Books I recommend

I bought many books over the last decade, and I wanted to share a small list of my top 5. Those books are not directly about "digital painting", but they learn the core. Note: 'Reading' a guide will not increase your skill. You'll need to study, copy examples, and draw a lot to 'get it'.  Studying a good book can take months...

1. Figure Drawing: Design and Invention

by Michael Hampton, 240 pages
This one I discovered last year. Before this one, I learned mostly with the anatomies methods of George Bridgman, and Burne Hogarth ( I have all their books ). But training with this book made the real impact on my skill ; really clean geometric break-down, simple explanations of every parts. Link :

2. The Artist's Complete Guide to Facial Expression

by Gary Faigin, 288 pages
I appreciate this large book about facial expression mostly for the first part ; a complete guide for the anatomy of the face, with really interesting comments and tips to build the main features. Main part of the book about the expression is complex and really goes deep. For sure, I still only scratched the surface of studying this one properly.  Link :

3. Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter

by James Gurney, 224 pages
All or almost about color theory, in details, and also about shading. The reference about 2D rendering in my opinion. A book made for traditional painter, but easily understood by digital painter. Link :

4. Framed Ink: Drawing and Composition for Visual Storytellers

by Marcos Mateu-Mestre, 128 pages
A guide about image composition, but also about how to play with the eyes of your audience to tell your story. All in black and white, with a 'speed' style , the author draw a lot of examples and attract eyes on a wide variety of effect. A must have if you practise storyboarding, storytelling or comics. Link :

5. Atlas of Animal Anatomy for Artists

by W. Ellenberger, H. BAUM, H. DITTRICH, 151 pages
Not really a guide, or tutorial; but pages of raw black and white fine drawing of animal's anatomies. Horse, cat, dog, goats, etc...etc... most popular species are gathered on this thin book. Rich view angle ( front, side etc...) and often muscular view, and bone view. A very good reference if you have to illustrate horses ( like on my 12 books of "Le Club des chevaux magiques" ) or if you like to do creature design in general and need to know how some part of them 'work'.  Link :

And you , what's your favorite art book ?
Feel free to share the title+author on the comments and discuss about it.

Note : this article contain visual copyrighted and can't be licensed under a creative commons license.


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I have all of them a part the last one. I remember when I was one of the few to know about Michael Hampton while now is suggeted everywhere.

When I search for a book I look on amazon a subject and I filter by the average of votes. Then I just look at the negative reviews. Because if something has good reviews you can't be sure that is really good. But if it has many negative reviews you can be sure it's not worth, though I need to read them because some people give negative reviews for things that are not related with the content. Then when I find a good book I check the books suggested by amazon and that were bought by the same people that got that book. Then I make a list of all the books and using Google I search for other reviews. All this work just to not buy a chris hart book...

i would add as authors Michael D. Mattesi, scott mccloud and the vanishing point by jason chheseman

  David REVOY

@Marco : Good tip to find book on Amazon. Thanks to share your best reads, I have all about Scott Mcloud, and it's really good ( but too comic specific for my top5 ) but I don't knew the one of Michael D. Mattesi, nor Jason Cheeseman-Meyer. I'll add easy link here under at the end of my reply. I saw the preview of Christopher Hart's book ; yes, it doesn't look serious. Here I get disapointed by my purchase of 2 Tom Bancroft books. Books are good, there is honnest tips in it ; just the audience target is more for beginner than I thought. So, not for pro artist, more for large audience. I would advice them as complimentary books for teenagers or young art student.

✰ Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art
... and Reinventing Comics: How Imagination and Technology Are Revolutionizing an Art Form
by Scott Mcloud , both more than 230 pages, b&w
Link : and

✰ Vanishing Point: Perspective for Comics from the Ground Up
by Jason Cheeseman-Meyer, 128 pages

✰ Force: Dynamic Life Drawing for Animators
by Mike Mattesi, 248 pages
Link :

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  Sylvia Ritter

I have all these books on my amazon wishlist and gladly already bought "Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter".

My other favorite books are:

Imaginative Realism: How to Paint What Doesn't Exist by James Gurney

Four Jack Hamm Books:

Drawing the Head and Figure

Drawing Scenery: Landscapes and Seascapes

Cartooning the Head and Figure

How to Draw Animals

And if you feel burned out and lost some fun with drawing, I can recommend very sweet books by Carla Sonheim:

Drawing and Painting Imaginary Animals: A Mixed-Media Workshop with Carla Sonheim

The Art of Silliness: A Creativity Book for Everyone

For months I'm also waiting for:

How to Draw: drawing and sketching objects and environments from your imagination by Scott Robertson

Can't wait to have this treasure on my desk :).

