The best art reference books for drawing the human figure

Who am I?

Born at the base of the beautiful Wasatch Mountains, I began exploring and sketching the world—as most children do—at a very early age. I continued to pursue not only my artistic path through traditional schooling, higher education, and endless hours of practice, but also my love of storytelling. Intrigued by Science Fiction and Fantasy, many of my projects reflect elements of the fantastic, but I also appreciate the beauty and elegance in fine art masterpieces. I studied illustration and graphic design at Utah State University and the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. I currently live in Salt Lake City with my beautiful wife and four boys, where I continue to write, paint and draw regularly.

I wrote...

Draw It With Me - The Dynamic Female Figure: Anatomical, Gestural, Comic & Fine Art Studies of the Female Form in Dramatic Poses

By Brian C. Hailes,

Book cover of Draw It With Me - The Dynamic Female Figure: Anatomical, Gestural, Comic & Fine Art Studies of the Female Form in Dramatic Poses

What is my book about?

Draw It With Me: The Dynamic Female Figure art book explores anatomical, gestural, comic/anime, and fine art/life drawing studies of the human female form in dramatic poses and angles, offering step-by-step examples and process descriptions using these varied artistic approaches. To help inspire and educate the novice and master artist alike.

With over 200 full colorfully illustrated pages by award-winning artist/illustrator and #1 Amazon bestselling author, Brian C. Hailes, this book features supine, standing, seated, leaping, flying, crouching, fighting (and more) dynamic female figure sketches and masterpieces, using varying media and from differing angles / light sources with many photo references of the models included.

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is readers supported. When you buy through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

Figure Drawing: For All It's Worth

By Andrew Loomis,

Book cover of Figure Drawing: For All It's Worth

Why this book?

This figure drawing guide is a classic, and for good reason. Artist Andrew Loomis wrote this book for those who have graduated from the fundamentals of drawing and are ready to embark on their artistic careers. The focus is on aesthetic as well as practical, and leans toward a more commercial approach rather than fine art, but will be helpful to both disciplines. Loomis includes chapters on anatomy, planes and lighting, drawing from living models, the figure in action, and costume, among others. He discusses idealization and other tricks of the trade to help the reader produce superior work. Explanatory sketches and examples of some of his own best sketches appear on almost every page. Originally published in 1943 this book continues as a solid reference for artists struggling to perfect their own skills.

Anatomy for Artists: A Visual Guide to the Human Form

By 3dtotal Publishing (editor),

Book cover of Anatomy for Artists: A Visual Guide to the Human Form

Why this book?

I’ve always felt that a foundational knowledge of human anatomy is an absolute necessity for anyone serious about becoming a figurative artist. It’s like learning how to dribble if you want to play for the NBA. Although I used a different anatomy book growing up, An Atlas of Anatomy for Artists by Fritz Schider, I feel that Anatomy for Artists is a more solid choice for today’s up-and-comers. It’s an extensive compendium of high quality, detailed photography, and drawings, showing the human figure in a variety of shapes, sizes, and poses. It consists of stunning photography and comprehensive drawings showing the muscular structure of figures of varying body types. These male and female references will act as an invaluable starting point for artists trying to create art based on the human form.

Constructive Anatomy

By George B. Bridgman,

Book cover of Constructive Anatomy

Why this book?

I would call Bridgman’s approach to the figure, contour simplified. Countless artists and students since the 1920s have used this and other books by Bridgman, who taught for nearly 50 years at the Art Students League in New York, for a solid foundation and understanding of human anatomy. I think his unique way of discovering the vitalizing forces in the human form and realizing them in drawing carries the student pleasantly over one of art's most severe hurdles. Bridgman's superb anatomical sketches, of which there are nearly 500 in the book, also bring clearly to fruition his lucid theories of how to draw the human body in its structure and its complex movements. And he simplifies them in a helpful way.

An Atlas of Anatomy for Artists

By Fritz Schider,

Book cover of An Atlas of Anatomy for Artists

Why this book?

This is the artist's anatomy book I grew up studying throughout high school and college, and it goes deep into the structural and anatomical anatomy of the body. It gives good illustrative examples of the skeletal and muscular systems as well as providing a few photographic references for both male and female anatomy. It is a pretty old volume, having been originally published in 1957, but the principles remain the same and it holds up pretty well. For anyone serious about learning to not only draw or paint from life, but also the imagination, I highly recommend this foundational and educational reference guide.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in figure drawing, anatomy, and the human body?

5,215 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about figure drawing, anatomy, and the human body.

Figure Drawing Explore 10 books about figure drawing
Anatomy Explore 27 books about anatomy
The Human Body Explore 28 books about the human body

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Human Anatomy for Artists: The Elements of Form, Artistic Anatomy: The Great French Classic on Artistic Anatomy, and Figure Drawing: Design and Invention if you like this list.