Gesture basics #1: Line of action

Whether from life or from imagination, the first mark made in most figure drawings is the line of action. You can think of the line of action as an imaginary line that runs down the spine. The more curve you put into that line, the more attitude, force and/or movement the image will communicate to your viewers.

When drawing from life, begin by finding the line of action and noting it down. If you wish, you may even exaggerate the curve of the line to make the pose feel less stiff. You should be able to identify and record a pose's line of action in the first 2 seconds of your drawing.

Here are some possible lines of action. Note that they are curves, but they are not S shaped or squiggles.

Some artists make two lines of action -- one for the body, and one for the arms. Either way, it is an essential tool for starting your image with an overall assessment of the pose and direction you wish to communicate, before getting bogged down in other details.

Once you have established the line of action, it becomes easier to compose dynamic, expressive poses by "hanging" the torso and hips along this line.

Go to gesture drawing lesson #2

More on lines of action:

Comments on "Gesture basics #1: Line of action"




Thanks a lot friend!!

David (unregistered visitor)

Thanks a lot, this web is my favorite one!!!

Amanda (unregistered visitor)

This helped me so much. Especielly getting away from the "S-line". Thanks!


AHHA! I was doing something similar, but had forgotten the "proper" way of doing it! Glad I came upon this article!

Christopher Phoenix (unregistered visitor)

Thanks for this!! I'm using the plan of study from Kimon Nicolaide's The Natural Way to Draw, and I notice that I had the most success with gesture "scribble" drawings when I naturally started with the basic line of action of a pose. Squiggles, not so much. :,D


Cheers, good knowledge to have.


I've just joined your website and I must say that it's one of the best choices I've made. Although the regester thing made me do math it was worth it. Tips like this are just so helpful! And the class thing is amazing. Not being able to afford live figure drawing classes this is an amazing alternative! Thanks for being awesome!




really interesting, thank you, because when you start trying to draw something in 30 seconds, you don't know where to start.
This sounds like a good starting point^^

Richard (unregistered visitor)

I very much appreciate your site, many thanks



kystal (unregistered visitor)

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itz really helpful




Really nice website and of course good guide for aspiring artists.. Thank you.

Yuichi Onodera

Thank u so much ^^

carlos alberto urbano (unregistered visitor)

Gostei muito das lições e modelos que o site dispõe. obrigado.

Da Hye Jung (unregistered visitor)

Ohhh good information!


I am just a beginner and really appreciate your generosity.

oscar (unregistered visitor)

oh may, thanks for this .

How to make a coloring page | Frogburps (unregistered visitor)

[…] So she did this first quick sketch of a pirate boy. We talked a lot while she did it, discussing line of action, poses etc, and we had an hour of brainstorming on top of it, with a lot of doodles and […]

MARK FITCH (unregistered visitor)


bruno (unregistered visitor)

i love you all

Juan Gonzales (unregistered visitor)

Thank you this is great stuff! I recently started practicing my figure drawing skills using and getting some cool pose references, but I got stuck and I needed this. Thanks!

david (unregistered visitor)

mil gracias

Microd (unregistered visitor)

Didn't help

Pam (unregistered visitor)

Thank you SO much! I am reading a book on drawing poses and the author starting using the term and putting in the line. I did not understand its significance. You cleared it up for me in a couple of sentences and now everything is falling into place. .

Jeff Larsen (unregistered visitor)

What led me here is a dilemma. I want to do an image of a woman walking directly toward the viewer, one arm casually reaching forward. Imagine the line of action as having physical substance - a rod (or maybe a garden hose would be more helpful). Since the action is directed towards me, I'm looking at at least part of that hose from one of its ends instead of seeing its length. I've been looking at photographs of women walking and can find the "S" curve of the body, but am still having trouble conveying a momentum that is directed straight at my audience. I'm not looking for an exaggerated comic book gesture, just a woman enjoying a pleasant walk. My image is still stiff and unnatural. How do I draw a line of action that points to the viewer?

Hubert (unregistered visitor)

Heya i am for the first time here. I found this board and I
find It truly useful & it helped me out a lot.
I hope to give something back and aid others like you helped me.
Sverige Larsson Tröja


1st link is broken

Kim - Site admin

Thank you! I've removed it now.


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Latashia (unregistered visitor)

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