In this useful guide, you will get the best pose reference websites, apps, and books for artists to help you draw or learn to draw humans in various poses and practice gesture drawing.
The Most Popular Pose References
Proko.com (Pose Reference Library)
Proko.com – a fully professional resource center for pose references and so much more, and one of the finest online art education programs going – highly recommended!
Get it here: Proko Photo References
Books on Poses for Artists
PoseMy.Art (Online Figure Posing App for Artists)
Pose My Art – a useful configurable mannequin that is far more realistic and fully realized than most and can help you get to pretty much any pose.
MagicPoser – 3D Characters for Creators
Magic Poser – a valuable free resource for any artist!
If you are looking for the best male pose references, the best female pose references, the best pose references for older people, young adults, teens, or children, for various body types, looks and styles, ethnicities, and even attitudes, these sites will have you covered.
So let’s get into it with my list of the best pose reference resources for artists on the market today!
Best Pose Reference Websites in 2023
Proko.com – Pose References and Anatomy Tutorials for Artists
As I’ve already said, this is my favorite modeling pose reference website, period, paid or free – and the one I strongly recommend.
It is also a brilliant site overall, with not just pose references but great, well-designed, and well-taught courses on all aspects of making art, a healthy online art community, and much more.
But we’re here for the pose references, and I have to say that Proko’s pose packs – individually priced for download – are fabulous! They are extremely well shot, high resolution, clear and useful, and each pack contains hundreds of images.
The individual pack prices are quite low considering the quality, usefulness, and range of images.
And the same is true for the courses themselves, which focus on the basics, are taught by a wide range of great teachers, and cover all of the most important (and all of the most popular) subject matter. Especially excellent are courses on human form, anatomy, and portraiture – which again relates directly to why we’re here – but all of the classes, and all of the resources, are great, and I can’t recommend Proko highly enough!
BodiesInMotion.photo – Photographic Pose References, Motion Sequences, 3D Scans, Artworks
Scott Eaton’s Bodies in Motion is one of the best art resources I have ever found, an absolutely beautiful website, and truly premium service.
With high-resolution motion images of different models, incredibly detailed 3D scans, and beautiful artwork, this is among the best sites on the internet for artists, animators, illustrators, and more.
This is or at least should be considered a paid service. Yes, there are free images, but for example, you can access 36 motion sequences and something like 670 motion sequences with your subscription.
Same with the stunning 3D scans, of which 22 are accessible for free, but a whopping 450 for paid users.
That said, the full (non-commercial) plan is less than a hundred dollars for a year, and given the superb quality of these images and their usefulness to any artist, this is a bargain. I would almost call Bodies in Motion a must-have for serious art students, working commercial artists, fine artists, and studios.
Artist-Reference – Pose Reference Photographs & 3D Scans
Artist’s Reference is just a simple home page/starting point, which leads to at least six different and highly useful libraries of art reference images:
- Female Anatomy for Artists
- Human Anatomy for Artists
- Photo Reference for Comic Artists
- Human Photo References
- Environment Textures
- HDR Skydome
The first four of these sites apply directly to what we’re talking about here – the best pose references websites – but all six are quite valuable to pretty much any artist. And with beautiful quality, high-resolution photographic images, and superb 3D scans, all very well organized and easily accessible, the sites are even more valuable still.
This is not the cheapest premium service, but it is one of the best, and for working artists or art studios – not to mention art students – it is a great investment and one you might use a lot more than you realize.
AdorkaStock – Pose Reference Photographs
This fascinating site focuses on what we might call “normal” human form – this is probably not the right phrase because many of their bizarre, non-traditional, and fringe models and poses are far from mainstream conceptions of normal. I mean more that you will not find any idealized “supermodel” beauty here, only human form as it exists in the real world.
You can either check out their free pose references for artists images on Deviant Art or their own web app – www.adorkastock.com/sketch.
With timed sequences, the app page is great at grasping the spontaneity of gesture drawing and rough sketching, but the photos can be paused or non-timed for specific reference work and detail.
You can specify different poses and elements, timer duration, cycle, or class mode (which simply changes the type of timer) and keep track of your favorite images and personal goals by opening a free account.
Not the largest set of free pose references for artists images (there are far more available to premium members), and many are shocking to the faint of heart.
I have to say that this site is not just very useful but quite endearing, and I recommend it. And again, you can also check out their images on Deviant Art at the address above.
PoseMyArt – Online Figure Posing App
This website, which features a lifelike, poseable human avatar, is amazing!
First of all, it is free pose references for artists app – I keep waiting for a pop-up to tell me that my time has run out or that this or that particular pose is not free, but no. I don’t even see a link for donations.
