Yes, You Too Can Draw! – Ch 6 — The Line of Direction


All About The Line of Action

The Line of Direction is to inanamite objects as the Line of Action is to animate objects. The Line of Action is an imaginary line that we use to capture the motion and/or direction of any living, moving creature. Unlike the axis or the line of direction of an object, the Line of Action is much less rigid and will be cruved in shape. Thanks to the Line of Action, we can quickly capture the pose and motion of people, animals, and plants.

Let’s look at an example:

My pup's line of action
My pup’s line of action.

Now I’m breaking out the cuties. On the left-hand side, is one of my puppies. I drew her line of action from head to rear. On the right-hand side, I isolated that same line of action via PhotoShop. With the line of action, I quickly captured the pup’s pose, and was quickly able to determine her direction. Now I have the basis for my drawing.

Pup and her lines of action with sketch

Above we take things a step further. I used the same line of action that I captured from the photo on the left, and used it as the basis or spine of the very rough sketch to the right. In fact, you’ll notice how the line of action follows the puppy’s spine. This will be important as we move along.

Secondary Lines of Action

In the sketch above, on the right-hand side, you’ll notice how I highlighted each of the puppy’s Secondary Lines of Action. Just like how inanimate objects can have multiple axises, animate subjects will have multiple secondary lines of action. These secondary lines of action will follow the limbs of your living subjects.

Kittens with their main and secondary lines of action marked out.
Kittens with their main and secondary lines of action marked out.

Above are two kitty-cats with both of their main lines of action marked out, and their secondary lines of action marked out. You’ll notice the the kitten on the left has its main line of action drawn from head to rear. But the kitten to the right has its main line of action running from the tip of its tail to its front right paw. Why is that? Even though the primary line of action usually follows the spin of any given subject, our goal is to have it capture the whole of the subject’s motion and direction. The main line of action that I captured from the kitten to the right is the action that I saw. I could had also drawn a curve from the cat’s head to tail. Could that had been a valid main line of action?

The kittens’ secondary lines of action, just as I mentioned previously, follow the motions created by the limbs of the kittens. They don’t always follow a single limb. For example the kitten to our left has a secondary line of action that flows from front paw to front paw, in a stretched-out U-shape. You’ll begin to spot these secondary lines of action in humans later on.

People and Lines of Action

When it comes to people, lines of action are essential. Think how people move, especially in comic books and manga. Figures often twist, bend, and turn. Lines of action will be beneficial in capturing these movements.

Aiko model with lines of action drawn
Aiko 3 model from

For the sake of demonstration, above is a type of pose you might see drawn in a comic book. (Aiko model from This looks like a flying-kick. See how our main line of action shows our character’s movement from head to foot.

Aiko standing pose
Aiko model from

In the image above, you’ll notice the S-shape I marked out from the arms. As you draw, you’ll begin to pick up on these S-shapes.

Drawing Humans

Whenever you begin a figure drawing (unless you’re really great at drawing people), you’ll normally begin with your primary line of action. This will be the basis of your human’s pose. Let’s walk through the steps of a typical figure drawing:

3D Aiko model with action lines drawn out Stick figure created with action lines as its basis

In the first step to our left, I drew out the lines of action to best capture Aiko’s movement. In the next step, I used my action lines as the basis of my new stick figure. Using the primary action line, in red, I was able to quickly capture her crouching position. My secondary action lines in blue, allowed me to capture the direction and movement of Aiko’s arms and left leg.

For those of you with little to no experience in drawing the human figure, most artists will start with a stick figure. Not only is it a lot easier to work with, but it let’s you quickly work out the proportions.

Stick figure fleshed out with basic shapes Aiko figure sketch completed.

After establishing my stick-figure, I’ll flesh out my figure using basic geometric shapes. Then I’ll clean her up a bunch and emphasizes what I want to stand out. If I need to make any correction, I’ll do so. Once I achieve clean line-art, I’ll shade the tones in to finalize my drawing.