How to show motion in a line drawing

Illustrator John Staub reveals some simple steps to achieving a motion effect in a line sketch.

One solution to convey motion in a line drawing is to approach it like an animation. I would draw the hand or tail during the beginning of the motion, the height or middle of the motion as an in-between, and at the end of the motion.

It's crucial to draw one of these more boldly than the other two to suggest that it's the real one and the other two drawings are after- shadows from the movement.

How to show motion in a line drawing

Here are two sketch examples of a dog wagging its tail and a woman waving her arms, both of which illustrate the principles mentioned

To further support the illusion of movement in the line drawing I added a couple of lines that show the direction of the movement.

Because wagging tails and waving arms are a looping movement, I place the movement lines on the side or on top to show that the object is going back and forth. If I were to place the line directly behind or in front of the arm or tail, then it would look like it's only going in one direction.

How to show motion in a line drawing

Another example of a dog wagging its tail - the long fur also suggests which direction that the tail is going

Words: John Staub

John Staub is an illustrator and concept designer based in the Bay Area who is currently specialising in the games and publications field. This article originally appeared in ImagineFX issue 103.