The best way to learn to draw the anatomy of the human body is by first gathering the right reference material. Specially anatomy drawing reference books.
In fact, when learning to draw anything, I highly recommend you gather as many reference photos as possible.
But there’s also a lot of material out there and it can be difficult to choose. So, in this article, you’ll find the best anatomy reference books for artists to help you master drawing anatomy and figure drawing!
Table Of Contents
- 1 Figure Drawing for All It’s Worth, by Andrew Loomis
- 2 Constructive Anatomy, by George B. Bridgman
- 3 Basic Human Anatomy: An Essential Visual Guide for Artists, by Roberto Osti
- 4 Anatomy for Artists: A Visual Guide To The Human Form, by 3dtotal Publishing
- 5 Morpho: Fat and Skin Folds: Anatomy for Artists, by Michel Lauricella
- 6 Facial Expressions: A Visual Reference for Artists, by Mark Simon
- 7 Which Anatomy Reference Book Should I Get?
Figure Drawing for All It’s Worth, by Andrew Loomis
Even though this is not a recent book, it still holds up very well. In fact, many professional artists still highly recommend this book if you’re starting to learn figure drawing and anatomy.
And they’re very right to do so. This is the book I always go back to whenever I feel the need to go back to the fundamentals and need to refresh my memory when it comes to human anatomy.
What I most enjoy about Andrew Loomis’s approach is that he keeps everything simple. If you’ve watched my drawing courses before you know that I like to teach in a simple way, so drawing is enjoyable for everyone.
While still maintaining some complexity, this book does the same. You’ll learn about human proportions, with different examples, how the body works in different perspectives, actionable and dynamic poses as well as both standing and sitting poses.
You’ll learn about both the male and female figures accompanied by many visual studies to help you understand anatomy.
This is a very complete book that goes over the main aspects of drawing the human body!
Another thing I really like about this book is that it doesn’t overly focus on muscles and bones.
It is important to learn about them, but, personally, I don’t think it’s something you need to dwell on for a long time if it isn’t interesting for you.
This book does have a section about them, covering the most important aspects so you can better draw your figures, which I feel is more than enough!
Overall I think this is a really good book to have at home, either if you’re a beginner or an advanced artist. You’re always learning something new.
Constructive Anatomy, by George B. Bridgman
Even though it’s more on the technical side of learning, I love Bridgman’s gesture. The way the author builds up the form and shapes of the body is beautiful!
So it’s no wonder that Bridgman is another highly recommendable master to learn from. Even though this isn’t a big book (compared to many others from this author) it is very detailed and visual.
Not only that but it is very well organized, full of different sections for every part of the body. If you want to understand how each part of the body works, this is the book for you.
Constructive Anatomy has almost 500 illustrations and it will show you the body both in motion and repose. Every little bit of detail of the human body will be shown here.
You’ll understand how each part of the body connects with the next. You’ll learn not only about the surface of the body but also its muscles, bones, and joints.
Bridgman tends to be more technical and relies a lot on the functionality of the inner parts of our body.
Again, although I feel you don’t need to dive deep into this aspect of the human body, I still think it’s good to learn about it to better understand how our body works.
All in all, this is a must to have at home, both to learn or to refresh your memory from time to time. Even if Bridgman is too technical for me, visually it’s amazing work and I’ll always learn something from his books!
For this reason, I think this is a good anatomy drawing reference book for when you’re in the more advanced stages of drawing or if you want to really understand the intricacies of the human body and its anatomy.
Also, this is not a very big book, so it’s perfect if you want to bring it with you somewhere and won’t take too much space at home either!
Basic Human Anatomy: An Essential Visual Guide for Artists, by Roberto Osti
For me, any kind of artbook needs to be very visual. Text won’t help me a lot without a visual example.
I like to go through these books and draw studies from them. This is the best way I learn: by observing and reproducing the examples I see.
Of course, not all of us have the same process, but I still believe it’s important to have lots of visual examples when it comes to learning anatomy!
And this book is great for that. It’s very well organized, going from the overall shape of the body to explaining each part of it, step-by-step.
My favorite thing about this book is that it uses a basic process of learning through line and shape. Exactly the same kind of process I use and that always helped me understand the human body.
Not only that, but it shows different shapes that you can use. There is no true way of drawing the human body. You can use different kinds of shapes and still produce a faithful drawing of a person.
With that said, this book will not only show you the overall shape of the body but also goes through joints, muscles, and bones in a very simplified way.
It’s a very visual anatomy drawing reference book that can help you better understand the human body, especially if you’re more into technical and down to the detail teaching methods!
More than that, since this book tries to simplify every single aspect of the body, it can also be a very helpful tool for a beginner artist.
