The 10 best drawing books

There's a myth out there that artists are born, not made. We believe this statement is false, and that nearly anyone can learn a skill if they know what resources to use to help them learn.

Whether you're just starting out or you're a long-time artist, this list of the best drawing books will help you improve your knowledge, and provide you with some great reference material, too. While this isn't an exhaustive list, this is our pick of the best drawing books we recommend for artists of all skill levels.

For more inspiration and advice, take a look at our roundup of how to draw tutorials.

Best drawing books: Drawing the head and hands

01. Drawing the Head and Hands

A classic 40s drawing book, revived

Publish date: 2011 | Publisher: Titan | ISBN-10: 9780857680976

Loads of information
Detailed instruction
Classic book
Quite dense

Andrew Loomis' Drawing the Head and Hands is a classic, and is excellent if you're looking for a solid foundation on drawing hands and heads. There's a ton of info inside, so you'll want to take it slow, especially if you struggle with drawing hands. Loomis' explanations are detailed and engaging, and it's hands-down (pun intended) the best anatomy reference book despite its age. Loomis' systematic approach will help you understand the principles behind drawing realistic portraits. Aside from the benefits of learning how to draw, Drawing the Head and Hands makes an excellent coffee table book too.

Best drawing books: Drawn to Life

02. Drawn to Life

This drawing book focuses on capturing the moment

Publish date: 2009 | Publisher: Focal Press | ISBN-10: 0240810961

Focus is on emotion and action
Lots of gesture drawing
Very dense
Less concerned with technical accuracy

Volume 1 of Walt Stanchfield's Drawn to Life: 20 Golden Years of Disney Master Classes is a super-dense drawing book that you'll need to read slowly. Stanchfield takes a different approach to learning how to draw by focusing more on the emotions, life and action than proportions and technical accuracy. With a heavy focus on gesture drawing, don't expect a book filled with finished drawings. Drawn to Life is about capturing the moment. If you're interested in creating drawings with character and flow, this is a must-have reference. 

Best drawing books: The Sketch Encyclopedia

03. The Sketch Encyclopedia

Never run out of sketching ideas

Publish date: 2018 | Publisher: 3DTotal | ISBN-10: 1909414646

Breaks projects down into steps
Packed with ideas
Intro on drawing theory

If you're looking for some warmup sketch ideas, The Sketch Encyclopedia: Over 900 Drawing Projects  is a great place to start. This drawing book breaks down each project, of which there are over 1,000, into four key steps (sketch, line drawing, and two that build up and complete the form) – making it easy to follow along. With lessons on creatures, people, buildings, famous landmarks, vehicles and nature, you're sure to find something to get you started. The Sketch Encyclopedia also includes an extensive introduction covering tools, line making, light theory, perspective and texture.

Best drawing books: Drawing on the right side of the brain

04. Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain

Shake up your creative thinking

Publish date: 2012 (4th edition) | Publisher: TarcherPerigee | ISBN-10: 1585429201

'Definitive' edition
Focus on creative thinking
Good for teachers

This revised 'definitive' edition of Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards is excellent for professional illustrators or drawing hobbyists. 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!

Best drawing books: How to draw comics the Marvel way

05. How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way

A crash course in comics from true gurus

Publish date: 1984 | Publisher: Atria Books | ISBN-10: 0671530771

Written by Marvel legends
Covers comic book theory
Not totally comprehensive

No drawing books list is complete without a word from Stan Lee and John Buscema. If you're looking for a crash course in figure drawing, or if you're an aspiring comic-book artist, animator, or illustrator, do yourself a favour and grab a copy of How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way. 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.

Best drawing books: The Silver Way

06. The Silver Way

A character design bible from an industry pro

Publish date: 2017 | Publisher: Design Studio Press | ISBN-10: 1624650341

Pro character designer author
Lots of info, clearly presented
Offers tips and tutorials

Part of learning how to draw is learning how to have confidence in your own work. The Silver Way: Techniques, Tips, and Tutorials for Effective Character Design is written by Stephen Silver, the man behind the character design for Kim Possible, Danny Phantom, and The Fairly OddParents (to name a few). It offers guidance, encouragement, and inspiration in addition to easy-to-follow tutorials and drawing techniques.

Best drawing books: Art Fundamentals

07. Art Fundamentals

A guide to the essentials rules and theories you need to know

Publish date: 2013 | Publisher: 3dtotal Publishing | ISBN-10: 190941400X

Comprehensive guide
Includes essential theory
Useful composition advice

Art Fundamentals: Color, Light, Composition, Anatomy, Perspective, and Depth by Gilles Beloeil (Assassin's Creed series), Andrei Riabovitchev (Prometheus and X-Men: First Class), and Roberto F. Castro (Dead Island and Mortal Kombat) is one of the most comprehensive drawing books on the market today. In this book, you'll discover all sorts of goodies, including the rule of thirds, rule of odds, Golden Triangle, and Divine Proportions. But it goes well beyond composition. You'll also learn about colour and light, perspective and depth, anatomy, and portraying emotions.

Best drawing books: Drawing the head and figure

08. Drawing the Head and Figure

A thorough guide from a bestselling author

Publish date: 1982 | Publisher: TarcherPerigee | ISBN-10: 9780399507915

Simple techniques
Step-by-step guides
Some illustrations look dated

Drawing the Head and Figure: A How-To Handbook That Makes Drawing Easy by Jack Hamm is packed with helpful advice. You could say that this book is in direct competition with Loomis' drawing books (number 01), and you'd be correct. However, Hamm's approach to drawing the figure is more simplistic than Loomis'. His step-by-step approach will have even the most inexperienced artists drawing better and more confidently. Although some of the drawings are a bit dated, specifically the hairstyles and clothing, it's still an excellent primer for learning how to draw and can be easily applied to what you're making today.

Best drawing books: Modern cartooning

09. Modern Cartooning

A beginner's guide to cartoon drawing

Publish date: 2013 | Publisher: Watson-Guptill | ISBN-10: 0823007146

Aimed at beginners
Lots of examples
Different cartoon styles included

Cartooning is fun, and in Modern Cartooning: Essential Techniques for Drawing Today's Popular Cartoons, Christopher Hart shows you the essential techniques you need to know to unleash your full potential. Aimed at beginners, Modern Cartooning takes you step-by-step through the process of creating cartoons. You'll learn how to draw faces, bodies, backdrops, and more. As an added bonus, Hart's YouTube channel regularly shares easy-to-follow, step-by-step videos on how to draw cartoons, manga, animals and everything else.

Best drawing books: The Illusion of Life

10. The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation

An enduring classic

Publish date: 1995 | Publisher: Disney Editions | ISBN-10: 0786860707

Staple animation reference
Inspirational
Not a tutorial book

Why is an animation book included on a 'best drawing books' list? Because it's amazing! Written by Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas, two long-term Disney animators, The Illusion of Life takes its readers back to the beginning. 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 still used today. This drawing book will inspire you to create through its many uses of photos, paintings, sketches and storyboards – all of which can be used to help you become a better artist.

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