Best drawing books

Best Drawing Books for Artists: 20 Books to Learn How to Draw

Find the best drawing books to inspire your practice and help you to develop your skills, to get your art journey off to the right start.

Learning to draw can be one of the most fulfilling, rewarding and life enhancing things you can do! Nothing compares to the feeling of creativity flowing whilst drawing, and the accomplishment you feel when you execute a drawing in the way you envisioned it to look.

To be able to draw well, all you need is the desire to create, some time to put aside, the right pencils, a sketchbook and an open mind. But the right drawing books can set you on a course to improve your drawing skills, give you some fresh ideas and a new approach.

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Best drawing books for beginners

You will be Able to Draw by the End of This Book

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Have you bought a sketchbook but have no idea what to draw first? This book could be an answer! It’s a sketchbook that teaches you how to draw. With thick, quality pages, the book opens out flat. This makes for a comfortable sketching experience. 

Learn about line, mass, volume, contours, the relationship between edges and values. Plus, learn all the different techniques that allow you to render value. Plus, put these newly learnt techniques to practice on the pages of the book.

Beginning Drawing Atelier: An Instructional Sketchbook

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This wonderful, practical workbook was put together with the notion that artists learn by creating, not by reciting art theory in a classroom. 

This book is perfect for those who want to get stuck in, learn the drawing process and start putting pencil to paper straight away. The author, Juliette Aristides breaks the learning process into lessons of shape, form and proportion, referencing famous drawings by old masters, which will leave you feeling inspired.

Draw straight on the pages of the book to log your progress and improve as you go along.

Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain

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In this classic, popular book, originally published in 1979, Betty Edwards guides the reader through perceiving the relationship between subjects and objects in your reference and how to translate this to drawing. 

The great thing about this book is that it will teach you problem solving techniques, so you can overcome challenges when you start to practise drawing more regularly.

Drawing books for intermediate to professional artists

For those who want to fine tune their skills, or revisit the basics—these books are the perfect picks to take your drawings to new heights. 

If you’re a self taught artist, there will be aspects of fundamental skills that you pick up at different points of your art journey, that may differ from an artist that has been formally trained. Reading about how to approach certain concepts like perspective drawing when structured in a linear fashion with exercises can help cement these skills and get you drawing more quickly, consistently and with more confidence.

Figure Drawing Atelier: Lessons in the Classical Tradition

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This book teaches a classical approach to figure drawing to create lively forms that have a sense of movement. Juliette Aristides shows the reader how to draw gestures to capture the action of the figure and the essence of the pose, before rendering the details.

This ‘instructional sketchbook’ is a wonderful practical guide. With a large space to create your own drawings for each exercise. The paper of the book is of excellent quality for sketching. 

What I particularly like about this book is the focus on values, light and shadows and creating volume in a portrait drawing. It will take you through start to finish how to draw every pose imaginable so you feel equipped to draw from life yourself.

If you’re stuck trying to draw hands and feet realistically—these are usually the part of the body people find most difficult—Aristides has a section dedicated to just that. This book really helps people steer away from just drawing outlines and filling them in, but rather capturing poses and focussing on highlights and shadows to convey realism.

Composition in Drawing: The Design and Composition of Drawings

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You may have already learned the fundamentals of drawing, but what is it about a drawing that captures the viewer’s attention and wows them?

A big part of this effect can be credited to the composition. The composition of a drawing can have a psychological influence on the viewer’s interpretation and whether they regard it as aesthetically pleasing or not.

In this drawing book, learn how to organise elements in a drawing and use contrast to portray your intended message and effect—whether that’s a sense of drama or calm.

Sketching from the Imagination: Dark Arts

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Arguably, sketching from the imagination is more challenging than sketching from a reference. Copying a photo or even drawing from life, means that you have your subject right in front of you. You don’t need to remember scale, proportions or even create your own composition. 

This book brings together 50 digital and traditional artists to shed some light on the art of drawing from imagination to create magical illustrations. This book is especially suited to those who are interested in comic art, concept design and animation. This particular title focuses on ‘Dark Arts’—with macabre and gothic inspiration. But there are other titles in the Sketching from Imagination series, including a book on fantasy art and one on characters. 

Complete Guide to Life Drawing 

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Drawing from life, where there are time constraints, where the subject is in a pose you’re not used to drawing is a challenge. But it’s a way to further your perception and understanding of your reference.

Getting stuck in and going to life drawing classes is a way to improve your skills rapidly, as it will reveal your weaknesses to yourself. Whether it’s that you want to speed up at sketching, or become more confident and drawing a greater range of poses and angles. To achieve this, you will need a better understanding of human anatomy. This is the ultimate drawing book that you can use as a reference and a guide to perfect your drawing skills in different applications and environments, like life drawing classes. The book has detailed sections on human anatomy, so you can have confidence in drawing every limb, hand and face.

Using a photo as a reference usually doesn’t compare to drawing from life, there will be differences in the depth, contrast and quality of light. These features will seem amplified when you have a subject sitting in front of you. Of course, all of this input from your reference translates, so you can create some total novel drawings.

Portrait sketching books

Drawing the human body is a challenge—one that can be approached with a variety of methods and techniques. You need to learn to translate structure, gesture, light, shade and edges. Remember, the illusion of detail can be created without too much focus on detail.

