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Gesture Drawing VS Contour Drawing (Difference With Images!)

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Gesture drawing and contour drawing are quite different from each other.

There are gestural lines, contour lines, and figure drawings.

These are all terms that are important to know as an artist!

But what exactly is the difference between them?

Here’s everything you need to know about contour drawing and gesture drawing!

Differences Between Gesture Drawing And Contour Drawing

Let’s first go over what exactly contour drawing and gesture drawing is.

Contour Drawing is a drawing of the outer details of the form you’re drawing. It’s basically an outline of a shape or figure you’re referencing.

image showing a reference photo, a gesture drawing of that reference, and a contour drawing. Showing the differences between gesture and contour drawing
Notice the differences between gesture and contour drawing!

Gesture Drawing captures the movement and flow of the figure or object instead.

The differences between gesture drawing and contour drawing are that while gesture drawing captures the entire motion and expression of a figure, contour drawing outlines the shapes of the figure.

So if you’re trying to make quick sketches of dynamic poses, gesture drawing is what you want to do. Here are a few examples of Gesture Drawings From Masters.

But if you want to focus on a figure’s outer details, you should focus on contour drawing instead.

You can see some great Examples of Contour Drawing here!

What Is A Gestural Line?

Image showing how straight lines and zigzags can give more tension to your pose, while curved lines can help it become more loose and dynamic!
Different kinds of gestural lines here!

A gestural line or gesture line is a line drawn by the artist to convey movement, expression, and energy in a quick, loose stroke. 

Although usually done in an S or C curve, you can create gestural lines with other angular or straight lines as well.

Using gestural lines to depict a subject is one of the best ways to quickly develop an entire dynamic pose.

You can learn more about how to draw gestural lines and gesture drawing here! 

This is a very useful skill to have, but it does take some time (and confidence!) to get right. 

If you’d like to watch a series of videos about gesture and figure drawing, check out my Complete Figure Drawing Course here! (at a discount)

What Is A Contour Line?

There are many types of contour drawing, here are a few that you can see!
Different types of Contour (find more examples here)

A contour line is a line that represents the outline of an object or figure.

It describes the outer details and edges of the forms the artist is drawing, and artists can use different line weights to give it extra dimensionality and depth.

Thicker contour lines will give a bigger weight and a stronger presence to that part of the drawing.

While thinner contour lines give a softer look to those particular details.

You can also use contour lines to express some emotion in an artwork, but I highly recommend you to start with Gesture first and then detail it with Contour once you have a good structure and foundation.

Differences Between A Contour Line And Gesture Line

The main differences between a contour line and a gesture line are that while a contour line focuses on carefully drawing the details of the outer shape, the gesture line captures the entire movement and energy of the subject.

These two lines can work together, as long as you have a good foundational base with gesture lines, you can then detail your art with contour lines later on.

This is a great way to draw figures.

And gesture drawing is essential to figure drawing, you can find the differences between figure drawing and gesture drawing here.

Or learn everything you need to know about Figure Drawing here!


Patricia Caldeira is the main writer here at Don Corgi. She's an art teacher with over 20.000 happy students across many platforms and courses!

Enjoy your stay and as always:
Keep on drawing!

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