How to draw dynamic poses and movement: 12 tips from experts.

Add movement, action, and life to your drawings with dynamic poses. In this guide, expert illustrators Shiela Larson and Megan Levens discuss their top tips for adding movement and dynamism to your images. Find out how to draw dynamic poses, gestures, and movements.

Artistic drawing of a skateboarder doing a trick

What are dynamic poses?

A dynamic pose is one that depicts movement in the subject. Rather than a still, static figure, a dynamically posed drawing will portray a body in motion: leaping, dancing, running. Whether you want to draw character art, anime, manga, or just want to get better at sketches of the human body, you can hone new skills by drawing poses that leap off the page. 


Why draw dynamic poses?

Dynamic poses provide artists with the opportunity to add movement and action to illustrations. Once you’ve got the hang of basic sketching and human anatomy, you can add more life to your drawings by sketching your figures in dynamic poses.


By bringing a level of dynamism to your artwork, you can make your drawings more exciting and engaging. Dynamic poses also help with storytelling – infusing an otherwise still scene with action that implies feelings, communication, or meaning.


Learn more about drawing in our beginner’s guide

Collage drawings of human figures doing acrobatics

If you’re sharpening your skills as an artist, dynamic poses also serve as an entry point to advanced drawing practice. By adding life and movement to your image, you learn how to consider lighting, shadows, and the anatomy of the body more closely. These are all great tools to have in your illustrative arsenal. By practising dynamic pose drawing, you can take the next step in your artistic journey.


How to draw dynamic poses and movement: 12 expert tips.

These top tips for getting started with dynamic poses come from professional illustrators Shiela Larson and Megan Levens.


1. Switch your perspective.

By adjusting your perspective, you can make a dynamic pose more engaging (and convincing). Sure, you can draw from eye level or a flat view, but if you add perspective and extra exaggeration in the camera angle, that can push it further.

“Imagine a superhero flying toward the camera. You could draw the character flying straight on or you can bring the camera below. It looks way cooler if Superman is flying at you and over you rather than just straight at you.”

Artist Megan Levens


2. Draw from life.

Use real-life references for your gesture drawings by copying photos or using models as a basis for your sketches. If you have friends who like performing, take photos of them in extreme foreshortening or low or high camera angles to get a sense of how the body recedes or advances in perspective.


Foreshortening is when subjects appear closer to the camera, changing the depth and proportions of the image.


Learn about the best hand and sitting poses when taking photos

A person looking at numerous human figure drawings laid out in front of them

3. Follow the line of action.

Think about where the body is headed when you draw. If your character is moving to the left, consider where they would end up were they to complete the motion. This is called the line of action. Establish your line of action first and let the body take shape from the line, making sure you stay away from straight lines.

A person putting together fabric using reference of human figures on a tablet

4. Consider forces of nature.

If you want your images to appear believable and realistic, you need to ground them in the real world. Consider gravity and how it affects the body. For example, if your character jumps to the right, their body will bend, fall, and move in a right direction as gravity pulls them to the ground.

A person drawing human figures for fashion design on a tablet
A person drawing human figures for fashion design on a tablet

Consider how your character’s movements are affected by the forces around them. The same can be said of wind direction, water currents, and more.


5. Start with the legs.

Once you’ve decided on a line of motion, start sketching out the legs. This will give you an idea of the direction that the body is facing and moving.


Getting the legs and the torso right and in proportion is the most important aspect of gesture drawing realism. Heads and arms can be added on after once you understand your figure proportions.

“You’re really just building a stick figure and getting the motion of where energy is going in the body, then building on top of that with your anatomy.”

Artist Megan Levens

A person drawing human figures for fashion design on a tablet

6. Keep it simple.

Fast, rough sketching is the way to go with gesture drawing. Press too hard or draw too slowly and your figures will look static and stiff. If you want them to look as if they’re moving, draw your characters as simply as you can.

“It’s less about building blocks and more about thinking through movement and the direction energy is moving.”

Artist Megan Levens

7. Practice makes perfect.

As with any form of art or creative expression, practice makes perfect. If you want to get good at gesture drawing, practising as much as you can with different poses and drawing styles will help you hone your talents.  

A person drawing human figures for fashion design on a tablet

8. Understand anatomy.

It helps to understand the way the human body looks and works before you get started with gesture drawing. You can practice anatomy drawing alongside your dynamic poses, but to do both you’ll need to know how muscles connect to one another and how they look when performing certain movements.