Anatomy for the Artist

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Reading this book is like compacting hours of life drawing lessons in one book, with valuable and practical tuition on how to draw a variety of poses. By learning human anatomy and the construction of the body with its muscle groups and bone structure, it will help you to render the appearance and details in the human figure better. Sarah Simblet also gives masterclasses on famous artists’ works, including a Michalangelo study.

This book also teaches beginners how to draw distance and perspective, an essential skills for realism drawing. From this book you will acquire an incredible range of skills and techniques, to prepare you to start pencilling in a blank sketchbook of your own.

If you’re especially interested in learning more about anatomy, to improve your figure drawing skills, check out our review of the best anatomy books for artists.

Figure Drawing for Artists: Making Every Mark Count

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This book will teach you, from start to finish, how to draw the human form. From the first pencil line to the last shaded marks. 

The author, Steve Huston, outlines the two step method taught to artists at Warner Brothers, Disney Animation and Dreamworks to create drawings that exude a sense of liveliness and movement. Houston breaks down the laws of light, which you can use to create luminosity in your drawings.

Lessons in Masterful Portrait Drawing: A Classical Approach to Drawing the Head

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Take a classic approach to figure drawing by learning the ways of the old masters. Mau-Kun Yim teaches artists how to create volume and form in drawings by rendering a traditional bust. Then learn how to study your reference and improve your sketching skills by focussing on value and anatomy.

Drawing books for pen, ink & coloured pencil artists

There’s a whole world of materials beyond the classic graphite pencil. Discover the mediums of pen, ink, coloured pencil, charcoal and more in this assortment of art books

Pen & Ink Drawing: A Simple Guide

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This drawing book shows artists different line drawing and shading techniques to render shadow, light, volume and form. Create texture with a pen, to bring vibrancy to your drawings.

The book has a brilliant section on ‘sketchbooking’. A particularly good tip Alphonso Dunn shares, is how by making thumbnail sketches in your sketchbook, it can help artists to consider composition before starting their final piece. Learn how to create portraits, abstract art, gesture drawings, animal drawings and much more.

Encyclopedia of Colored Pencil Techniques

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Coloured pencils make for an excellent drawing medium. Layer wax or oil pencil to create smooth blends and highly detailed, realistic drawings that can emulate paintings. 

In this encyclopedia, learn all the essential techniques like stippling, blending, impressing, sgraffito and more! The book gives a multitude of examples of other artists’ works to give you an idea of what to draw for yourself.

Drawing techniques books

These books focus on specific techniques. They could introduce you to some new techniques you didn’t even know were missing from your art practice. Or help you to hone specific techniques that you are struggling with.

Artists’ Drawing Techniques

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This book is the perfect beginner’s hand guide, with a comprehensive look at every aspect of drawing. It covers 80 different techniques such as stippling and blending.

While predominantly focussing on how to draw with pencil. It has in depth workshops on pastel, coloured pencil and ink. If you feel like you want to try other mediums, this book is a great starting point. The book features demonstrations of all manner of subjects—portraits, landscapes, water, still lifes and more. 

It’s formatted a little bit like an instructional text book. It would suit you if you like learning by reading. You could also grab a piece of paper and try to follow along with the techniques for yourself.

Perspective Made Easy

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Many artists can draw perspective realistically, but very few artists fully understand the rules that make it what it is. When perspective is conveyed properly in a drawing, it can bring life to the artwork, making landscapes and cityscapes appear more realistic. 

Ernst Norling describes the how and why behind the laws of perspective. Illustrated with 250 simple line drawings so you can see it work in practice. Learn about vanishing points, the horizon and eye level. Then find out how to place objects in relation to the distance from the onlooker and how to depict shadows. Norling encourages simplicity in drawing. You can practice what you learn with the drawing exercises he provides. 

Other drawing books you’ll love!

Essential Techniques of Landscape Drawing: Master the Concepts and Methods for Observing and Rendering Nature

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Natural landscapes are most commonly rendered in oil, watercolour or other painting media. So it’s not often you come across a landscape drawing! Susan Brooker segments this book into various aspects of nature, such as land, sea, foliage, trees. She applies drawing fundamentals to help artists render each subject.

It’s a beautifully presented book and an essential for those who gravitate towards the subject of landscapes.

The Art of Urban Sketching: Drawing On Location Around The World

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Delve into the experience of urban sketching on location. Flick through 700 beautiful sketches and illustrations travelling through 50 cities in 30 different countries. The book is a compilation of different stories, styles, tools, tutorials and techniques. All from different artists who participate in sketching the urban landscape.

5-Minute Sketching — Architecture: Super-Quick Techniques for Amazing Drawings

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A collection of tips and inspiration to help artists render complex architecture. From mastering perspective drawing to detailing decorative elements in buildings. ‘5 Minute Sketching’ shows artists that you don’t need to commit a huge amount of time to enjoy a regular drawing practice.

Drawing Lessons from the Great Masters 

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If you’re interested in art history, this is the book for you! Robert Beverly Hale analyses 100 drawings from the old masters, including Rembrandt and da Vinci. Take some inspiration from their creative process and individual set of techniques.

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