Top 10 Art Books for Complete Beginners

Learning to draw is an acquired skill. Some people are naturally good at it, but the rest of us can actually get there by the correct practice. There are natural swimmers who win Olympic medals, has that ever stopped you from going to the beach? Of course not! Neither should this. It’s time to delve in to the top books for complete beginners, who can’t even make a circle. We will go from the basics, to more advanced concepts. Before we begin, you should invest in a nice pencil set, and a sketch pad.


Absolute First Book – Keys to Drawing

This is where you will start. This will set your basics right, without becoming too complex. Once you have developed some confidence with a pencil, and learn to see values, you can jump into the next book. Remember to not skip any lessons, as all future books will call on them in some or the other. Also, don’t be too hard on yourself if you fail the first few exercises. It takes some time to get things right.

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Understanding Gestalt – Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain

Now you can learn broader skills like, seeing spaces, lights and shadows, and forming a greater whole (read: gestalt). Many of the initial exercises might seem similar to Keys, but repeat them anyways. After this book, you will be delving head first into complicated topics, so its best to get all the practice you can.

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Realism – Lifelike Drawing with Lee Hammond

Now that you have the basics down, it is time to expand to realism. Learning to draw people, plants, and animals etc. is your natural next step. He is also a proponent of the one pencil method (only using 2B), for all drawing and shading.  But the most important skill you will absorb at this stage is toning, which is a key to make your sketches look realistic.

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Perspective – Perspective Made Easy

The author claims perspective is easy, and turns out that he is right. All you need to do is to follow some few simple rules. This is an essential skill, for making your sketches have some internal logic, and not completely confuse your viewer (unless that was what you were aiming for, and even then, its best to know how perception works for humans).

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Light – Light for Visual Artists

Next on the list is to fully understand light, and make it look realistic. This book is the premier guide on that. Best of all it works on all mediums, so if you plan to later delve into graphic designing, the concepts will translate there as well. This will clear the mystery on complex shading techniques, and does a good job of breaking everything down.

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Still Life – How to Draw What You See

If you are reading all the books in the order presented, this book will be a good refresher on everything. While now switching the focus to practical still life drawing. The book starts with extremely basic lessons, which you can skip, and then it rapidly delves into the topics covered. The author advises users to heavily rely on charcoal for shading.

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Figures – Figure Drawing for All It’s Worth

Finally a Loomis book! This probably his most fundamental book, which all aspiring artists must read. Covering figure drawing, and drawing the human form realistically. The book is famous for detailing everything well, so even inexperienced artists have no trouble following, and is pretty much the bible of understanding figures.

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Painting – Painting for the Absolute and Utter Beginner

With sketching now covered, its time to learn painting. Which is now the natural next step. This book covers everything, from the materials you should use, to exercises and practice tips. Painting is a much harder skill to learn than drawing, so its best to do once you are already confident with a pencil, as this is a completely new layer of complexity. But something every artist should be at least familiar with.

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Art History – 50 Art Ideas You Really Need to Know

Want a short art history book? Here it is! It covers pretty much most of art history in an extremely concise form. Now you don’t need to read a 700 page tome, to find out where Dada art style originated from, or where the realists drew their inspiration from. Its important to know the history of the form, so we can branch out further.

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Capstone – Drawing Course – Charles Bargue and Jean-Léon Gérôme

Now for the last book. This is complete summary of almost everything already covered, but is much more difficult and filled with a lot exercises. Save this for the last, as this is where it all becomes complex, and basic skills are assumed. This is pretty much an entire art course in a single book. And hence this is the perfect capstone.

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Honorable Mention —  Motivation – Art & Fear: This book wouldn’t fit anywhere else, but is essential nonetheless. Part of art is conquering the fear of creating something new. This book helps you deal with that internal crisis.

Click here if you want to buy them all, in one basket (you can then remove the ones which you don’t want).



Life is like the Shawshank Redemption, but with more tunneling through shit and no freaking redemption.Also I love historical things, creepy stuff, and videogames.

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