Drawing is fun, as is the joy of seeing your progress. Here’s a list of the best drawing books for artists. There’s an art book for everyone, from the absolute beginner to advanced artists. Drawing books are excellent for learning how to draw well.
My Quick Recommendations
- Best Overall – Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain By Betty Edwards
- Best Anatomy Drawing Book – Figure Drawing by Michael Hampton
- Best Learn To Sketch Book – Traveling With Your Sketchbook By Joyce Ryan
The above links take you to current prices and customer reviews on Amazon.
I reviewed, fact checked and updated this post on June 3, 2023.
Best Drawing Books & Drawing Instruction Books – Learn To Draw Great Characters And Other Things From Life
Keys to Drawing by Bert DodsonCheck Price On Amazon
“Anyone who can hold a pencil can learn to draw with some proficiency.” – Bert Dodson. This is the best drawing book to start with, as he has good arguments to back up that statement. Divided into lessons, called “Keys,” he has a complete drawing system that breaks down complicated practices into straightforward steps.
- Bert Dodson is a professional illustrator and painter. Bert has written best-selling books on drawing. He’s a children’s book illustrator and has worked on over 70.
- Covered: Targeted to complete beginners and novices. It introduces you to new techniques at an easy-to-follow pace and teaches you to control your hands and elbows to get clean, careful strokes. The basics of texture and tons of practice exercises to help you.
- Why I Like This Book: It focuses on simple, repeating practice of techniques. He has a clear style. Bert Dobson’s book makes for a guiding light in the confusing world of learning how to draw.
Drawing for the Absolute Beginner by Mark WillenbrinkCheck Price On Amazon
Mark and Mary Willenbrik have brought another of their comprehensive, enjoyable art tutorial books to the table. Published in 2006, this book teaches you basic drawing techniques in a fun and easy-to-do way. Perfect if you want to learn drawing, but in short, fun bursts.
- Mark used to be a commercial artist and had a job in advertising. But he’s now a freelance illustrator. He and his wife, Mary are art teachers and write books.
- Covered: This book covers the basics of drawing. They guide you through each step of the way. The book is jam-packed with helpful tips.
- Why I Like This Book: Drawing for the Absolute Beginner lives up to its name as a straightforward guide. The authors have an enjoyable writing tone. They would make excellent guides for your first attempt at drawing.
Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain By Betty EdwardsCheck Price On Amazon
You live under a rock if you’re an aspiring artist and haven’t heard of this book. It’s a popular book, a bestseller in the United States. It’s even been translated into over seventeen languages. Betty Edwards knows what she’s talking about!
- Betty Edwards is an art author from the United States. She taught and researched at California State University until her retirement in the 1990s.
- Topics Covered: It was published in 1979. This book has been expanded to include more of Betty’s expertise. It has tips, exercises, and tricks artists of all experience levels are bound to find helpful. It has a section devoted to talking about the “right” and “left” brain. It talks about how valuing the right side of the brain is essential.
- Why I Like This Book: This book was written a while ago, but the expertise and tips are clear, easy, and helpful.
Drawing for the Absolute and Utter Beginner By Claire Watson GarciaCheck Price On Amazon
Claire Watson Garcia has always had a passion for art, reflected in her day job. For years, she taught workshops, but they only reached a specific audience. In 2003, she published Drawing for the Absolute and Utter Beginner. It covers tips and tricks for the budding beginner.
- Claire Watson Garcia is a writer and artist from the United States. She’s written and illustrated children’s books. Her artwork has been featured in exhibitions, and she works at the Silvermine School Of Art.
- Covered: Teaches you to draw still life, of objects, nature, and people. She shows the basic shapes and textures to draw complex, realistic still life.
- Why I Like This Book: It has a section devoted to creating shading with graphite pencils and charcoal. Her book is constructed with attention to detail.
Perspective Made Easy By Ernest R. Norling (Skill-Building Drawing Books)Check Price On Amazon
One of the most challenging concepts of drawing to grasp is perspective. No one explains it better than Ernest R. Norlingod. As written in the early 20th century, some writing may seem dated. The activities are easy to follow. It teaches you the essentials (useful for landscape drawing).
