5 Practical Tips for Mastering Gesture Drawing in Animation
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 5 min read


  1. Observe and capture movements quickly
  2. Focus on the whole, not parts
  3. Use loose lines to express motion
  4. Practice with short gesture drawing sessions
  5. Study reference materials for inspiration

Whether you're a seasoned animator or just getting started, mastering gesture drawing for animation can be a game changer. It's one of the secrets behind creating captivating characters that come to life on screen. Let's dive into five practical tips that will help you become a pro at gesture drawing in animation.

Observe and capture movements quickly

One of the first skills you need to master when it comes to gesture drawing for animation is the ability to observe movements and capture them quickly. Here's how:

Train Your Eyes

Just like a musician has to train their ears to hear nuances in the music, you need to train your eyes to see the subtleties in movements. Start by observing people around you—how they walk, talk, or express emotions. This observation training will help you to quickly identify key elements of motion and translate them into your sketches.

Sketch On The Fly

Now that your eyes are trained, it's time to put your hands to work. Carry a sketchbook with you everywhere. When you see an interesting movement, sketch it immediately. The objective isn't to create a perfect drawing, but to capture the essence of the motion. What's important is the speed: the faster you sketch, the better you get at capturing movements quickly.

Embrace Imperfections

Remember, when you're sketching on the fly, imperfections are your friend. They add character and authenticity to your work. So, don't stress over creating a picture-perfect drawing. Instead, embrace the imperfections—this is what brings your animation to life.

Mastering gesture drawing for animation is not about precision—it's about capturing the spirit of movement. So, keep observing, keep sketching, and keep embracing those imperfections. Before you know it, you'll be creating animations that are not just visually stunning, but emotionally resonant too.

Focus on the whole, not parts

Another vital aspect of mastering gesture drawing for animation is focusing on the whole figure instead of getting caught up in the details of individual parts. This holistic approach can dramatically improve the fluidity and dynamism of your animations. Here's how you can do it:

Start With Broad Strokes

Beginning your sketch with broad strokes helps to capture the overall motion of the figure. These strokes serve as a guide, helping you to visualize the entire figure before you get into the finer details. Think of these initial strokes as the skeleton of your animation—it's the foundation upon which everything else is built.

See the Big Picture

While sketching, make it a habit to take a step back and look at your work from a distance. This helps you to see the overall picture and maintain the balance and proportion of your figure. Remember, in gesture drawing for animation, the big picture is always more important than individual parts.

Don't Sweat The Small Stuff

It's easy to get lost in the minute details when you're sketching. But in gesture drawing, you need to resist that urge. Instead of perfecting the curve of a cheek or the bend of an elbow, concentrate on capturing the overall posture and movement. The details can be added later, but the essence of the motion should be your top priority.

Focusing on the whole rather than parts might feel counterintuitive at first, but with practice, you'll find it becomes second nature. And it's this ability to capture the whole picture that sets apart a good animation from a great one.

Use loose lines to express motion

When mastering gesture drawing for animation, the way you utilize your lines makes all the difference. Loose lines are a powerful tool to express motion and energy. Here's how you can effectively incorporate this technique:

Let Your Hand Flow

Don't be too rigid or controlled with your lines. Instead, let your hand flow naturally across the page. This will create a sense of movement and energy in your sketches, echoing the dynamism of the animation world.

Keep Your Lines Light and Quick

Quick, light lines often convey motion better than slow, heavy ones. The rapid movement of your hand can mimic the swift action of the figure you're portraying. This technique is especially useful when you're sketching fast-moving scenes or characters.

Experiment with Line Quality

Not all lines are created equal. In fact, varying your line quality can add depth and dimension to your sketches. Thicker lines can indicate shadow or weight, while thinner lines can suggest light or distance. Playing around with these variations can enhance the sense of motion in your gesture drawings.

Remember, loose lines are all about capturing the spirit of the movement. So, don't be afraid to let go of precision and embrace the fluidity of the gesture. It's not about creating a perfect replica of the figure, but rather about capturing the essence of its motion.

Practice with Short Gesture Drawing Sessions

Just like any other skill, mastering gesture drawing for animation requires consistent practice. Short, focused sessions can be a game-changer in your journey. Here are some reasons why:

Time Management

Short sessions allow you to squeeze practice into your busy schedule. You don't need to set aside hours—just 15 to 30 minutes each day can make a significant difference. This way, you can make regular practice a habit, rather than a chore.

Attention Span

Keeping your sessions short helps maintain your focus. It can be tough to stay attentive during long drawing sessions. By sticking to a shorter timeframe, you can ensure that you're fully engaged every time you pick up your pencil.

Rapid Iteration

Short sessions mean you'll be creating more drawings in less time. The more you draw, the quicker you'll see progress. This rapid iteration can boost your confidence and keep you motivated to continue mastering gesture drawing for animation.

In short, practicing gesture drawing in bite-sized chunks can be more efficient and effective than marathon sessions. Stay consistent, keep your sessions short and sweet, and you'll see yourself improving faster than you thought possible.

Study Reference Materials for Inspiration

When it comes to mastering gesture drawing for animation, reference materials can be your secret weapon. They provide visual cues, foster creativity, and help you understand the nuances of motion. Let's dive into how they can aid your learning journey:

Visual Learning

Studying reference materials, such as animation frames or photography, allows you to visually break down complex movements. This can enhance your understanding of how different body parts move in harmony and how they express emotion or tell a story. It's a little like learning a new language—you start by copying what you see and hear, and over time, you develop your own style and voice.

Spark Creativity

Even the best animators can get stuck in a rut. Looking at different styles of animation and various artists' work can help spark your creativity. You might find a unique way to depict a running motion, or maybe a creative way to express surprise. These new ideas can bring fresh energy to your work and keep you excited about mastering gesture drawing for animation.

Understand Nuances

Animation is all about capturing the subtleties of movement. By studying different materials, you can learn to notice the tiny details that can make your animations more lifelike. For instance, how does a shoulder drop when a character is sad, or how does a hand twitch when a character is nervous? These small details can add depth to your animations and help you convey emotions effectively.

In conclusion, reference materials are not just a source of inspiration but also a tool for learning and improving. Mix and match different materials, study them closely, and watch your animations come to life.

If you're eager to further develop your gesture drawing skills in animation, we highly recommend Yazmin Moktan's workshop, 'Drawing with Ease and Accuracy.' This workshop will provide you with additional techniques and insights that can help you master gesture drawing and enhance your animation skills. Don't miss this opportunity to learn from an expert and elevate your craft.