If you’re an artist looking for figure reference to draw, we’ve put together a list of resources to help you. Whether you are searching for pose reference photos to practise your figure drawing, or are a character or comic artist wanting to visualise models in action poses, there is something for you.
New Masters Academy – Timed Pose Reference Videos
The New Masters Academy Youtube channel has a series of videos you can use for timed figure drawing. You will be shown a photograph of a figure and given a clock countdown. Videos start with short poses, and build up to longer ones in a similar style to a real life drawing class. Sometimes you are shown 2 poses side by side giving you the option of which to draw.
Nude figure model reference
There are currently 34 videos each of about 25 minutes long showing various poses, in this playlist
Clothed figure model reference
if you prefer drawing clothed figures there is also a playlist of 15 videos. The models are wearing figure-hugging clothes such as shorts, sports tops and leggings.
If you like the reference, but want more, plus access to all of New Master Academy’s art courses, it costs $49 a month (or $39 for courses without reference)
Ges Draw Party – Videos for Gesture Drawing
This is a Japanese YouTube channel with pose references for artists. The models often dress in very quirky costumes. The name “Ges” is short for gesture as the videos were created for gesture drawing practice. There are 28 videos to choose from.
The poses can be used for drawing practice, but should not be used commercially.
Draw This – Figure Drawing Videos
A set of 48 figure reference videos each showing different poses. The models in these videos are clothed. They start with short 1-minute poses and build up to a 10-minute pose. What I like about these videos is that they show you both a full-figure view and a close-up head and shoulders view. This means you can use them for portrait drawing practice too.
Join our Figure Drawing Challenge this November
Use some of these resources and practice your figure drawing this November with our figure drawing challenge Posevember
Croquis Cafe – Pose Reference Photos and Videos
Croquis Cafe has a huge collection of figure pose references in the form of both photos and videos. It used to have some of its resources available for free on YouTube, but has now moved to introduce a modest membership fee of $36year. For the fee, you get access to their database of photos and videos of nude models to draw. Included in the membership is the commercial license to sell your drawings or paintings of their models without attribution. You can also use the resource as a pose reference for creating characters.
Draw Models Live, with Online Life Drawing
During the pandemic, life drawing was forced to go online. Now lockdown is over or easing for many of us, some online life drawing classes have continued.
If you have never tried an online figure drawing class I will explain how it works. There is a host who organises the event and will set you a time for each figure drawing. Then there’s a life drawing model in their own home or in a studio who will pose naked or clothed. Some online classes will insist that you keep your webcam on to prevent people from screenshotting the model or doing anything untoward.
Most classes do not include any tuition, but some hosts will offer tips during the session. You will often be invited to share your work at the end, though this isn’t mandatory.
The online figure drawing classes below are ones that I have tried personally and would recommend.
The Jolly Sketcher – Online Life Drawing
The Jolly Sketcher is a well organised online figure drawing class and the models I have drawn have been excellent. During the pandemic, many of the models were dancers and so were able to hold amazing poses. You can either pay for a ticket for one class, or pay for a monthly subscription for access to all the online classes. There are several classes run throughout the week, and the host, an artist herself, offers tips during the classes.
Thamesmead Life drawing
Thamesmead life drawing is another well organised online figure drawing class that currently runs every Tuesday evening UK time
Cabaret Couture – Fashion Figure Drawing Online
Cabaret Couture is a little different as it’s more about fashion figure drawing.
London Drawing – Zoom Life Drawing
London Drawing is another well-established figure drawing class that went online during the pandemic. They offer regular online portrait and figure drawing sessions on Zoom. They also have other creative classes that are worth checking out, both free and paid.
Life Drawing Plus
I have only attended one online figure drawing class with Life Drawing Plus, but it was an interesting one. The model dressed in different outfits in the theme of Pulp Fiction and even posed with a motorbike at the end.