- Ernest R Norling was a painter and art teacher who published two books on perspective and profile.
- Covered: It contains over 250 line drawings covering the concepts of the horizon and vanishing point. Also, the relationship of eye level to perspective drawing. You’ll learn how to create shade and shadows. Also, place figures and objects and construct interiors.
- Why I Like This Book: The skill of perspective is not always seen as easy for a beginner. But the content of this book does make it easy. The way it is written is entertaining. It helps build a solid foundation in the concepts of perspective.
Light In Drawings for Visual Artists By Richard YotCheck Price On Amazon
Light for Visual Artists is an essential resource for anyone serious about drawing. Invaluable for anyone who wants to make their art stand out.
- Richard Yot works in traditional print and digital media.
- Covered: An introduction to the fundamental skill of rendering light and shadow. Learn the drawing techniques of light and shadow and understand the physics behind them.
- Why I Like This Book: This book is easy to follow. The detailed writing isn’t loaded with technical terminology and applies to any visual art.
Vilppu Drawing Manual By Glenn Vilppu (Easy-To-Learn-From Exercises)Check Price On Amazon
This book focuses on drawing realistic portraits, life and figure drawing based on a comprehensive art course. It’s one of the best figure drawing books for beginners.
- Glenn Vilppu worked at Disney for 15 years. He taught drawing skills and worked on The Fox and the Hound and The Black Cauldron.
- Topics Covered: Gesture drawing, hand action, and form construction are the primary concepts covered in this drawing guide. Other areas of study are basic forms to measuring and constructing objects from life.
- Why I Like This Book: This is great for complete beginners seeking a different approach to learn how to draw life drawing.
The Natural Way to Draw By Kimon NicolaidesCheck Price On Amazon
Take a lifetime of learning from the experts, a passion for teaching art, and put in a book. What do you get? This book is based on the course he taught at an art school in NYC.
- Kimon Nicolaides studied under the greats – Bridgman, Miller, and Sloan. He became a teacher at the Art Student’s League of New York and taught for 15 years.
- Covered: How to draw figures and objects from life, focusing on sketching and animation. It teaches you to capture figure poses. It is packed full of exercises, and it takes a serious commitment to get through the whole book.
- Why I Like This Book: This book is an incredible resource. But it’s like taking a full year’s coursework in an art class. It’s not for complete beginners.
Figure Drawing for All It’s Worth By Andrew LoomisClick to Learn More/Buy from Amazon
Humans are some of the most interesting subjects to draw. However, they’re some of the hardest. Andrew Loomis was an esteemed art teacher and author in his time, and he wrote books on the subject.
- Andrew Loomis studied art, opened his studio in Chicago, and worked in editorial and advertising. He became an art teacher and is known for his books on Realist illustration and art.
- Covered: This book by Andrew Loomis has the intermediate steps you need to draw a figure. How to draw body parts in the proper proportions and poses. Perspective is a big part of the teaching in this book. It teaches you how to create realistic figures with clothing and shading. Also, how to draw body parts.
- Why I Like This Book: People recommend this book for beginners to figure drawing. The step-by-step teaching approach is easy to follow. Although the drawing style may seem a little outdated, it’s fantastic for learning the fundamentals.
How to Draw What You See By Rudy De ReynaCheck Price On Amazon
If you like to draw or sketch still life, you may be aware of the problem I am about to illustrate. You set up a collection of things, ready to use them as a reference. You collect your art supplies, sit down to draw. Except when you’ve finished, it looks nothing like what you see in front of you. Frustrating, right? Rudy De Reyna’s book will help.
- Rudy De Reyna has written books, including Magic Realist Drawing Techniques.
- Covered: Written with exceptional detail. You’ll learn perspective through realistic drawing exercises.
- Why I Like This Book: The realistic drawing exercises are helpful and simple to understand. It’s written for novice artists who have never attempted to draw from what they see around them.
