Best books on anatomy for people who draw or paint.
If you are struggling with drawing human anatomy, there are a few solutions that will help you to improve your knowledge of how certain body parts looks like/work and therefore improve the skills at drawing the human body.
To keep the introduction short, here’s a list of some things that will help you at drawing humans:
How can human anatomy books help me in creating my illustrations?
Or more specifically, why should we pick up books instead of other resources like mannequins for drawing?
There are some pros and cons, but undoubtedly all the resources mentioned above are helpful.
When it comes to books, It’s essential to know the skeleton and muscle insertions on the bones. It will help you with drawing the character, especially if you are a comic artist and draw many poses from imagination.
I dropped the question of what are the best human anatomy books on some Facebook art groups and included most recommended books in the list below.
Not every book is good enough for everyone – some artists prefer learning from drawings, others from photos. And not every artist likes to learn from anatomical pictures drew by another artist (the author), fearing that they might copy their ‘unnoticed’ mistakes or drawing style.
Therefore I think that the best way to learn is to not stick just to one book but to look at various resources.
List of Human Anatomy Books for Drawing
I will try to keep the descriptions of books brief, providing the most important pieces of information.
While doing a research about the books, I found also videos about them, where you can get a glimpse of their pages. So I want to thank to people who recorded them – Rafa Souza, PEEKABOOK, Altback, Ducky Collector – you can find more great videos and resources on their channels!
It contains photos and drawings to help you understand and learn human anatomy. If you are serious about drawing characters – you must have it! It will be an investment for years, not only for learning but also for work.
The book is divided into chapters, in which various parts and “layers” (bones, muscles, nerves) of the human body are described.
After analyzing individual parts of the body (each is really thoroughly and thoroughly developed and, unlike Loomis, here we have a typical academic approach and developing the human body for a full act) we have chapters with poses and movement.
The book is very nice and aesthetically published, which may not be the most important thing, but it certainly makes using it easier.
The book includes sections on proportion, muscles, bones, surface anatomy, equilibrium, and locomotion. Other unique features are sections on the types of human physique, anatomy from birth to old age. You can also find here a pieces of information about about racial anatomy, and an analysis of facial expressions.
This books is not a typical book about anatomy for artists.
However, it got great recommendations, not only as a book for learning anatomy for drawing purposes but mainly as a great resource for med school Gross Anatomy lab.
Inside the book, you can find outstanding full-color photographs of actual cadaver dissections with accompanying schematic drawings and diagnostic images. The photographs help you get a better visualization of structures.
Chapters are organized by region in the order of a typical dissection with each chapter presenting topographical anatomical structures in a systemic manner.
What you will find in this book that you won’t encounter in other books:
– you can learn here about the functional connections between single organs, the surrounding tissue, and organ systems. Dissections illustrate the topographical anatomy in layers “from the outside in”.
4. Figure drawing for all its worth ( Andrew Loomis)
This is a must have for anyone who is interested in drawing characters.
This book will guide us through all the issues needed to correctly draw characters from photos and from nature. The book contains 12 chapters in which we learn about the proportions of the human body, anatomy (bones and muscles), perspective and appropriate interpretation of the human body depending on the horizon setting, drawing methods, chiaroscuro. There we will also find tips for drawing characters from nature, tips for drawing characters in motion and drawing heads, hands and feet – their various configurations depending on the age and sex of the character, and for drawing people in clothes.
Here we have a book that will be especially useful for animators.
It was written by Walt Stanchfield, an American animator, writer and teacher. He worked at Walt Disney (The Jungle Book, The Aristocats, The Great Mouse Detective) and mentored Disney animators.
His classes and notes have inspired countless animation artists, and his approach to drawing of caricature over reality, feeling over rote accuracy, and communication over photographic reproduction gets to the heart of what great animation is all about.
A book written by an artist Valerie Winslow – Classic Human Anatomy.
You will learn here about the skeletal form, the muscular form and action of the muscles, and movement–the material is divided into easy-to-understand pieces.
The book contains many detailed illustrations of the human anatomy, the movement and actions of the bones and muscles. You will find there also and unique charts that reveal the origins and insertions of the muscles. Packed with an extraordinary wealth of information, Classic Human Anatomy is sure to become a new classic of art instruction.
Another recommended book is Human Anatomy for Artists, written by Andras Szunyoghy.
The book has 496 pages and contains a lot of huge detailed pencil illustrations – which are a big plus, since you will find here sketches of individual muscles. bones and other body parts from multiple angles – limbs, eyes, nose, mouth etc. It’s often described as a book for anyone who wants an in-depth understanding of the human figure.
For some artists is one of the best book about anatomy, other’s aren’t satisfied with it due to some issues with the text (the text is sometimes hard to link to the drawings), or just because they prefer photos rather than illustrations.
8. Constructive Anatomy – Dover Anatomy for Artists (George B. Bridgman)
The book was written by George B. Bridgman – a teacher at the Art Students League in New York for nearly 50 years.
It’s an anatomical reference guide for the working artist, sculptor, and student, graphically shows important parts of the human body, both in motion and in repose.
Mostly recommended for an intermediate artist, the sketches are described as”rough” and therefore might be not suitable for people who just started learning the drawing. But I can definitely agree with the comments that this book is a good reference for comic artists.
I also spotted a comment from an artist that uses illustrations from this book as a reference when digitally sculpting realistic characters – “it’s all hand drawings that helps to focus on form, rather than getting drawn in to detail”.
There are red flags when it comes to the quality of this book – “The illustrations on this May 20, 2014 Kindle version are too faint to view on a Paperwhite”.
This is a book that describes itself as a book about anatomy for sculptors, but that’s not entirely true.
This is also a great asset also for 2d artists – The book is loaded with reference images of different muscle groups from all kinds of angles and body positions. I totally love how they show in the book illustrations next to each other – the photo of the body, the photo with a mesh on the body part, and the geometrical version of the body.
This is a book I would personally want to get as a beginner because the mesh allows you to get a better understanding of the body structure, and allow you to learn drawing with “the depth” in your illustrations (I had some troubles in the past with this, whenever I tried to draw my characters in realistic style, they looked “flat”).
Warning: You can find many amazing reviews about this book, but there’s one thing you should be aware of – it’s highly suggested to get the print version, as the kindle version is LOW RESOLUTION and does not have ANY navigation.
When I first saw this book my first thought was “omg, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure!”
The author of the book, Burne Hogarth has a very stylized way of drawing the figure. He was one of the most iconic cartoonists and influential arts educators of the twentieth century and remains so today.
He also was one of the first (if not the first) to draw the human form in what we now know as the exaggerated pose of comic book art.
This, and his other book called Dynamic Figure Drawing are the books that you want to have as an aspiring comic artist.
His stylized illustrations of characters with exaggerated muscles may not suit everyone’s drawing style, but it will definitely help you understand how and where the muscles go together.
Info: Some people say it’s not a book for beginners, but should be definitely in their library, “as something to aspire for”.