And it is very, very useful. Many say these poseable mannequin apps or sites are not very usable, realistic, or good models for drawing and painting. It is often true that the figures don’t have a clear or accurate depiction of musculature or real human shape.
But, as we’ve already talked about, mannequins – whether physical or virtual – are great for poses, especially balance and space, line and flow, gesture and energy.
And the mannequin on posemy.art is quite nice – fully rendered and lifelike, and an excellent model for artists. With the ability to pose, scale, change lighting and perspective, and add other models and even other images from your library, this is a very advanced web-based app – and it’s free pose references for artists app!
JustSketchMe – Pose Reference Digital Mannequin
Just Sketch Me is a web-based application that allows you to pose and configure a digital mannequin.
It seems very similar to Pose My Art (listed above), but I would recommend the latter – PMA – over Just Sketch Me. Still, there is value here.
The main issue is that the Just Sketch Me web app is a wee bit buggy – at least on Chrome. It seems designed to be run on the Microsoft Edge internet browser and often does not even load in Chrome (I did not try it on other browsers).
There is also a free downloadable app, but it requires Edge to be installed, even when working offline, so in the Windows world, this isn’t optimal – especially for people who have tried so fervently to avoid Microsoft Edge and keep it off their computers.
It is better going in the Apple world, though, and Just Sketch Me is, on either platform, a nicely designed system. There is also a premium version, although you don’t get much more for your money, and I suspect most people stay with the free pose references for artists edition.
CharacterDesigns – Model Photographs
Character Design is a great website for comic book, cartoon, graphic novel, and animation/anime artists, as they focus on outfits, weapons, cosplay, and other costumes and characters.
It is a little hard to navigate the site, and I wish there was a clear and complete set of menus and an inventory of available images. If you are willing to take the time to search and browse, you will find some brilliant images and some really useful pose references here.
Deviant Art Online Art Community
- URL: www.deviantart.com
- Type: Various – Online Art Community
Honestly, I wasn’t even sure if I would include Deviant Art here – yes, they may be the biggest online art community, an incredible, invaluable resource, and networking platform. I do have so much love and gratitude for them.
But I also find the site a bit claustrophobic, difficult to get my bearings, find my way around and get to specifically what I’m looking for.
Pose reference sites and apps are kind of supposed to be the opposite – you don’t need to spend hours and hours looking for a muscular male lying down (or, for some people I know, years and years), but just enter your parameters or check the menus/indexes and voila.
With Deviant Art, though, it is pretty easy to spend too much time finding the reference image you need and get repeatedly distracted along the way. Still, there are about a gazillion images here, and tons of them are specifically pose references that are free to use.
So maybe the best thing to do is give Deviant Art a qualified recommendation and mention a couple of specific pages which can help you cut through the density:
- AdorkaStock’s Pose Reference List – curated by the loveable crew at AdorkaStock (see recommendation above), this is a good list of many different pose reference resources on Deviant Art
- dAPoses – also managed by AdorkaStock, along with Skydancer, this is a sub-group of Deviant Art devoted exclusively to reference pose images
- URL: images.google.com/
- Type: Various
An often overlooked resource when it comes to pose reference (and equally valuable for really any kind of image reference, from beings to things), Google Images probably has the largest selection of images in the world.
This is, of course, both good and bad. You can almost certainly find what you are looking for (chartreuse alien dancing – for real!), but it might take a long time to locate the image and navigate to the actual hosting site, which for reasons beyond my ken, does not always seem even to have the image.
So we can’t ignore or dismiss Google Images. I would strongly recommend you use them in a more “off-time” way, not when you are in the throes of creative fervor and need a picture of a chartreuse alien dancing RIGHT NOW or when deadlines loom. But when you have time to spare and can browse and collect a library of high quality poses images that you can keep locally or in your own personal cloud.
- URL: www.pinterest.com
- Type: Various
Another huge library of images of all types, including countless pose references, Pinterest shares another quality with Google Images (above) – it can be overwhelming and a serious black hole of time and productivity.
And so, while we can and should avail ourselves of such a tremendous resource, I recommend that you approach Pinterest in the same way as Google Images – that is, not when you’re working, in the artistic flow, or facing a deadline, but on off time, when the 17.3 gazillion results you get from “EMO grandmother doing a handstand” will be fun to browse through, not maddeningly stressful.
Ok, in truth, you may not even get 17 hits from “EMO grandmother doing a handstand,” let alone gazillions, but you get my point…
QuickPoses – Model Photographs
Quick Poses can help get an artist out of their head and into drawing human poses and form more spontaneously, often resulting in more life and feeling.
