Animal Photo References for drawing

Looking for Animal Photo References for drawing? Here’s a list! Check out these websites and photo boards created especially to help artists.

This list was created after writing the Poseable Animal Mannequins for drawing article. In comparison to human figure, animals are quite difficult because of their fur, feathers, scales, and their various skin textures. Mannequins can help you with anatomy and posing, but they won’t be much help when it comes to drawing these details.

I’ve heard about some artists going to zoo in order to practice drawing animals. Really cool idea, but animals won’t sit still for a long time.

Also, if you want to paint hyperrealistic paintings based on a random photo from the internet, you may encounter copyright problems. You can’t use other people’s photos for commercial purposes —well, you can if you get permission, but even if you do, you can’t, for example, enter a contest with the finished work. So watch out for what photo resources you use. 

Ps. I’ve already gathered a list of photo resources for drawing – it’s a broader list and includes for example buildings, landscapes, and clothes photo resources, whereas here I focus only on animals. Check it out too!


X6UD – Animal Photo Art References

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This is a great website if you want to draw heads from different angles. Use options to find the right photo – choose the species, and then click on the skull to maneuver and set the head’s correct angle. Really great help and time-saver.

Info about photo source: Photos used by this website come from You can click on them in order to open the photo’s original page and see information about copyrights.


Wildlife Reference Photos for Artists

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This is website that was created with artists in mind.
They are royalty-free wildlife photos so, once purchased, you can use the downloaded high-resolution photos as art reference as many times as you like.

It’s a great solution for people who create art for commercial purposes. The photos are available for about 5$ per photo, but you can buy a subscription (10$ for all 5 photos).


African reference photos

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This website is run by the same artists as previously mentioned: “Wildlife Reference for Artists” website.

The photos are specifically related to the African fauna and cost less (about 2$ per photo, or ever 1$ if you buy more than 5 photos).
Images downloaded may only be used as a reference for creating original works of art. Good solution if you want to paint hyper-realistic drawings or paintings for example – contests and stay safe in regards to the copyright.


Insect Library

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A great collection of insects created by Nicky Bay. He is a Macro photographer located in Singapore.
All photos are of live subjects shot in the field, with the dorsal view selected where available. Click on individual photos for larger views and views from other angles. As most specimens were not collected, identifications were done purely based on photographs and may not be 100% accurate.

Please contact him at for licensing of photos.

You can find more Nicky Bay’s photos on his website:


Real Monstrosities

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This website is run by Joseph Jameson-Gould. He collects photos of various insects and lizards – and many of them you can use and adapt, even for commercial purposes. Under every photo is provided the original source, you will find there information about photo’s license.

Visit website

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Digital Library is a searchable collection of selected images, historical artifacts, audio clips, publications, and video, most of which are in the public domain.

They ask for giving a credit if you use photos from their base.

 – Photo references for 3d artists and game developers

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If you are a 3d artist, then you should definitely check out this website. You will find here sets of photo taken at different angles of various models on white background – perfect or creating 3d models and textures.
There are also some great human figure photos, even in T-pose.

The photos are paid, but you can get free samples first, if you think about getting the subscription.



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I’ve already mentioned Unsplash on, but in case someone hasn’t seen previous articles, I put it on this list too.
Unsplash has some amazing photography, that is available to use for free – Commercial and non-commercial purposes (*Photos cannot be sold or redistributed without significant modification).

Aside from the animals’ photos, they have a lot of people, landscapes and other high quality photography.


Pinterest – Dynamic Animal Poses References

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You can find many great Pinterest boards with animal photo references.
This board, created by Kristeen Mullay, is a collection of animal pose references. You will find here photos of various species: horses, dogs, cats, wolves, birds, beards – all in motion.

Click on the photos to go to the original source and learn about their license.

Visit website provides High Resolution photos of animals that can be used as a reference for 3d modelers and animators.
They allow using their textures in free and commercial productions (they ask for leaving a credit if it’s possible). You can read more about the license here.


*CG Master Academy Course – sculpting anatomy from animal to creature

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While doing this research about animal photo references, I’ve found a course for 3d artists. In this course you will learn about animal’s anatomy, and create your own sculpture (in Zbrush) from scratch.

A 3d artist Phu Nguyen took the course, and wrote an article where he explains in details steps of creating a 3d model of leopard. You can read it here: Animal Anatomy Production guide


(3d Leopard sculpture, made by Phu Nguyen)


I hope you found what you were looking for! Let me know if there are sites that should be listed here!


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