The best art instruction books for fantasy artists

Sandra Staple Author Of Drawing Fantastic Dragons: Create Amazing Full-Color Dragon Art, Including Eastern, Western and Classic Beasts
By Sandra Staple

Who am I?

I have been drawing fantasy creatures and characters for over thirty years now, and have collected hundreds of fantasy, art, and art instruction books over the decades. Both drawing and reading are a passion of mine, so I am happy to share some of my favorite fantasy art books that I have in my own personal library.


I wrote...

Drawing Fantastic Dragons: Create Amazing Full-Color Dragon Art, Including Eastern, Western and Classic Beasts

By Sandra Staple,

Book cover of Drawing Fantastic Dragons: Create Amazing Full-Color Dragon Art, Including Eastern, Western and Classic Beasts

What is my book about?

Drawing Fantastic Dragons teaches you all the tricks and techniques you’ll need to create your own amazing dragons and bring them to life in distinct and dramatic colors. With easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions, you’ll discover how to draw all types of dragons. Packed with example after example, this hands-on guide features dragons of all shapes and sizes, and includes a special section on how to draw unique beasts. It also features a special section on adding claws, scales, horns, beards, and other details to your dragons. 

The books I picked & why

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Dreamscapes: Creating Magical Angel, Faery & Mermaid Worlds In Watercolor

By Stephanie Pui-Mun Law,

Book cover of Dreamscapes: Creating Magical Angel, Faery & Mermaid Worlds In Watercolor

Why this book?

Pui-Mun Law has been one of my favorite artists since I discovered her website over twenty years ago. She is an accomplished artist, and her books are not only filled with beautiful artwork that will inspire any fantasy artist, but also contain very detailed tutorials and sketches.  Although the tutorials focus on finishing pieces using watercolor, this book is also filled with beautiful pencil sketches and guides on drawing different poses, body parts, and scenery to suit your fantasy character. Her watercolor style is uniquely detailed and precise, which makes the book a great reference for artists using drawing mediums as well. 


The Fantasy Illustrator's Technique Book

By Gary A. Lippincott,

Book cover of The Fantasy Illustrator's Technique Book

Why this book?

This book is full of beautiful illustrations and great advice on creating your own fantastic scenes.  It goes into great detail on how to visualize your piece. While there is a full chapter specifically dedicated to drawing, there is also a section that looks at other mediums such as ink and watercolor and what techniques you can incorporate into your art using these materials. It is full of wonderful tips and advice, and is also a pleasure just to flip through.


Anatomy for Fantasy Artists: An Essential Guide to Creating Action Figures and Fantastical Forms

By Glenn Fabry,

Book cover of Anatomy for Fantasy Artists: An Essential Guide to Creating Action Figures and Fantastical Forms

Why this book?

This book is a great choice for artists that are interested in drawing humanoid fantasy characters or superheroes. It takes a close look at drawing action poses and includes many sketches and example drawings. It also includes photo references to use. It isn’t as much of a step-by-step tutorial book, but a great reference with lots of advice on creating your own dynamic characters.


John Howe Fantasy Art Workshop

By John Howe,

Book cover of John Howe Fantasy Art Workshop

Why this book?

John Howe is a renowned Canadian Illustrator and artist best known for his artwork depicting Tolkien’s Middle Earth. While this is not a typical how-to or step-by-step art instruction book, it is nonetheless a must-have book full of tips on creating fantasy creatures, scenes, and landscapes, with many case studies showing some of the steps he followed when creating his masterpieces. 


Science of Creature Design: Understanding Animal Anatomy

By Terryl Whitlatch,

Book cover of Science of Creature Design: Understanding Animal Anatomy

Why this book?

Whitlatch is best known for her creature designs for Lucasfilms, so as you can imagine her book is full of amazing illustrations explaining how to design your very own creature. It specifically takes a look at breaking down and combining different types of animals from the five vertebrate classes, as well as a close look at using dinosaurs as a reference. 


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