The best drawing books can be a wonderful introduction to the art of drawing and a source of constant inspiration. Both for beginners and experienced pros, they can provide new ideas, reveal new techniques and offer hours of practice. Drawing books can also be a thoughtful gift for anyone interested in illustration and drawing, be it on paper or digital.
Whether you're looking for basic advice and pointers or advanced detailed step-by-step walk throughs on particular subjects or effects, there's bound to be a drawing book for you. With a decade writing about art and design behind us, we've had the opportunity to review lots of titles over the years, and many of our contributors have their own favourites. We've put that knowledge together to create this bumper compilation of the best drawing books that we've used over the years, from longstanding classics to newer publications, which are outlined below in no particular order.
If you're looking for books on other topics to add to your collection, see our pick of the best illustration books. And for more tips and advice, see our selections of how to draw tutorials and sketching tips.
The best drawing books available now
Why you can trust Creative Bloq Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.
Publisher: Souvenir Press Ltd, 2008
Some of the best drawing books have been used for decades. This was compiled by Kimon Nicolaides' students in 1941 based on his teaching. He developed a system concentrating on the key concepts of contour, gesture, weight and structure, with 64 exercises to be completed over a year. It's well illustrated with examples from Old Masters and student works.
Best drawing book for beginners
Publisher: North Light Books, 1990
Having illustrated more than 70 children's titles, Bert Dodson is very much an expert. He also knows how to explain drawing in plain language. In a complete drawing system comprising 55, we learn how to free hand action and control it and how to restore, focus, map, and intensify. Plus we get lots of exercises for practice.
Best for core fundamentals
Publisher: 3dtotal Publishing, 2013
This is one of the best drawing books we've found covering the broad fundamentals. Compiled by experienced artists in the games and film industries, it provides clear overviews of fundamentals like the rule of thirds, rule of odds, Golden Triangle, and Divine Proportions. The book also explores the power of storytelling.
Best drawing book for portraits
Publisher: 3dtotal, 2021
Artists of any level will find useful nuggets in this comprehensive book on portraits. It covers all bases, from using references, planning and sketching to in-depth tutorials on full portraits. Content is clear and detailed, breaking down topics into manageable chunks, so if you want to focus on tattoos, scars or jewellery, you can.
Best for character design
Publisher: Impact Books, 2019
Drawing characters can be difficult, but this beginner-friendly drawing book by children’s illustrator Beverly Johnson shows how it’s done. There are chapters on shape, facial expressions, body language, interactions and more. It explores character design from every angle and finds refreshing approaches. We found the exercises offered plenty of practice to help develop new skills.
Best for all ages
Publisher: LOM ART, 2022
This is one of the best drawing books we've come across for beginners, especially for families. It aims to make learning to draw easy by building up from very basic shapes. It will be a little too basic for some people with more experience, but we found it provides a fun, accessible introduction and makes practice fun for all.
Best drawing book for fantasy
Publisher: 3dtotal, 2020
If you're interested in drawing fantasy creatures, this features work by 50 artists. Each offers tips on techniques and concepts. The book shows work in all stages, mostly in black and white, occasionally in full colour. This isn't a 'how to' book but more a source of inspiration and ideas. See our full Sketching from the Imagination review.
Best for life drawing
Publisher: Search Press, 2013
The best drawing book for life drawing provides great insights over almost 100 pages filled with step-by-step drawings and helpful analysis on methods, tone, line, shade and position. Although it's described as a beginner's guide, there's not as much guidance as some beginners might like on things like proportion and anatomical shapes. For more titles, see the best figure drawing books.
Best for head and hands
Publisher: Titan Books, 2011
Hands and heads can be the most difficult part of drawing people. Happily, this drawing book by the great commercial illustrator Andrew Loomis deals specifically with these challenges. Explanations are detailed and engaging, and his systematic approach helps us understand the principles behind realistic portraits.
Good for portraits
Publisher: Rockport Publishers, 2018
This may be one of the best drawing books for portrait skills. The artist Miss Led (Joanna Henly) breaks down the process into manageable, easy-to-understand stages. Aimed at beginners and experienced artists alike, it provides a solid introduction to portrait techniques, exploring topics such as expressions and facial structure.
Best for gestures
Publisher: Focal Press, 2009
Once you've learned to draw still figures, you'll want to bring your drawing to life by capturing gestures. This is one of the best drawing books for that, based on a legendary series of lectures by long-time Disney animator Walt Stanchfield. It shows how to add emotions, life and action to your drawings.
Best drawing book on creativity
Publisher: TarcherPerigee, 2012
Technique is one thing, but to be great at drawing, you need to unleash your creativity. This revised 4th edition of one of the best drawing books in history aims to help there. Betty Edwards delivers a lot of interesting concepts and teaches how to see differently. This revised version includes research on the brain's plasticity and the value of learning new skills.
Best for comic art
Publisher: Atria Books, 1984
Marvel is the biggest name in comics, and no list of the best drawing books is complete without this manual from Stan Lee and John Buscema. As well as figure drawing, it teaches lessons on composition, shot selection, perspective, character dynamics and more. There are newer, more in-depth books, but we find this book's lavish, full-colour illustrations a real joy.
Great for character design
Publisher: Design Studio Press, 2017
Part of learning how to draw is having confidence in your work. Here Stephen Silver, the artist behind character design in shows like Kim Possible, offers guidance, encouragement, and inspiration. You'll also find easy-to-follow tutorials. We think Silver's book is one of the best drawing books on character design.
Best for human figures
Publisher: TarcherPerigee, 1982
Last on our list of the best drawing books, this classic is packed with helpful advice. Jack Hamm's approach is simpler than that of Andrew Loomis, and this contains hundreds of illustrations and step-by-step tips that can help even beginners draw more confidently. Some drawings may look a little dated (particularly the hairstyles!), but we find that adds to the charm.