Thanks for sharing your favorite art books. Going to buy "The Artist's Complete Guide to Facial Expression", immediately.

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  Sylvia Ritter

Upps,I messed up the formatting..

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Screenwriter Book:

The Screenwriter's Problem Solver:

Memo from the Story Department:

These books,also suitable for comics author.
I feel very practical two books.

  David REVOY

@Sylvia Ritter : Thanks for sharing your ref, and no problem about the formatting, it's great to have your links. Scott Robertson's book looks a very good one about constructive design. I'll probably purchase it soon.

@Senlin : Oh cool ; books about storytelling / scenarios. Nice ! thx for sharing .

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thank you for this books, but maybe you could gave advice for initial artist?
P.S.Sorry for my English.

  David REVOY

@Anton : For total beginner ; I would advice

✰ Successful Drawing
by Andrew Loomis
About drawing , and core technics : free download of the PDF here : … rawing.pdf

✰ Chaos & Evolutions
by me :-P ( not a book, a DVD video )
About digital painting basics : free viewing on Youtube : … n-tutorial

Also, check the Concept Cookie website , and Ctrl+Paint website. Have fun !

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thank you very much! :)

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This is a collection of Craig Mullins posts on sijun forums: (the download takes a while before starting)

It's not a book, but it's very interesting.

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Figure drawing est vraiment impressionnant !! Ca faisait longtemps que je cherchais un bouquin d'anat comme ca.
C'est exactement ce qu'il me faut pour me perfectionner.
Un grand merci !

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  Dorset Art Courses

For the slightly more experienced artist interested in learning how to paint impressionistic semi-abstract pictures, I found Realistic Abstracts by Kees Van Aalst to be a brilliant book. It's full of inspirational ideas and the simplicity of many of the studies makes it relatively easy for a newer artist to learn from.

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do you totally recommend "chaos & evolutions" with have no experience with draw traditional ?

  David REVOY

@microname : Chaos&Evolutions is now online ( youtube video ) for free, check the tutorial category on my blog to find it.
There is a problem with "no experience with draw traditional" ; because it's at the root of everything. It's like if you don't know how to write, but want to use LibreOffice. A minimal understanding of volumes, proportions, and shading is required. Thanks!

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J'ai découvert depuis quelques mois ton site et ton blog, et je lis tes articles avec un réel plaisir. J'apprécie la qualité de tes dessins, ton penchant à partager et à démontrer que l'on peut travailler avec des outils libres.
Dans ta liste, j'ai acheté "Figure Drawing: Design and Invention" qui est vraiment excellent. C'est exactement ce que je cherchais pour le dessin de personnage. A compléter avec un livre plus orienté sur l'anatomie pour les perfectionnistes.

Une remarque, ton top 5 contient exclusivement des livres en anglais. Et pas un seul n'est traduit en français. Rien d'alarmant pour moi, je gère, mais aurais-tu une liste pour des lecteurs non-anglophones ?

  David REVOY

@Guillaume : Merci pour ton retour Guillaume! En français, c'est vrai que j'ai pas grand chose. Principalement des ouvrages ( superbes ) sur la BD :
Scott McCloud : ( une traduction, mais bien faite )
- L'art Invisible
- Faire de la BD
- L'art de la BD ( tome 1 et tome 2 ) , Glénat
Je me ballade souvent dans les Cultura, Fnac Livre, etc... pour voir les ouvrages Art traduit en FR, mais ce sont souvent des 'objets cadeaux' plus que des livres utiles. Des sortes de grand livre couleurs avec plus de mise en page que de contenu. Pas facile de trouver des ouvrages techniques de qualité sur le dessin figuratif.

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I'd strongly recommend:
"Die Gestalt des Menschen" by Gottfried Bammes
The english title would be "The Artists Guide to Human Anatomy", although I'm not sure if they didn't delete some nude photographs from the original book and it's much shorter, too: only 144 pages compared to the german original with 506 pages!!!. This book is THE definit anatomy guide, going into every detail about skeleton, muscles, lipides, facial expressions, movement, deformation of muscles when in use, etc. etc.

And also "How to Draw" and "How to Render" from Scott Robertson.
It's more about industrial design, but very thorough and helpful, also for organics ;)

More of a philosophical aspect offers: "Drawn to Life" from Walt Stanchfield. It's about the essence of living drawings/paintings. When you read this book(s), you'll see all those more design-like drawings different :) You'll get a feeling for "real, living" drawings and paintings. It offers a lot of tipps and tricks which might seem obvious, but after comparing the students works with the masters corrections, you'll see, there's more to it than you think.

Live long and prosper.

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