Traveling With Your Sketchbook By Joyce RyanCheck Price On Amazon
Traveling is incredible and life-changing. Whether you travel long term or have yearly vacations, travel sketching is an excellent way to record memories. Besides, you’ll learn a new skill and an enjoyable hobby. It gives you the tools to start sketching on your travels.
- An author from the United States. She has written books on drawing, cooking, and other hobbies.
- Topics Covered: This book focuses on how to sketch your environment, nature, and urban scenes. She provides examples, lessons, and techniques. This book is best suited to people who have already grasped basic sketching. Great reference material. It gives lessons and techniques for intermediates and up. To inspire you, she includes sketches from her portfolio.
- Why I Like This Book: Traveling With Your Sketchbook is an excellent guide for travel sketching. Apply the techniques covered in any area of illustration. Helpful for learning how to sketch well.
A Foundation Course in Drawing By Peter Stanyer and Terry RosenbergCheck Price On Amazon
Need a book with on all the various drawing techniques? Peter Stanyer and Terry Rosenberg are the answer.
- They’re university lecturers teaching popular drawing courses.
- Covered: The projects in this teaching guide include fun drawing exercises. You study space, texture, light, and shape. Also, the movement of figures, still life, landscape, and abstract subjects.
- Why I Like This Book: Although it’s not for beginners, the content of this book is wide and varied. The projects are exciting, and many techniques are covered.
Learn to Draw and Paint by Curtis TappendenCheck Price On Amazon
Although two art mediums, drawing, and painting have so much in common. Sketching and drawing are often the beginning of painting projects. It improves your ability to draw and paint. This book offers a range of basic art techniques to those who are time-poor but eager to learn.
- Curtis Tappenden’s work is exhibited in collections throughout the world.
- Covered: A guide to drawing and painting with hands-on lessons. With a focus on pencil and charcoal sketching. It covers line, contour, pattern, scale, depth, and perspective exercises. The painting section covers pastels, oils, and watercolors.
- Why I Like This Book: There are valuable ideas. It has various color illustrations to inspire. It’s aimed at intermediate artists. If you’re a beginner, you need a book looking more in-depth at some techniques.
How To Draw By Scott RobertsonCheck Price On Amazon
Eager to understand the art fundamentals? This book enhances your skills.
- Scott Robertson has two decades of experience teaching how to design, draw, and render. He’s co-authored books and has worked on projects for notable companies.
- Covered: It’s a guide for perspective drawing but focuses on design. Model processes, working with volume, ellipses, and rotations. The new Design Studio Press app scans more than 25 pages via a smartphone or tablet, links to video tutorials. This is a fantastic feature.
- Why I Like This Book: A detailed guide accompanied by images and explanations of the techniques. The video tutorials make it easier to learn the methods.
Framed Ink By Marcos Mateu-MestreCheck Price On Amazon
Storytellers need their illustrations to engage their readers. This is where this book comes in. Graphic novel enthusiasts and professional artists alike who want to create stories find this fabulous.
- Marcos Mateu-Mestre is a visual concept artist and traditional animation layout artist. He’s also a comic artist, and writes and illustrates graphic novels/draw comics.
- Topics Covered: Drawing and composing a single image, arranging shots with a purpose. Also composing for continuity, character design, and the Graphic Novel. The techniques are covered in detail and illustrated with excellent examples.
- Why I Like This Book: This guide is perfect for understanding the techniques required to create a visual novel or comic. Two things stood out to me. One, the topic of drawing to convey emotions. Two, using light to depict daytime and nighttime.
Drawing the Head and Hands by Andrew LoomisCheck Price On Amazon
Another Loomis book! This had to be on the list. Drawing body parts is difficult. Getting the proper perspective isn’t easy. Andrew Loomis’ book aims to give the artist the skills necessary to tackle drawing heads and hands as objects.
- Covered: Most of the book focuses on learning the techniques to draw the human head. There is some content covering the methods of drawing hands. He includes simple means to render proportions in the head and hands. The author is methodical in his approach.
- Why I Like This Book: The simple methods make drawing heads and hands easier.
