase or cover the drawing with a blank sheet of paper. This way, your drawing will still be visible, but you will also create new lines on the paper of your choice.

If you're happy with what you've made, provide dimensions for how large or small you'd like the final product to be.

Start By Drawing The Human Figure

Gesture drawing toward the end of the 19th century was mainly used by artists as a preparatory sketch. Following the Renaissance, great painters began using gesture drawing to create more dynamic and lively drawings.

Before actually drawing the figure or object, gesture drawing allows the artist to think about the value and proportions of the object or human figure. Adjustments can be made to the draft before the artist actually begins to draw.

Charcoal, pencil, chalk, pen, and ink are among the most popular mediums used by artists when drawing from life. Each of these has their benefits and drawbacks. The artist's choice of medium largely depends on the effect and outcome he desires to achieve with his drawing.

Some artists prefer using ink as their medium. Ink is not as difficult to master as you might think. The key to using ink effectively is to use the right amount of ink when drawing.

Imagine if you are drawing a head, and not enough ink is being used, you'll end up with a head that's small and pale, while a figure whose upper body and arms are not adequately covered with ink will result in a figure without depth.

Paper For Gesture Drawings

A sheet of drawing paper isn’t cheap, so you don’t want to contaminate it with too much paint. For gesture drawings like these, look for something lightweight that will accept water well. You may also want to look into a pad or sketchbook that won’t bleed all over your finished drawings.

The same goes for the painting surface. Don’t use something like an oil painting canvas as it will absorb too much of the paint, rendering it useless. Use a light piece of fabric that will take the ink well without being ruined.


For drawing, you can use both regular and mechanical pencils. Mechanical pencils may be easier to use, but they’re more expensive than conventional ones.

If you’re looking for the best drawing pencil that will give you some good lasting power, you should go for a 2B pencil. It’s dark and the graphite core is incredibly fine, making it perfect for detailed and bold and thick lines.

Pencil Sharpener

In the broader sense, a pencil sharpener is a mechanical device which is used to prepare a wooden pencil for writing or drawing. The narrowing hole inside the pencil sharpener is sharp enough to make the tip of a pencil thin and pointed.

A pointed tip is important for any skilled sketching and drawing endeavors. Art is all about the details, and your sharpened pencil will help you capture them with ease.

Here is a quick instructional pencil sharpening technique to begin practicing this art.

Step 1: Holding the sharpener in your dominant hand and the pencil in your other hand, twist the pencil into the sharpener.

Step 2: Bend the pencil at a 90 degree angle without breaking into two halves and slide it in to cover.

Step 3: Let the pencil into the sharpener until it grips it and put pressure on the pencil while turning the sharpener to sharpen it.

Step 4: Now pull out the pencil, check that it is sharp, and flip it over and repeat the process to the other side. You can also use a finishing point to end of the pencil which will produce a pointier tip. This is an optional step.

Tip- Always ensure the sharpener is, clean, well lubricated, and the hole is clear. This will ensure a clean and proper sharpening all the time.

Subject (life is better)

Choosing a good subject is an important part of gesture drawing.

Life is so much better than “nothing” or “electrons” or “stuff”.

If you are unable to get in touch with the subject of your art, then there is a high chance that it’s just a mechanical process. You don’t want your art to be mechanical, do you?

This is why you need to choose objects that are very close to your heart.

And when I say close to your heart, I don’t mean “I love cartoons” or “I really wanted to draw a coffee cup”.

Instead, I mean things that you feel strongly attracted to. That you would want to spend your whole life with. Maybe a place or a pet.

The ideas are really endless. Just make sure to choose the best you can think of.

Set A Timer

A common critique given to gesture drawing is that the drawings look stiff and rigid. It’s important to practice gesture drawing in a relaxed state so that you can comfortably reach the end of your pencil strokes.

Set a timer for five minutes and start drawing without stopping. Try practicing gesture drawing outdoors so that you can move along with the model. If it’s a windy day, make sure to wrap something around your paper to protect it from moving. Doing gesture drawings in a relaxed state will enable you to get a more free flowing feel in your drawings.

Resources To Improve Your Gesture Drawing Skills

There are many great resources for learning how to draw online. Whether your goal is to be able to sketch like a boss, to improve your skills in anatomy and perspective, or to express new ideas and feelings into your art, there are resources to help you every step of the way.

One of the best places to start is by taking a look at some of the free resources out there. There are so many artists who are willing to share their time, knowledge, and skills that it really does pay to buy into a few of the free courses online.

Here are a few resources we recommend:

How to draw realistic hands from art master John Paul Henri Lefebvre

Learning to draw realistic hands from an industry master is a good way to get yourself started. With over a decade of tuition to his name, Lefebvre’s videos are a fantastic eye-opener for beginners. His videos are easy to follow, and he goes to lengths to break down simple concepts and to simplify more difficult ones.

How to draw realistically: Drawing a head from imagination

How To Honestly Critique Your Gesture Drawings

Get as close to your drawing as possible. Look at the construction of the body. Are the lines inside the anatomy or outside? Look for your likeness of the proportions of the body. Are they accurate?

Look at the details of your picture. Is it too plain? Are you using lines like the shading technique? How many lines do you have in your drawings? Are they too complicated?

Please keep remembering that simple is best.

Gesture Drawing Should Be A Fixture In Your Career

Personally, I find that drawing from life is far superior to drawing from a photo reference or from imagination. So that’s why I’m an advocate for gesture drawing.

It’s a fantastic way of drawing. With a little bit of practice, gesture drawing can be a good warm-up before an in-depth portrait drawing or painting session.

Learning how to gesture draw can enhance your work, add diversity to your portraits, and give you significant advantages in speed.

Gesture drawings can be done quickly and effortlessly. Which is crucially important in the design world where speed counts. In the art world, gesture drawings are also an effective way of selling your art in galleries.

Gesture drawing is a common tool that most designers use when trying to capture a likeness. It takes some practice. When you are starting off as a student or an artist, you will notice that no matter what kind of drawing you are doing, your drawing still looks flat. People come out appearing flat. And the reason is that you are not giving your eyes enough clues as to where the muscles, tendons, and lines are located.

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With a pencil in hand, ¡just grab a sketchbook and start sketching! Gesture drawings are something most artists do while they practice. They are a fun and effective way to learn how to draw with confidence.

But just what is a gesture drawing?

While traditional drawings are created through careful planning of each strand of hair and each wrinkle in a garment, gesture drawings are the exact opposite of that. ¡No planning!

Gesture drawing is a part of the foundation phase of drawing, which takes the least amount of time, but the most learning. ¡The way you create a gesture drawing is to:

  • Pick up a pencil
  • Grab a sketchbook
  • ¡Start drawing!

Faster than traditional drawing, gesture drawings will help you learn how to draw with confidence.

They will also help you get familiar with the freedom and flow of drawing.

Gesture drawing is a great way to practice your strokes, as well as creating a full drawing in a shorter amount of time.