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Figure drawing is one of the most difficult things there is – for new artists and even for established pros – and is without a doubt one of the most important skills that you can learn.
If you are a commercial artist who can draw realistic, natural and energetic human figures, it will give you a huge advantage in the market. And even if you are not a working professional artist, the ability to draw people well is crucial, and very little ruins an otherwise beautiful and effective piece of art than poorly or awkwardly drawn people.
So, of course, many, many artists wonder how they can improve their figure drawing skills.
One standard way to learn how to draw realistic and lifelike human figures has been, for a long, long time, the life model class, with nude or variously clad models standing in the center of a room, trying not to shiver or blush, as people who at least looked like artists stood in a circle and dabbed intently at canvases or sketchpads.
But life model classes, while still available, have fallen out of favor recently, and are anyway not as popular or available as they used to be. They are also quite expensive, and you may not live in an area where they are even available at all.
So what’s an artist to do?
Simple, get a good quality artist mannequin, also known as a drawing figure, body kun (male) or body chan (female), and pose, practice, and repeat as necessary.
A good artist mannequin can make all the difference in your ability to draw human bodies that look realistic and alive – whether they are cartoon or animation figures, fine portraits, simple sketches or caricatures, or elements in other compositions. In fact, I often think ”if you want your figures to stop looking so wooden, you should get a wooden figure.” I don’t really say it out loud much, but I do think it, and the imaginary people in my head laugh and laugh…
When you find the right artist drawing figure you will be amazed at the kind of insight it gives you into drawing the human form, and how much you can improve in this difficult art.
The best artist mannequin will help with:
Not to mention just the general ability to draw figures that are realistic, graceful and alive.
There are many different advantages to using a drawing figure, for practice or in actually producing artwork – especially when compared to life model classes or trying to practice from pictures or computer images:
Even the best drawing figures you can purchase really aren’t that expensive, especially when you consider how much you can gain by practicing with one.
But, as with so many other things, price is not a reliable indicator of quality, and here we must be careful.
You may not be able to see any difference between various brands and models of drawing mannequins by comparing their Amazon pages, but if you were able to physically compare the two, you would see that the better mannequins are more realistic in proportion, line and surface, more accurately and naturally posable and overall better representations of what a human body looks like. They somehow look more “alive.”
Lots of the less expensive artist mannequins, or even the poorer quality artist mannequins at any price, look a little bit off. And practicing with something that’s just a little bit off will quite possibly lead to art that’s, well, just a little bit off.
That said, my buyer’s guide for the best artist drawing figures currently available will include not just the very best art mannequins but also the best inexpensive artist mannequins, all of which are noticeably better than others at the same price.
This all comes down to your own priorities and your own budget.
If you are a commercial or fine artist who needs to improve your ability to draw people, if you are a serious comic book artist or animator, or if you are regularly including people in your art, you might want to get the best mannequins you can. The same might apply if you are a student or just starting out, want to learn in the best possible way and, of course, can afford it.
At the same time, even the least expensive drawing figures I’ve included in this article of best artist mannequins are excellent representations of the shape, flow and feeling of a human form, and any of my recommendations would be a great choice!
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BEST DRAWING FIGURE / ARTIST MANNEQUIN
LEARN TO DRAW HANDS
Lots of buyer’s guides recommend extremely expensive action figure-type artist mannequins, from fancy and cultishly popular toy or art brands, but those high end drawing models are often too robotish or cartoonish to be at all helpful in learning how to draw the basic human figure.
At the same time, that general type of artist mannequin – the Body Kun (male) and Body Chan (female) models – definitely have potential, as they can be very realistic and very posable, with great features, lines and proportions, and the best (not the most expensive!) are extremely evocative of a real human body.
My first choice for a higher quality Body Kun and Body Chan set (so you can have both genders) is the Abbony-Duo Male and Female Body Kun/Body Chan Artist Mannequins, which keep and hold poses really well and offer a real feeling of human form, line and movement in any pose,.
Made of high quality PVC, which provides a nice realistic surface, these Abbony-Duo artist mannequins come with extra feet and hands (in different positions – the hands are not articulated), as well as a range of accessories for posing, such as a cellphone, a laptop, a sword and a gun.