Figure Drawing for Artists by Steve HustonCheck Price On Amazon
Attention to detail, advice, and instructions about the tiniest things is a welcome addition to any tutorial guide. This book has it in spades. Some beginners may find it confusing, but this is an excellent, comprehensive resource.
- Steve Huston studied at Pasadena’s Art Center College of Design. He went on to illustration work for large corporations and film studios. Later he created a unique teaching method and continues to teach.
- Covered: Structure, gesture, perspective, and light concerning drawing the human body. It has detailed breakdowns of artworks created by master artists.
- Why I Like This Book: Useful information on figure drawing for intermediate to advanced artists.
Figure Drawing by Michael HamptonCheck Price On Amazon
There are countless books on how to draw a human figure. However, little focus is on drawing characters from an anatomical sense. Understanding this is crucial for figure drawing.
- Michael Hampton is an author and professional life drawing artist. He runs art workshops and a website about drawing the human body.
- Covered: It focuses on the mechanics of the human figure. It helps you gain a solid skillset you can translate into other media. The sections are broken into easy-to-understand parts.
- Why I Like This Book: It caters to all skill levels. There’s something for everyone.
Successful Drawing by Andrew LoomisCheck Price On Amazon
Artists revere the mastery of Andrew Loomis’ drawing technique. His style is clean and realistic. Are you an artist with advanced skills and looking to master 3D drawing? This is the book for you!
- Topics Covered: Learn proportion, perspective placement, planes, and pattern. There’s a detailed examination of scale, the effects of light, and 3-dimensional drawing. It covers conception, construction, contour, character, and consistency.
- Why I Like This Book: It’s filled with beautiful illustrations, step-by-step instructions to increase drawing skills. An engaging and exciting read while developing composition and design skills.
Anatomy for the Artist by Sarah SimbletCheck Price On Amazon
Understanding the human body is critical in figure drawing. Sarah Simblet’s book has high-quality photos and diagrams. The book includes translucent overlays showing detailed illustrations of skeletal anatomy. One of the best anatomy drawing books for beginners.
- Sarah Simblet teaches at the Ruskin School of Drawing. She’s also an instructor at Oxford University and the Royal College of Art in London.
- Covered: Learn how to see inside the human frame to map its muscle groups and skeletal structure. Also, to capture its balance, poise, and grace. Practical drawing lessons on how to draw parts of the body.
- Why I Like This Book: The reference images are excellent. A unique feature is translucent pages defining the anatomical reference of bones and muscles. It also has the exact positioning according to the model posing.
Drawing People by Barbara BradleyCheck Price On Amazon
People are such intriguing and fun drawing subjects. However, great intrigue comes great difficulty, as humans are so complicated. This focuses on drawing people with realistic-looking clothing. Clothes don’t defy gravity!
- Barbara Bradley is an artist who’s taught classes for years. For 25 years, she was the Director of Illustration at the Academy of Art College in San Francisco. Her work has been displayed in collections in the United States.
- Covered: This covers drawing people and their clothing with realism and attention to detail. She focuses on how to draw clothing folds and shadows so it looks realistic. Also, how clothing responds to its environment and what the wearer is doing.
- Why I Like This Book: This is an informative, detailed, and entertaining book on a topic so often left out by other guides. The methods she shares are realistic and easy to master. She gives you plenty of exercises to practice with.
Human Anatomy for Artists By Eliot GoldfingerCheck Price On Amazon
Serious artists have to know where everything goes and how it responds to outside factors. This is the definitive work on the anatomy of the human figure.
- Eliot Goldfinger is a renowned sculptor. He developed the anatomy program at The New York Academy of Art.
- Covered: Drawing the human skeleton, bones, and muscles.
- Why I Like This Book: It’s a detailed and thorough analysis. It covers so much content on everything you could want to know to help with your drawing of human figures.
Drawing the Living Figure by Joseph SheppardCheck Price On Amazon
Understanding the effects of anatomical infrastructure on surface anatomy is essential to realistic drawing. Let this guide you on figure drawing process.
- Joseph Sheppard’s art is featured in collections worldwide. He’s won many awards. He works as an artist and has authored books.
