Drawing has always been a hobby of mine. I started doing it as a kid and have continued to practice throughout my life. However, I never learned any techniques in a serious way until a few years ago when I started buying drawing books.
Nowadays, many people learn to draw by watching YouTube videos. While those can be helpful, I’ve found that sitting down with a book provides a high level of detail and focus that many videos can’t.
So, today, I’ll share my top picks for the best drawing books available today. Though each is a bit different, they all cover essential techniques to massively improve your drawing skills no matter where you’re at in your artistic journey.
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Learn to Draw
By Betty Edwards
Author Betty Edwards believes drawing is less about having innate artistic talent and more about developing a skillset. This mindset has made Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain an all-time classic, appearing on the New York Times Best Sellers list multiple times since its initial publication in 1979.
By Andrew Loomis
Following up Fun with A Pencil comes another massively successful book by illustrator Andrew Loomis (1889–1959). Less of a general art instruction book and more of an explanatory guide on how to think about your art, Loomis goes over foundational principles and offers up different ways to approach drawing.
By Mark Kistler
What if you could go from drawing embarrassing stick figures to beautiful 3D forms in just 30 days? This may seem impossible, but you can do it with Mark Kistler’s enthusiastic and easy-to-follow instructions. So, if you need an kick in the pants, the lessons in this book will set you on the right track.
By Andrew Loomis
The godfather of drawing instruction is back with this facsimile edition of Drawing the Head and Hands. Without a doubt, Andrew Loomis’ detailed instructions make this a perfect introductory book for learning the fundamentals if you’re looking to draw realistic human portraits.
By Michel Lauricella
More of a reference guide than a how-to, this book is essential for artists who want to draw realistic human forms. Michel Lauricella explains human anatomy from an artistic—not a medical—perspective, making Morpho indispensable for every artist’s bookshelf.
By Bert Dodson
Imagine being able to pick up a pencil and draw anything you see. That is precisely what Bert Dodson helps you achieve with his 55 keys. This isn’t like other books that teach you how to draw. Instead, it shows you how to notice things, which is just as valuable. In sum, this is a book you’ll return to again and again.
By Rudy De Reyna
Just as relevant today as when it was first published, How to Draw What You See is an essential book for beginners. In a series of lessons that build upon each other, you’ll learn how to draw basic lines, shapes, and textures. If you’re just starting out, these exercises are golden.
By Katherine V. Holmes
Some drawing books focus on simple shapes, such as circles and cubes, while others teach you how to take those shapes and turn them into cool stuff. If you like the idea of honing your skills by drawing skulls, tattoos, and stacks of cash, you’ll love this tome, which includes tons of examples to practice with.
By Jake Spicer
Part sketchbook and part instruction manual, You Will Be Able to Draw by the End of This Book will help you develop your craft in practical and easy-to-follow exercises. Featuring lay-flat binding and plenty of room to sketch, this is a fun book for artists at the beginner and intermediate levels.
By Jordan DeWilde
As a beginner artist, it is easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of knowledge and skills needed to draw well. Altogether, Jordan DeWilde explains things in a simple, digestible way, making it a brilliant art drawing book for newbies.
By Claire Watson Garcia
Though meant for the absolute and utter beginner, artists with some drawing skills can still get a lot from this book. Claire Watson Garcia urges readers to “draw what you see.” By the end, you’ll become a much more proficient draftsperson through a series of exercises and student examples (a nice touch).
By Juliette Aristides
This is a different kind of drawing book, which is a good thing. Just don’t let the beautiful design fool you into thinking it’s all style and no substance. Beginning Drawing Atelier is chock full of valuable exercises and drawing space where you will learn side-by-side with the masters.
By Burne Hogarth
Drawing human figures is one thing… drawing them in dynamic poses is another. Tarzan artist Burne Hogarth teaches his readers the fundamentals of perspective as it relates to human anatomy. Though it feels dated at times, Dynamic Figure Drawing is an excellent reference manual to keep around, nonetheless.
By Joseph D’Amelio
If you’re looking for a book on perspective that is short and sweet, look no further than Perspective Drawing Handbook by Joseph D’Amelio. This gem is filled with practical tips and tricks that will take your understanding of perspective to the next level.
By Sarah Simblet
Anatomy for the Artist is unlike any other anatomy reference book you’ve seen, featuring beautiful photographs, female and male models, and helpful diagrams. One of the book’s main strengths is the translucent overlay feature, which helps you grasp bone structure and musculature.
By Scott Robertson
How to Draw is THE book on technical perspective, especially when it comes to cars and architecture. I wouldn’t recommend it to casuals or newbies, but if you’re ambitious, don’t mind going slow, and are willing to do the work, you’ll get a lot out of this dense book.