A perfect way to practice as much as you want with accurate models in a variety of realistic poses, the Abbony-Duo Male and Female Body Kun/Body Chan Artist Mannequins are one of my top recommendations for the best posable artist mannequins in 2021.
The BYIA Body Kun and Body Chan (male and female) articulated drawing figure set offers nearly as good look and feel as the Abbony-Duo couple mentioned above, and is a great value at a little more than half the price.
With realistic lines, features and musculature, and strong and stable articulation in all joints, the BYIA artist mannequins seem at times almost uncannily human, and can really help you understand what the human form looks like in any setting or pose, or under any lighting conditions.
These mannequins are made of very high quality material, and come with extra feet and hands (in different positions – the hands are not articulated) as well as a stand for each figure.
The BYIA Male and Female Body Kun Artist Mannequins with Stands are great value, and a valuable tool for learning and practicing.
If you are on a tight budget, or just don’t want to spend much money, you can still get a great basic wood drawing model with the HSOMID artist mannequin – in this case a single unisex figure.
Another more traditional featureless wood mannequin, like the US Art Supplies couple above, the HSOMID drawing figure offers the same high accuracy in proportions and overall balance, strong and flexible articulated joints for a wide range of poses, and excellent material quality with its hard wood construction.
It is, in fact, the most popular and highly rated artist mannequin on Amazon, with a remarkable 4.5 star rating even after over 1,400 reviews. A great basic tool, the HSOMiD 12” Hard Wood Articulated Artists Mannequin with Stand is an easy recommendation for best budget artist drawing figure.
It is often said that there is nothing harder to draw than a human hand.
The Fashionclubs wooden hand set is an incredibly popular and highly reviewed drawing figure, so there seem to be a lot of artists out there who feel the same way.
A very high quality product, fashioned out of attractive hard wood, the Fashionclubs hand set comes with both left and right hands, and they are fully articulated so you can put the hands in any position or pose for modeling or drawing practice.
The best wooden hand models I have found, the Fashionclubs 7″ Wooden Articulated Human Hand Models Left and Right are a simple and essential tool, and an easy recommendation.
While not actually articulated drawing mannequins for drawing practice or modeling, the next two items are still human models, and can give different – and extremely important – insights into figure drawing and different things to practice.
Learning anatomy, musculature and mechanics can be as important as line, flow, proportion and perspective, and the following two models are the best ways I know to learn and to practice.
Even if you are getting one of the great drawing mannequins I’ve reviewed here in my buyer’s guide of best drawing figures for artists, I would still strongly consider getting one or both of these – the combination will give such a complete and detailed view of the human body, from the inside and the outside, that you will fully understand exactly what you are drawing – and have the ability to practice it all to your heart’s content.
My final recommendation to people who really want to learn how to draw beautiful, realistic and living human forms is to get some instructions. I mean, you may have a couple of new friends with your drawing mannequins, but without proper instructions you are pretty much still going it alone.
So I would like to mention here my two favorite books on drawing the human form. Each is a real classic, and a beloved and extremely effective text, and the two together – like getting both a drawing mannequin and an anatomical reference mannequin – is an unbeatable combination!
People get very discouraged when trying to draw the human form, and the frustration that comes from this is probably the reason we have so many landscape artists.
But it really isn’t that difficult – even the notorious specialized art of drawing hands – if you simply practice, practice, practice.
If you have a great quality artist drawing figure, you can practice as much as you want or need. Having an anatomical model as well, and a good book to guide you, is also a great idea, and I think the combination, along with more and more practice, will show any artist that drawing a beautiful and lifelike human form is not difficult as everybody says – go figure!
And it should be said again that mastering the human form is an extremely important skill, which will improve your art more than almost any other element I can think of and can put you in very high demand as a commercial artist, illustrator or animator.
Thank you so much for reading this article – How to Find the Best Artist Mannequin – a 2021 Buyer’s Guide – and please, while you’re on the computer anyway, check out my blog – Art Side of Life – for more articles and reviews, online courses and so much more!