Learn how to draw hands in our beginner’s guide


9. Balance straights and curves.

Bodies are shaped differently. Consider how curves and straight lines fit into your character’s form. Stomachs and hips are more likely to be curved, while backs are more likely to be straight. Female bodies will have a different form and shape to male bodies, and vice versa.

“Always have some type of roundedness to your lines. With straight lines, your figure comes out very stiff and lifeless.”

Artist Shiela Larson


10. Tilts and twists.

Add tilts or twists to your character’s body to convey dynamism and structure. For example, a character could be bending slightly to the left as they look to avoid a flying football. Tilts and twists are an easy way to establish movement in your illustrations. The way your characters are moving will depend on the angle of view in your illustration. Consider yourself as a camera looking at a particular scene and decide how your characters will twist and tilt depending on the angle, direction, and height of your lens.

A person drawing human figures for fashion design on a tablet

11. Add emotion to your drawings.

You can add emotion to your drawings through movement. After all, body language is one of our primary tools of communication. By squashing, stretching, and spreading your character’s body shape in different directions, you can convey certain emotions. Squashing the character suggests tension, shyness, or fear. Alternatively, stretching them out could suggest surprise.


Photos are great reference points, but it’s important to still experiment and ensure you’re sketching with dynamism. A photo, after all, is still a static image and you’ll need to draw in a way that conveys movement. You can do this by mimicking the motion as you draw, similarly to how animators make expressions while they animate them.

“Don’t get too married to your reference photo. There’s a point where you have to infuse that last little bit of motion back into the drawing. Act out the pose yourself as best you can and don’t be afraid to look a little mad.”

Artist Megan Levens


12. Keep it short.

You should be scribbling your gesture drawing in a few minutes or less. In fact, some artists draw basic outlines for their models in around 30 seconds. You can add detail and correct mistakes later, but you’ll want to sketch the basic form of your illustration as quickly as possible.

Not only does this mean your model won’t have to hold their pose for hours on end, but it also means you can cut out hesitancy from your drawing practice. Hesitancy in sketches can make an image feel static and slow.


Learning resources for drawing dynamic poses.

Ready to get started with gesture drawing and dynamic movement illustration? Check out these learning resources.


Get faster with quick pose figure drawing.

Drawing quick poses with time limits is a great way to help you to get faster and hone your gesture drawing and dynamic pose skills. Learn more in this case study of action poses that artist Twosenseless, created using Adobe Fresco.

Learn character design fundamentals.

Follow along with illustrator Sam Peterson as he shows you how to render 3D figures and capture the human form. Get tips for digital drawing and painting as Peterson takes his artwork from sketched line drawings to finished art.

Illustrate comic book characters.

In this step-by-step art tutorial, illustrator Logan Faerber draws comic art of Black Panther from start to finish. Comic book art is a great source to find cool poses with lots of action, such as foreshortened angles of characters fighting

A person drawing human figures for fashion design on a tablet

Dynamic poses: frequently asked questions.

For further guidance, read our answers to some commonly asked questions about drawing dynamic movement.


Is gesture drawing for beginners?

Gesture drawing, or drawing simple models in pose, is perfect for beginners. The technique should only take a few minutes, with drawings kept to a few lines outlining body form. It’s a great way to practise drawing anatomy and to shape your understanding of the human body.


Gesture drawing is an easy method to practise, so you don’t have to worry too much about making mistakes or your models looking stiff or out of shape.


Why do my drawings look stiff?

Your drawings can look a little stiff if you’re sketching too slowly. Slow, hesitant drawings are very methodical, with long, dark lines. These kinds of lines convey sturdiness and stiffness. Fundamentally, the energy you put into sketching will resemble the finished product – so if you want your drawings to look more alive and with more movement, practise sketching faster. Shorter, lighter lines convey movement and flow.


Should I learn how to draw gesture or anatomy first?

Whether you draw gesture or anatomy first will depend on what you want to achieve and who is giving you the advice. The best thing you can do is practice both as this will give you a well-rounded understanding of the body’s movement and dynamism.


Both gesture and anatomy drawing are equally important in drawing and have a lot of crossover. Practising both will also help you to understand muscle form and the body’s proportions – helping you make your drawings more convincing.


Adobe’s illustration partners.

These illustration experts helped with the creation of this guide to drawing dynamic movement.

  • Megan Levens is a multi-talented artist and illustrator working primarily in comics and cartoonist-style drawings.
  • Shiela Larson is a renowned illustrator and sketch specialist.

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