By Alphonso Dunn
If you’ve spent any time on Alphonso Dunn’s YouTube channel, you know he’s a talented and passionate teacher. His book Pen and Ink Drawing is an excellent companion to his videos, which will inspire you to pick up the pen and sketchbook, no matter what stage of life you’re in.
By Michael Hampton
Michael Hampton’s book is a fantastic place to start if you want to learn figure drawing. He breaks down human anatomy in the most simple of ways. By following the exercises, you’ll be well on your way toward mastery of the human figure, even if you have never drawn before.
By Angela Nguyen
Kawaii is the culture of cuteness in Japan. This book teaches you how to draw that style specifically. How to Draw Cute Stuff is not for everyone, but it’s an excellent option for little ones or beginners who want something cuter than your average drawing book.
By Robert Beverly Hale
Author Robert Beverly Hale uses drawings from Michaelangelo and Rembrandt to teach the fundamentals of figure drawing. The fact that it’s been in print since the 1960s tells you something about its timelessness. If you only buy one or two drawing books, this should be one of them.
By Lee J. Ames
Each animal in this art drawing book is broken down into simple shapes. By following the step-by-step approach, you’ll be able to draw all kinds of animals, from tigers to bears. There’s barely any text, so it’s fantastic for visual learners, kids, and adults who want a beginner-friendly drawing book.
By Carrie Stuart Parks and Rick Parks
What if you could sit down with two award-winning art instructors and have them give you ALL of their best secrets? If you want to take your realistic drawing skills to the next level, The Big Book of Realistic Drawings Secrets gives you a boatload of helpful tips, from shading to textures and everything in-between.
By Ernest R. Norling
Perspective Made Easy is an excellent primer for students and beginners. Though it’s an older book (first published in 1939), the concepts haven’t changed, so it’s just as relevant today as it was then. Overall, if you’re looking for a book about perspective that is easy to follow, look no further.
By Mark Willenbrink and Mary Willenbrink
The step-by-step tutorials in Drawing for the Absolute Beginner will help you go from embarrassing doodles to advanced sketches in no time. It includes all the techniques you need to draw more realistically, including shading, textures, perspective, etc.
By Barrington Barber
Clocking in at 352 pages, The Complete Book of Drawing is a beast that gives you plenty of examples to chew on. Don’t be intimidated by its size. The information is broken up in a way that makes it useful and easy to navigate. This is an excellent reference book to keep lying around.
By Stan Lee and John Buscema
This is a no-brainer if you want to draw comic book characters. The legendary Stan Lee teaches you how to draw using the cast of characters from the Marvel universe as case studies. This is the book you wish you had as a kid but can still enjoy as an adult.
By Marcos Mateu-Mestre
Framed Ink is less of a drawing how-to for beginners and more of an in-depth guide to narrative art and storytelling. If you are interested in comic book artwork, it will open your mind to the various techniques at your disposal to create dramatic tension.
By George B. Bridgman
In this concise guide, legendary George B. Bridgman (who taught Norman Rockwell) focuses on an area many beginners have trouble with: the head and facial features. The illustrations are lovely, and though it feels dated, Heads, Features, and Faces is an iconic drawing book that will improve your anatomy drawing skills.
By William Maughan
William Maughan’s guide to drawing the head is precise, not only in terms of the anatomy but the medium and manner in which it’s executed. Specifically, it teaches chiaroscuro techniques using pastels and charcoal. Still, you can apply many of the lessons to other types of drawing.
By Judy Martin
This inspiring art drawing book by Judy Martin is best for intermediate artists who want to take their colored pencil techniques up a notch. Since it’s an encyclopedic guide, you can jump around between the different sections (“Techniques” and “Themes”) as you see fit.
By Barbara Bradley
Many art drawing books out there teach you how to draw the naked human form, so finding one that focuses on clothed people is refreshing. Author Barbara Bradley takes you through the fundamentals before delving into the nuances of clothing, including how folds work, fabric textures, and more.
By Jasmina Susak
Imagine picking up a pencil and being able to draw anything with the uncanny realism of a photograph. That is what Jasmina Susak’s book is all about. Essential techniques such as shading are covered to achieve photorealism. She even tells you which pencils to use to achieve the desired effect.
By Peggy Dean
This book is excellent for beginner artists, designers, or anyone who wants to learn how to create line drawings of nature. It includes succulents, cacti, leaves, mushrooms, and more. The only thing that would improve it is more info, but the detailed steps are straightforward to follow.
By Michele Lauricella
The hands and feet are often the most challenging part of the human anatomy to master. Author Michele Lauricella devotes an entire book to the subject matter, breaking down each body part into simple shapes. He even discusses bone, veins, and musculature. Perfecto!