Anatomy for Artists: A Visual Guide To The Human Form, by 3dtotal Publishing
I’m a big fan of 3dtotal books. They have many books, catered for all artists in all areas.
Be it animation, character design, environments, sketching, tutorials, and many others, there’s something for you out there!
And the same goes if you want to learn anatomy. Again a very extensive visual guide of both the male and female bodies. You’ll learn how to draw the human body in many different positions and actions.
The main reason I add this book to the list is that here, you have both drawings and photographs of real-life models.
You’ll learn a lot by seeing other people’s studies and art, but you also need to study from real life. So observing pictures of people are a good way to do that.
Not only that, but beyond the photographs, this book shows you studies and comprehensive drawings showing the muscles, bones, and shapes on top of those photographs.
So if going from reference to drawing is something that is hard for you, this book will show you ways of doing that.
Observe and study this anatomy drawing reference book and then try it for yourself!
This is something I always recommend my students to do. When in doubt, find a reference and draw shapes on top of it. Nothing like a hands-on exercise to clear out any doubts and understand better how to draw the human body.
Understanding how the human body works is very important when drawing it, and this book will explain all of that to you.
It’s a very comprehensive book, full of references both from real life and studies/drawings. For that reason, I think it’s a very good addition to your art book collection, either if you’re a beginner or a more advanced artist!
Morpho: Fat and Skin Folds: Anatomy for Artists, by Michel Lauricella
This book is a bit more specific compared to all the other books. However, I think it deserves mentioning since there are not a whole lot of books that will go through the specifics of different types of bodies.
The Morpho books are all very good and I recommend all of them. There are several volumes that will teach you about the overall figure, more static or dynamic poses, or even specific areas of the body.
If you’re ready to go to the next level and are looking to learn more about different types of bodies, specifically heavy bodies, then this book is for you!
It is very visual and shows us different body styles, as well as faces and ages. In my opinion, the Morpho books are very good to draw studies from.
Full of examples, sketches, and drawings made out of simple shapes and lines. If you’re looking for a book to draw from, this is perfect for it!
I also think it’s important to try our hands and learn from different types of bodies since they’ll use different shapes and proportions.
So it’s important, after learning the fundamentals, to broaden our horizons and master different heights and weights.
This is also a fairly small book, meaning you can bring it in your purse or backpack if you want to draw on the go and it won’t take a lot of space at home.
Overall I think this is a very good book for any artist at any level that is ready to tackle a different body type. If you like to draw studies from artbooks, this is also a very good choice!
Facial Expressions: A Visual Reference for Artists, by Mark Simon
Another book with a more specific theme. However, I think this is a great reference book for any artist.
When drawing the human figure, the head is also part of it. And it’s quite a difficult subject to tackle since there are many features to learn.
Eyes, mouth, nose, ears, hair… You need to know how to draw each of these along with their positions and proportions.
Anatomy drawing reference books often go through this subject and will show you how to draw the head and its features. But they usually don’t show a lot of examples.
If you want a book filled with head references, this is it. This book is filled with pictures of different people, of different ages, wearing different expressions.
Not only that, but you’ll get to see each of those expressions from many different angles.
As an extra, this book also comes with additional photos of couples kissing, people wearing hats, and even illustrations that show the skull anatomy and muscles.
A nice little detail is that you’ll also find a section filled with pictures of the mouth pronouncing the different phonemes used in human speech.
In general, this is a great reference book if you want to learn more about expressions. This goes both for artists and animators alike!
With it you’ll probably never need to look up expression references ever again, you’ll find anything you need here.
Which Anatomy Reference Book Should I Get?
If you’re torn between a few or just want one anatomy drawing book, I highly recommend the Figure Drawing for All It’s Worth, by Andrew Loomis. It’s a great book both for beginners and veteran artists.
It tackles anatomy and the human figure in a very simplified way, following simple methods, easy to understand.
This book avoids going into too technical terms and details of the human body, giving you a good understanding of anatomy with many visual examples.
If you want something more specific, filled with drawings the Morpho: Fat and Skin Folds: Anatomy for Artists, by Michel Lauricella or any of the anatomy drawing reference books in this collection is also a very good choice to have as a visual reference!
In general, I think it’s good to learn from different styles of learning and to have a good visual library to help us understand better the human body, so look up each of these books, and see what seems the most interesting for you.
And since you’re taking drawing the human anatomy seriously, get started right now with my post on the best anatomy drawing tips for beginner artists!
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Patricia Caldeira is the main writer here at Don Corgi. She's an art teacher with over 20.000 happy students across many platforms and courses!
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Keep on drawing!