- Topics Covered: The focus of this book is how the position and movement of muscles and bones affect the surface forms of live models. The drawings by the artist/author feature poses of the human body. The images show the skeleton, the muscles, and a finished figure.
- Why I Like This Book: There’s so much detail in the illustrations. It’s beneficial for understanding the surface of the human body.
A Handbook of Anatomy for Art Students by Arthur ThomsonCheck Price On Amazon
This is easy to read because it’s a less medical or scientific approach. The illustrations are outstanding. There are photos of models in various poses accompanied by flayed examples showing the position of muscles.
- Arthur Thomson M.A. M.B. was a Professor at the University of Oxford. He lectured at the national art training school, South Kensington.
- Covered: The surface form of anatomy with illustrations and photographs.
- Why I Like This Book: The less medical approach to anatomy is easy to understand.
Book of Realistic Drawing Secrets by Carrie Stuart Parks and Rick ParksCheck Price On Amazon
Ever wanted to be a self-taught artist and study using a comprehensive, detailed book including everything about realistic drawing? Carrie Stuart Parks and Rick Parks have such a guide!
- Carrie Stuart Parks is a forensic artist. She’s worked across the United States and the FBI. To top that off, Carrie writes best-selling mysteries. Rick Parks is an actor and screenwriter. He and Carrie have written drawing guides.
- Covered: This book contains everything you need to know about the basics of drawing. It covers form, structure and touches on the anatomy of people, animals, and plants. It’s packed with helpful tips and exercises. They help you improve your drawing skills.
- Why I Like This Book: Carrie and Rick’s style and tone are amiable and down-to-earth. This book is perfect for beginners and advanced artists alike.
The Artist’s Complete Guide to Drawing the Head By William MaughanCheck Price On Amazon
William Maughan introduces the reader to the centuries-old technique of ‘chiaroscuro”. Italian for ‘light and dark.’) Leonardo da Vinci developed it during the High Renaissance.
- William Maughan has been a commercial illustrator since 1973. His Fine Art career began in the early 1980s.
- Covered: The basics of ‘chiaroscuro.’ Showing how to analyze form, light, and shadow; use dark pencil, white pencil, and toned paper. The design elements enhance a likeness and capture a sitter’s gestures and proportions. There are step-by-step instructions on how to draw each facial feature. Also, to develop visual awareness, and render the head in color with soft pastels. Great for still life drawings.
- Why I Like This Book: Learning a centuries-old technique is an excellent skill in your drawing repertoire. The step-by-step instructions are excellent for helping to achieve likeness and proportions. Easy to understand with beautiful illustrations.
Classic Human Anatomy by Valerie L. WinslowCheck Price On Amazon
This has more than 800 distinctive illustrations. They detail the movement and actions of the bones and muscles.
- Valerie Winslow has taught at renowned institutions like the Art Center College of Design, California Institute of the Arts, and Pixar Animation Studios.
- Covered: There are three major sections in this book. The skeletal form, the muscular physique and action of the muscles, and movement.
- Why I Like This Book: Anatomy of the human body is a complex subject. But with the way the author has broken it into sections is helpful. The instructions are easy to understand. This is more suited to an intermediate artist.
An Illustrated Life by Danny GregoryCheck Price On Amazon
Imagine a book filled with the ultimate amount of artistic inspiration. Many artists are pitching in to share drawings from their private sketchbooks. All mediums, styles, and creative processes. That’s what An Illustrated Life is. It’s one of the best art books for inspiration.
- Danny Gregory is an Executive Creative Director at an advertising agency. He runs the successful blog Everyday Matters chronicling his life experiences and drawing.
- Topics Covered: This isn’t an instructional guide. However, you’ll learn tips and techniques. Danny interviews each of the artists featured. He asks about their creative processes. This is perfect for your drawing pursuits.
- Why I Like This Book: Every piece is impressive in its unique way. Good luck trying to read the book without your jaw dropping open.
The best drawing books further your drawing skills and creativity. Found this guide helpful? Excellent! Share it on social media and tell your friends. Have any draw books not been mentioned? Tell me in the comments.