With challenges, timed practice, and random poses, all of which ask you to draw several different poses in a certain time frame, the focus isn’t on absolute accuracy or detail or even on finishing. But on capturing form, flow, and energy, as well as representing the way a body looks in different situations and poses. There’s also a downloadable desktop app, which you can get by making a 15-dollar donation.
This site is not designed to find and use a specific pose – say, a man sitting or a dancer leaping – but for sketching practice with excellent photographs that are essentially randomly selected, Quick Poses is a very valuable tool for the art student or anybody who just wants to improve their art.
SketchDaily – Model Photographs
You may know SketchDaily more for their Reddit site, which lists daily prompts for lots of the most popular and important art challenges, but they also have a pose reference site they do, after all, have over one and a half million followers! Wow, can that be right?
But they also have the “SketchDaily reference doohickey,” a very simple web app that displays excellent quality photographs of models in various poses based on a few parameters that you select.
While the configuration does not allow you to find specific types of poses – like sitting, kneeling, dancing, etc. – it does allow you to specify:
- Action or stationary poses
- View angle
… and based on those parameters, you will get excellent model photographs for sketching, drawing, or painting, with or without a time limit.
So, not a true on-demand pose reference database, but instead more a tool for practicing poses, the SketchDaily doohickey is still quite a valuable free resource.
Smartphone Apps – Free Pose References for Artists in 2023
Let me start this section with a few basic comments. I only include free apps here since it has been my experience that paid apps are often kind of sad.
Or, better put, they are perhaps not worth the investment and don’t offer enough of an upgrade in range or library contents, functionality, interface and ease of use, or anything else to justify the price.
The free apps, though, are amazing – I understand that developers make money, like on ads and stuff, but I still can’t believe how advanced, powerful and useful some of these free apps can be!
I am also sticking with configurable mannequin types of apps here and avoiding the photo library variety. The best digital avatar apps are genuinely useful to artists who need pose references, and the level of configurability and flexibility is awesome. The photo apps on smartphone platforms tend to be incredibly limited, with a very small selection of sometimes quite poor-quality images.
So, with all that in mind, here are the best pose reference apps I have found!
Magic Poser App
- URL: magicposer.com
- Platforms: iOS, Android & now Lite Webapp as well
I would have to say that physics makes this my favorite pose reference app. Magic Poser is even easier to use and more intuitive than others – and they’re all pretty straightforward.
When you adjust the mannequins, they have a kind of correct and familiar movement and automatically adjust themselves into a natural position. A really valuable free resource for any artist!
A newer pose reference app on the scene, Poseit, presents more of a fully realized 3D image, which can help you better get at poses and the look and feel of the body in that pose. There are some bugs and perhaps a few too many ads, but this is a well-developed and useful free app.
Easy Pose App
An extremely easy app to use, Easy Pose is remarkably powerful and useful, with control over joint movement, light direction, perspective and distance, and downloadable pose images. The premium version offers more functionality, but even the free version is great!
Pose Max App
- Platform: Android
If you check reviews on this app, many people complain about the lack of added or advanced functionality, like changing hair, clothes, other features, or extended animation. But, when you consider what it’s for and that it is a free app, Pose Max is an incredibly well-made, intuitive, powerful, and complete app and worth checking out.
Best Pose Reference Books in 2023
- What are the best pose reference books on the market today?
- What are the best books for human pose reference?
- What are the best books for human pose reference?
- What are the best books for female pose reference?
- What are the best books for male pose reference?
- Which pose reference book do professional or fine artists use?
With the high functionality and usefulness – not to mention the slickness – of online pose reference tools and apps, it is easy to overlook the good, old-fashioned book.
But in fact, there are tons and tons of great books for getting pose references, and they can offer some real advantages:
- They are always right there and available, even if the internet isn’t
- Books can be easier to browse, and it can be easier to find just the right pose
- Some artists prefer seeing the image on paper – especially if they are drawing on paper
- Books are a single, usually quite low, investment, while many sites charge for each image pack, or you have to pay again and again for ongoing subscriptions
- Books sometimes offer better, more professional, and higher quality images and overall production
And anyway, they’re books, and books are just plain cool! So, here is a short list of my favorite books for pose reference:
By Andrew Loomis
We’re starting with an absolute classic, beloved and widely used for many decades. Andrew Loomis’s Figure Drawing for All It’s Worth is not just a great reference for poses but all aspects of human form, and is also still the best fundamental primer available for drawing people.
