6 Best sketching books for improving your drawings

Having the right collection of sketching books in your library can help boost your confidence as an artist. Especially, if you’re still working on growing a daily drawing habit.

These sketching books can give you a needed push to help you draw more and come up with interesting easy drawing ideas.

Figuring out how to learn drawing doesn’t have a simple answer. In fact, finding your creativity in drawing and drawing more is only developed through taking action. By drawing, drawing, and drawing.

Luckily, there are artists out there who’ve taken the time to share their insights about sketching with us.

This article is a collection of books about sketching I tell most beginner artists to get. Whenever I get in a rut with drawing, it’s these books I pull off my shelf to help give me a creative push with sketching.

It doesn’t matter if you want to only draw animals or any other drawing themes. These books will help you improve as an artist.

Each of these books builds upon each other.

So if you’re just starting out, start with the first book. Go through it, apply what you’ve learned. Take time to draw and explore the lessons. Then, move on to the next.

These sketching books will help you improve your drawing techniques, experiment with different drawing styles, and create a daily drawing habit you love.

1. Keys to Drawing by Bert Dodson

Inside, Bert Dodson shares his 55 “keys” to drawing better. His complete drawing system which you can use to draw any subject with confidence. Yes, even if you’re a beginner.

These keys, along with dozens of practice exercises, will help you draw like an artist in no time.

This sketching book will show you how to:

  • Restore, focus, map, and intensify
  • Free your hand action, then learn to control it
  • Convey the illusions of light, depth, and texture
  • Stimulate your imagination through “creative play”

I literally referenced this book every day when I started taking drawing seriously in art school. All of Bert Dodson’s lessons are written in a down to earth tone. Also, each page of his books is filled with beautiful loose sketches.

My biggest takeaway from Bert Dodson is that drawing isn’t all about rendering things photo-realistically. Drawing is about being expressive, showing your thought lines, and embracing mistakes. Learning contour drawing and other basics really helped me draw more.

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2. Human Figure Drawing: Drawing Gestures, Postures and Movements by Daniella Brambilla

A lot of life sketching books, courses and classes turn it into a rigid experience. While yes you need to learn the human anatomy and develop how your hands interpret what you observe.

The author, Daniella Brambilla, breaks down the figure drawing process into a loose and informative way. Essentially, showing you how to draw the human figure without the rigid, unimaginative process most figure drawing material drags artists through.

This book will show you how to learn to draw the human figure. While regaining your ability to observe a subject. Being able to draw the human body is a basic requirement for any artist. Inside the Human Figure Drawing, you’ll learn how to conquer the fear of making mistakes while you draw. As a result, you’ll grow the ability to face the challenge of drawing with confidence.

Human Figure Drawing offers a refreshing perspective on this figure drawing. Including, clear and helpful explanations and around 500 illustrations in black and white and color.

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3. Sketch Book for the Artist: An Innovative, Practical Approach to Drawing the World Around You by Sara Simblet

Sketch Book for the Artist takes you away from the traditional fine art approach to drawing. Focusing more on drawing on the go in your sketchbook.

It offers a wide range of themes, from portraits to plant studies and still life. Also showing you how to draw any subject in a variety of different ways. From quick pencil sketches to fully finished color studies.

Sarah uses “drawing classes” throughout the book to show you each drawing technique. Alongside drawings by famous Masters, the book uses the artist’s drawing book as the center of its investigation. Examining attitudes and demonstrating techniques. Each will excite the imagination and give your sketchbook ideas to improve your drawings.

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4. Dare to Sketch: A guide to drawing on the go by Felix Sheinberger

An inspirational, instructional, and visually stimulating guide to sketching and drawing. Dare to Sketch is filled with practical tips about which materials to use. How to draw a variety of subject matter. Which range from easy to more challenging. While offering wisdom about crushing creative blocks and fear of making mistakes.

Essentially, this is a whimsical beginner’s guide to sketching. Covering all of the drawing essentials. For example, what kind of notebook to buy, what drawing materials to use, ideas for the subject matter, and daily exercises.

This guide includes inviting, inspirational, and unconventional sketching tips. Dare to Sketch is gorgeously illustrated with the author’s unique and contemporary art style.

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5. Urban Watercolor Sketching: A Guide to Drawing, Painting, and Storytelling in Color by Felix Sheinberger

From the same author above, Felix Sheinberger, he offers a more in-depth approach to his pen and watercolor sketching approach. Moreover, The Urban Watercolor Sketching guide shows artists how to bring their drawings to life. With colorful, bold, yet accessible painting methods.

Showing you how to bring new energy to your sketches. Helping you draw urban scenes with this fresh and simple approach to watercolor painting. In other words, whether you’re an amateur artist, drawer, doodler, or sketcher, watercolor is a versatile sketching medium. Essentially, a medium that’s perfect for people on the go.

Felix Scheinberger offers a solid foundation in color theory and countless lessons on all aspects of watercolor sketching, including:

Fundamentals like:

  • Wet-on-wet, glazes, and washes
  • Materials and supplies to bring on your travels
  • Little-known tips and tricks, like painting when water
  • isn’t handy and seeking out inspiration

For example, inside the book, you’ll find vibrant watercolor paintings. With an open mind and sketchbook, you will be ready to capture the moments around you in luminous color with confidence, creativity, and ease—no matter what your skill level may be.

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6. Keys to Drawing with Imagination: Strategies and exercises for gaining confidence and enhancing your creativity by Bert Dodson

After I memorized everything in Bert Dodson’s, Keys to Drawing, I discovered his next book: Keys to Drawing with Imagination: Strategies and exercises for gaining confidence and enhancing your creativity.

Bert continues his drawing teachings. Which are centered around the theme that creativity occurs in action. Meaning, drawing is not a trait, it is something you do.

Above all, to be creative, you need to engage in the art-making process.

For example, when you are “in the flow,” you shift out of the future and into the present, making connections, generating variations and surrendering to the process.

Keys to Drawing With Imagination is a guide for artists on how to take something and make something new.

Bert Dodson presents fun techniques and mind-stretching strategies to get you drawing better and more imaginatively.

In every section, he offers you basic guidelines that help you channel your creative energies in the right direction. Subsequently, you’ll lose yourself in the drawing process. Enjoying the experience as you draw something gratifying and worthwhile.

The subjects covered in this hands-on book are as vast as the imagination itself. Through 58 strategies, 36 exercises and 13 step-by-step demonstrations, you’ll explore how to:

  • Take your doodling from mindless to masterful
  • Create your own reality by crumbling, melting or breaking objects
  • Flip the familiar on its ear to create something utterly original
  • Experiment with visual paradox and metaphor
  • Tell vivid stories through the details in your drawings
  • Play with patterns to create captivating compositions
  • Build your drawings by borrowing ideas from different cultures
  • Develop a theme in your work

Throughout the book, Dodson offers you valuable advice on the creative process. Based on his 70 years of drawing, illustration, and teaching experiences.

For additional inspiration and encouragement, he includes the work of 30 other outstanding artists, including my soon to be drawing, storyboards, and concept art mentor at CalArts, E. Michael Mitchell.

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