Character Designs – photo reference for artists
I have only recently discovered the Character Designs website, but what a great resource it is. There is a good selection of photos with people posed in both costumes and nude. You will also find some action pose reference photos that look like the figures are fighting. It’s the type of thing you would expect to find in a comic or superhero film.
The images have a creative commons license – Usage in commercial work IS allowed: you can use it for reference (directly painting the image is fine), for your photo manipulations, for textures and anything else you want to sell. You just need to link back to the Character Design Website and give attribution.
Adorka Stock – figure poses
Adorka Stock is another site with figure reference imagery for character and cartoon artists. There are lots of different poses to draw, from action style poses, to people wearing wings, to casually sitting on the sofa. As well as free images which require attribution you can also purchase image packs from Gumroad, or become a Patron to receive more images.
Art Station – figure photo reference
Art Station has sets of figure reference photos available to purchase including action poses. They include sets such as 700+ Character Pose Reference Pictures, Gladiator Pose Pack and 300+ Medieval Female Costume Reference Pictures. You can see from the titles that they are aimed firmly at character and comic book artists. Packs are reasonably priced, most under $10.
Proko – figure drawing photo packs and tutorials
Proko is a website and Youtube channel which teaches drawing, with a speciality in figure drawing. You can download a free photo model starter pack to draw. There are also other human reference photo and video packs available for purchase featuring different poses and models.
Timed figure sketching
If you want to practice sketching figures quickly, there are a few sites worth checking out. These sites all give you the option to choose what you want to draw and how long you want to spend on each image. They save you spending all the time that you intended drawing, searching for reference. They also force you to draw poses that you would normally reject.
Line of Action
Bodies in Motion
Bodies in Motion has some amazing photographic references of people in motion. If you register you get access to a few free images and videos and also the quick draw section. Quick draw is similar to the websites I mentioned above, you get shown a series of images for a certain time so you can draw them. Drawing videos of people in motion could be great practice for urban sketching moving people. If you want more than the free content, there is a subscription from $25 to $195 a year to access different levels of the content
Free Royalty Free Photo sites
There are so many free royalty-free photo sites out there that include full-body photos of people to draw. The only difficult thing is working out what to search for to get the type of pose you want. Try searching sitting, dancing, walking, exercise, figure etc.
Everypixel is a search engine for royalty-free images and searches multiple sites at once. Choose whether you want Free or Paid images and then perform a search. The free search looks through 22 different image sources. Bizarrely, sometimes you will find images this way that you wouldn’t by searching directly on a Royalty-Free website and vice versa. So it’s worth searching sites individually too if you don’t find what you are looking for.
Also, try these royalty-free photo sites
Free royalty-free videos
If you want to practice drawing figures in motion, instead of royalty-free photos check out the free stock libraries that offer videos. You could even download them and loop them.
Poseable Figure Reference Apps
If you ever had one of those awful wooden artists’ mannequins, these apps take that concept, but bring it into modern times. There are several different apps you can choose from, but the one I have is called ‘Art Pose.’ It’s available for both iOS and Android.
Art pose for Android and iOS
There are three versions of the Art Pose App, a male poseable figure, a female 3D model and a Pro version. The Pro version allows you to pose 2 figures at the same time. I have only tried the male and female versions.
You start with a 3D human model on screen and then the option to choose from a series of starter poses. Once you have chosen one, you can then tweak the pose by moving parts of the body. You can also adjust the body type, in the man’s case from a slender man to one with big muscles. You can move the figure around in 3D space to get the view you want, as though you were moving a camera around a model. You can also adjust the lighting of the figure. Once you are happy with the pose, the camera icon lets you save a screenshot to draw or paint from
Make Human for Mac and PC
Make Human is a free 3D figure software for desktop computers. I haven’t tried it personally, but it looks pretty capable of posing figures from the video.
Daz3D for Mac and PC
Daz 3D is free 3D figure software for desktop computers. I have downloaded it and dabbled with it a little in the past. Like any software, it has a learning curve. But you can create characters and pose them to draw.
What pose reference sites do you use?
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