Even if you have had a formal art education or taken classes on drawing the human form, you will be amazed at how helpful Loomis’s book is, and how much you will learn. Better yet, for complete mastery, consider getting his three-book box set.
By Kelly Solloway and Samantha Stutzman
This article isn’t a guide to yoga books or anatomy books. But these beautiful and enormously popular coloring books do a fantastic job illustrating poses, natural body alignment, posture, and interaction. And their clear and clean lines, perfect color emphasis, and basic anatomy illustrations make each drawing as visually effective as possible. Not just for pose reference, but for understanding what’s behind any pose, these are brilliant books!
Figure Drawing for Kids
By Angela Rizza
The best pose reference book for kids, this excellent volume uses poses, movement, balance and shape to teach kids the basics of human form drawing – so it is much more than just pose references. Although written at a certain level, many adults have also enjoyed and benefited from this delightful book, but for kids, it’s a slam dunk.
- Figure It Out! Drawing Essential Poses
- Figure It Out! The Beginner’s Guide to Drawing People
- Figure It Out! Human Proportions
By Christopher Hart
The first title, Drawing Essential Poses, is a new classic in not only pose reference but in learning how to draw poses. All three of these books, though, are superb and form a full and exceptionally lucid overall picture of how to best draw the human form.
Poses for Artists Volumes 1-6
- Poses for Artists Volume 1: Dynamic and Sitting Poses
- Poses for Artists Volume 2: Standing Poses
- Poses for Artists Volume 3: Fighting and Various Poses
- Poses for Artists Volume 4: Couple Poses
- Poses for Artists Volume 5: Hands, Skulls, Pin-Ups and Various Poses
- Poses for Artists Volume 6: An Essential Reference for Figure Drawing and the Human Form.
By Justin Martin
Justin Martin’s six-volume set of pose reference books is not only one of the most complete and comprehensive of its kind, but also filled with beautiful, accurate, and useful illustrations that capture the human form in any position.
If you only buy one pose reference book, make it these six :)—an absolute must for fine artists, students, commercial artists, and art studios.
By Ken Goldman
Basic and complete, Goldman’s book has clear, accurate, attractive, and very usable drawings of over 500 human poses. With special care given to capturing light, energy, and motion, balance and proportion, this is an indispensable art reference book for any working artist or studio, and a great value
It is my dearest wish and goal to make Art Side of Life a complete resource for any artist – whether you are a total beginner, an art student, a working commercial artist, a fine artist, a crafter or any other kind of creative person. And one of the most important resources any artist can possibly have or use is a good, accurate and usable source of pose references for the human body.
As a self-taught artist, I am especially mindful of how people learn, and it is really important to me that my students, and the readers of these articles, learn correctly. And because so much in art depends on realistically rendered human beings – with life, energy, motion, and proportion – I have especially focused on helping artists find as many tools as possible so that they can correctly learn and confidently draw and paint the human form.
I’ve already posted articles on the Best Drawing Figures (mannequins), the Best Drawing Books (with a section on Anatomy and Figure Drawing skills), I’ve listed more books on anatomy, life and figure drawing, cartoon and comic book art, and portraiture in my Resources Page, and recently posted an article on Human and Animal Anatomy.
FAQs – Pose References
You can get pose references for your art on websites, apps, books, and from images (online or your own). I collected the best free and paid pose references in my guide. Click on the title above to get them!
You can find free pose references online and in the apps. I collected the best free and paid pose references – websites, apps, and books in my guide. Click on the title above to get them!
Yes, it’s OK for artists to use references because we simply can’t hold every subject and detail in our heads. What is more, by using references you can create something completely new and unique!
Reference drawing is not cheating because it’s almost impossible to hold every subject and detail in our heads. Using references is especially important if you are learning, drawing something new or exploring new ideas.
Popular pose references include:
- Female pose reference
- Male pose reference
- Couple pose reference
- Sitting pose reference
- Standing pose reference
- Dynamic pose reference
- Action pose reference
- Cute pose reference
- Fighting pose reference
- Hand pose reference
- Floating pose reference
- Dance pose reference
I hope my guide helped you find awesome pose references for your next artwork, and you will have a lot of fun drawing the human figure!
Other articles in the Art Books series:
More articles on pose references, figure drawing, and human anatomy:
Hi, I am Iva (rhymes with “viva”). I am a full-time self-taught artist behind Art Side of Life® and a Top Teacher on Skillshare. I have 15 years of experience in the creative field as a concept designer, illustrator, art director, and now freelance artist, content creator, and art instructor. My goal is to help you get your creative groove on with Procreate and make awesome art through practical classes, tutorials, Procreate brushes, and guides on art tools, supplies and resources. About me »
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