By George B. Bridgman
In Constructive Anatomy, author George B. Bridgman offers simplified guidance on human figure drawing, with a focus on different parts of the body. If you’re not bothered by the technical lingo, you’ll find a lot of value in this classic art drawing book. This title is more intermediate-friendly, so don’t purchase it if you’re a complete beginner.
By Jodi Hauptman and Samantha Friedman
You’re probably familiar with Cézanne. The beauty of this drawing art book is that it focuses on the legendary painter’s works on paper. These sketches and drawings served as a testing ground and an incubator for many of his famous paintings. Seeing the artistic process unfold through in beautiful color illustrations is inspiring.
By David Hockney and Sarah Howgate
Published in conjunction with an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, this book includes half a century of pencil drawings from one of the greatest living artists. Drawing From Life is an inspiring glimpse into the mind of a master, featuring impromptu sketches of himself and people sitting nearby.
By Jodi Hauptman
It’s good to have a few drawing art books like this lying around the house. I like this one because it covers a wide range of artists from MoMA’s permanent collection. Names like Jean Arp and Georgia O’Keefe grace its lavish pages. I like to pull it off the shelf when I get creative block.
By Gary Garrels
This volume of Drawing From the Modern features works on paper from the mid-20th century. You’ll find examples by some of the art world’s biggest names, including Agnes Martin, Ellsworth Kelly, and Louise Bourgeois. This is a no-brainer if you’re seeking inspiration for your drawing practice.
By Frank Zöllner and Johannes Nathan
Wouldn’t it be nice to have access to the complete drawings and paintings from one of the art world’s GOATs? Of course, it would! Leonardo includes everything from this all-time great. Simply flip through it anytime you want to feel inspired.
By Thomas Pöpper
Michaelangelo left behind a venerable oeuvre. Included here are all of his graphic works, including figure drawings, architectural renderings, and sketches. Like all the books by this publisher (with who I work occasionally), the printing and design are top-notch, making it an excellent reference book for any artist.
By Christopher Lloyd
This is a small book (approximately 6 x 9 inches). Still, the reproductions are beautiful, allowing Edgar Degas’ body of work to be fully appreciated. This handy volume also includes plenty of biographical information about the Impressionist artist, focusing exclusively on his drawings and pastels.
By Jane Kallir and Ivan Vartanian
Before his untimely death at 28, Egon Schiele produced an impressive body of work, including the drawings and watercolors featured here. The human figure drawings, in particular, are sure to inspire. My only complaint is that the book is not larger so that we can appreciate the beautiful reproductions in more detail.
By Christopher Lloyd
The aptly titled Picasso and the Art of Drawing is a slam dunk for any budding artist. When you’re not flipping through it seeking inspiration, it will look fabulous on your coffee table or bookshelf. I really love this drawing art book because it shines a light on Picasso’s lesser-known works, which are just as brilliant as the paintings.
By Karl Zigrosser
If you struggle to conjure up emotion in your drawings, you may benefit by studying the work of Käthe Kollwitz. This book features prints and drawings of the renowned German artist who dedicated herself to portraying the downtrodden and disenfranchised.
By Jerry Saltz
This quick and easy read will help you achieve a better mindset. If you have imposter syndrome, fear of failure, or other confidence issues related to being an artist, How to Be an Artist will help. That’s why it is an essential art book drawing title for me, even though it speaks to the visual arts community as a whole.
By Austin Kleon
Another brilliant mindset book is Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist. It’s an easy, breezy read that you can knock out on a plane trip or afternoon at the park. If you ever feel stuck or get overwhelmed by questions like “Who am I as an artist?” then you should definitely keep this book around to flip through when needed.
By Lisa Congdon
Lisa Congdon’s book is about finding your artistic voice—something every beginner artist struggles with. We all start by mimicking “the greats,” and developing your own style can be challenging. This charming book gives you a roadmap and confidence for finding your own unique vision.
By Magnus Resch
Many artists struggle with the business side of things, so if you have any ambition to be a professional artist, this book is a good primer. You’ll learn about the gallery world, how to find representation, and other valuable tips they don’t teach you in art school.
Sarah Urist Green is the host of the incredible PBS series The Art Assignment. In this book, she gives 50 prompts borrowed from artists geared towards sparking creativity. It is a valuable resource for beginners and more experienced artists alike.
In conclusion, check out these books if you are interested in drawing better. Each is filled with beautiful illustrations and cool features that will help and inspire you to create your own masterpieces. Now, what are you waiting for? Get out your pencil and start drawing!
Maybe you’re interested in digital art instead? In that case, check out my guide on the best iPad for drawing or this list of ideas for Procreate. If you’re a beginner, this Procreate guide on using the color picker may be handy.