The best drawing books tick a number of boxes. They inspire you with beautiful images. They teach you new skills, and give you fresh insights to hone existing skills. And they help you understand the theory and practice that lies behind truly great drawing.
Now that longer evenings are upon us, it's the perfect time to invest in some new books. Who knows, you may even save money thanks to some sweet Black Friday deals. So whether you're just starting out or you want to improve your drawing abilities, we've brought together the best drawing books on sale today, in one article.
Below you'll find books that will provide essential reference material, improve your knowledge, and give you fresh inspiration. Also make sure you check out our guide to the best illustration books. (While we're at it, don't miss our roundups of how to draw tutorials, and top sketching tips either.)
If you're a drawing beginner, we recommend this 1990 classic by Bert Dodson for getting started. Bert has illustrated more than 70 children's books and worked as an animation designer for PBS, so he knows what he's talking about. In this step-by-step guide, he explains a complete drawing system made up of 55 'keys' that you can use to draw any subject with confidence.
Along the way, you'll learn how to free your hand action, then control it. The author also teach you how to convey the illusions of light, depth, and texture; and stimulate your imagination through "creative play". Plus you get lots of exercises to help you practice.
Compiled by Gilles Beloeil (Assassin's Creed series), Andrei Riabovitchev (Prometheus and X-Men: First Class), and Roberto F. Castro (Dead Island and Mortal Kombat), this is one of the most comprehensive drawing books on the market today. It covers a range of art fundamentals including the rule of thirds, rule of odds, Golden Triangle, and Divine Proportions. And you'll also learn about colour and light, perspective and depth, anatomy, and portraying emotions.
Trying to draw characters, but struggling to get it right? This beginner-friendly book by children’s illustrator and character designer Beverly Johnson is here to show you how it’s done.
With chapters covering shape language, facial expressions, body language, interactions and more, this book tackles character design from every angle and finds refreshing approaches to the topic. These include a look at how settings communicate character, and exercises to keep you on your toes.
While it's great for newbies, even experienced character designers may find a lot to learn from here. Each challenge also shows how Johnson has solved the brief, so you can see the theory in action.
Specifically interested in drawing fantasy creatures? Then this softcover book will give you a lot of inspiration. It features drawings of everything from dragons and fairies to mechanical structures and aliens, in all stages of development, mostly in black and white. That said, now and again full colour illustrations pop up, making for a welcome change of pace.
Be aware that this is not a tutorial or 'how to' book, but more a source of inspiration, reference and ideas. Also, there’s no easy way to quickly find a specific subject matter or style of interest (unless you happen to be familiar with every artist). The art here is, though, accessible and fascinating in its variety, and the artistic insight is a nice added extra.
If you're struggling with the fundamentals of drawing people, it's a great idea to focus on getting hands and heads right first. That's the topic of this book, and you'll find a ton of info inside that will allow you to take it slow, and get it right.
Loomis' explanations are detailed and engaging, and his systematic approach will help you understand the principles behind drawing realistic portraits. So despite its age, this is hands-down (pun intended) the best anatomy reference book for beginners at drawing.
If looking to improve their portraiture skills, here's a great place to start. In this helpful book, artist Miss Led (real name Joanna Henly) breaks down the stages of portrait drawing into manageable, easy-to-understand sections.
Aimed at beginners and experienced artists alike, it not only provides a solid introduction to portrait drawing techniques, but also looks at how professional artists can create fine art and commercial-style illustrations. It's full of expert advice and tips, backed up by plenty of exercises for readers to put into practice.
Be aware that they're aren't that many words in this book, but it covers everything it needs to, leaving more space for Miss Led’s beautiful art. And overall it works because it’s accessible to artists of every skill level.
Once you've learned to draw still figures, you'll want to bring your drawing to life by capturing gestures. This book, focusing on adding emotions, life and action to your drawings, will help. With a heavy focus on gesture drawing, don't expect a book filled with finished drawings; instead, it's all about capturing the moment. If you're interested in creating drawings with character and flow, this is a must-have reference.
Seeking some warmup sketch ideas? You'll find plenty here. This drawing book features each one of more than 1,000 projects into four key steps: sketch, line drawing, and two that build up and complete the form. With lessons on creatures, people, buildings, famous landmarks, vehicles and nature, you're sure to find something to get you started. There's also an extensive introduction covering tools, line making, light theory, perspective and texture.
Technique is one thing, but to become great at drawing, you need to unleash your creativity too. This revised edition of a classic book is an excellent choice for anyone want to do just that. Author Betty Edwards delivers a lot of interesting concepts as she encourages you to explore the importance of creative thinking. She approaches learning how to draw by teaching you how to see differently, and explains everything from technique to materials. If you're an art educator, don't skip this one!
Marvel is the biggest name in comic art, and so no drawing books list would be complete without this fine manual from Stan Lee and John Buscema. In addition to figure drawing, you'll learn about composition, shot selection, perspective, character dynamics, and more. Are there newer, more in-depth books out there? Sure, but if you're a comic book junkie, then you need this book.
Part of learning how to draw is learning to have confidence in your work. Here Stephen Silver, the artist behind the character design of shows like Kim Possible, offers guidance, encouragement, and inspiration to help you develop your character design. You'll also find easy-to-follow tutorials and drawing techniques. For added inspiration, see our roundup of character design tips.
This book is packed with helpful advice on drawing human figures. Author Jack Hamm's approach is simpler than that of Loomis' book (number five on our list), with a step-by-step approach that will have even newbies drawing better and more confidently. Yes, some of the drawings are a bit dated, specifically the hairstyles and clothing, but it's still an excellent primer.
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Cartooning is a very specific art, and so in this book Christopher Hart shows you the essential techniques you need to know to unleash your full potential. Aimed at beginners, it takes you step-by-step through the process of creating cartoons, and covers faces, bodies, backdrops, and more. Use it as an accompaniment to Hart's YouTube channel which regularly shares easy-to-follow, step-by-step tutorials on cartooning.
Want to learn to draw for animation? Then this is a classic you have to read. Written by two long-term Disney animators, The Illusion of Life takes its readers back to the beginning. This drawing book will inspire you to create through its many uses of photos, paintings, sketches and storyboards. Although it's not a tutorial book by any stretch of the word, it does offer a lot of advice and guidance regarding styles, effects, colour selection, and more. It also formed the basis for the 12 principles of animation, which is still used today.