Best Pose Reference Websites, Apps, and Books in 2021

In this useful guide, you will find the best pose reference websites, apps, and books for artists that will help you to draw, or learn to draw humans in various poses and practice gedrasture drawing.

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Table of Contents

Quick note: The pose reference tools – sites, apps and books – will contain nude models or depictions, and so if you are underage, or sensitive to such subject matter, you should keep this in mind.

My Four Favorite Pose References

POPULAR: Illustrate Expressive People

Online Class

Get comfortable and confident when drawing character poses and gestures


GET IT NOW

Paid Pose Reference Website

Proko Pose References

Learn from the Masters of Anatomy and Poses.

Awesome library of pose reference photos for a reasonable price! High-resolution photo references - each pack contains hundreds of images.


GET THEM NOW

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

Free Pose Reference Website

Pose-My-Art-Art-Side-of-Life
Pose My Art Website Interface

Pose My Art – a really useful configurable mannequin that is far more realistic and fully realized than most, and can help you get to pretty much any pose.

Pose Reference App

Magic-Poser
Magic Poser Website Interface

Magic Poser – a really valuable free resource for any artist!

Pose Reference Book

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, 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 in 2021!

Best Paid Pose Reference Websites in 2021

Proko.com

Proko Pose References

Learn from the Masters of Anatomy and Poses.

Awesome library of pose reference photos for a reasonable price! High-resolution photo references - each pack contains hundreds of images.


GET THEM NOW

As I’ve already said, this is my favorite modeling pose reference website – in fact, my favorite pose reference site period, paid or free – and the one I recommend most strongly. 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 a lot 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. Considering the quality, usefulness and range of images, the individual pack prices are quite low.

And the same is true for the courses themselves, which really 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

POPULAR: Illustrate Expressive People

Online Class

Get comfortable and confident when drawing character poses and gestures


GET IT NOW
Bodies-in-Motion-Art-Side-of-Life
Bodies in Motion Website Interface

URL: https://www.bodiesinmotion.photo

Type: Photographic Motion Sequences, 3D Scans, Artworks

An absolutely beautiful website, and a truly premium service in every way, Scott Eaton’s Bodies in Motion is one of the best art resources I have ever found. 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 really is, or at least should be considered, a paid service. Yes, there are free images, but for example you have access to 36 motion sequences for free, 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. In fact, I would almost call Bodies in Motion a must-have for serious art students, working commercial artists, fine artists and studios.

Artist-Reference.com

Artist-Reference
Artist Reference Website Interface

Artist’s Reference is actually just a simple home page / starting point, which leads to at least six different and highly useful libraries of art reference images:

The first four of these sites apply directly to what we’re talking about here – the best pose references websites – but all six are actually 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 definitely 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.

Best Free Pose Reference Websites in 2021

AdorkaStock.com

Adorka-Stock
Adorka Stock Website Interface

This is a fascinating site, which 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, but I mean more that you are not going to find any idealized “supermodel” beauty here, only human form as it actually exists in the real world.

You can either check out their free images on Deviant Art, or on their own web app – www.adorkastock.com/sketch. With timed sequences, the app page iis great at getting at the spontaneity of gesture drawing and rough sketching, but the photos can be paused or non-timed as well, for specific reference work and detail. You can specify different types of 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 images (there are far more available to premium members), and many are a bit shocking to the faint of heart, but I have to say that this site is not just very useful but quite endearing in its way, and I really recommend it. And again, you can also check out their images on Deviant Art, at the address above.

PoseMy.Art

Pose-My-Art-Art-Side-of-Life
Pose My Art Website Interface
  • URL: posemy.art
  • Type: Online Figure Posing App
  • Pricing: Free

This website, which features a lifelike, poseable human avatar, is just amazing! First of all, it really is free – 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 really free, but no. I don’t even see a link for donations.

And it is very, very useful. Many people will say that these poseable mannequin apps or sites are not very usable, realistic or good models for drawing and painting, and it is often true that the figures don’t have clear or accurate depiction of musculature or real human shape. But, as we’ve talked about a bit already, mannequins – whether physical or virtual – are in fact really great for poses, especially balance and space, line and flow, gesture and energy.

And the mannequin on posemy.art is actually quite nice – fully rendered and lifelike, and an excellent model for artists. With the ability to pose, scale, change lighting and perspective, add other models and even other images from your library, this is a very advanced web-based app – and, it’s free!

JustSketch.Me

JustSketchMe
Just Sketch Me Website Interface
  • URL: justsketch.me
  • Type: Configurable Digital Mannequin – Webapp, macOS app, Windows app
  • Pricing: Free / Premium

Just Sketch Me is a web-based application which allows you to pose and variously configure a digital mannequin. It seems very similar website to Pose My Art (reviewed below) but honestly I would recommend the latter – PMA – over Just Sketch Me. Still, there is value here, and this pose reference site definitely warrants inclusion.

The main issue is that the Just Sketch Me web app is a wee bit buggy – at least on Chrome it is. 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 totally free downloadable app, but it actually requires Edge to be installed, even when working offline, so in the Windows world this isn’t really 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, actually a nicely designed system. There is also a premium version, although you don’t get a ton more for your money, and I suspect most people stay with the free edition.

CharacterDesigns.com

Character-Designs-com
Character Designs Website Interface

Character Design is a great website for comic book, cartoon, graphic novel and animation / anime artists, as they really focus on outfits, weapons, cosplay and other costumes and characters.

It is a little hard to navigate the site, and I do wish there was a more clear and complete set of menus and inventory of available images, but 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

  • URL: www.deviantart.com
  • Type: Various – Online Art Community
  • Pricing: Various – Generally Free

Honestly, I wasn’t even sure if I would include Deviant Art here – yes, they may be the biggest online art community, and an incredible, invaluable resource and networking platform, and I really do have so much love and gratitude for them.

But I also find the site a bit, well, 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 way too much time finding the reference image you need, and to get repeatedly distracted along the way. Still, there are about a gazillion images here, and tons of them are specifically pose references which 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 really 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

Google Images

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 to even have the image.

So we can’t ignore or dismiss Google Images, but I would strongly recommend you use them in an more “off-time” way – that is, 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.

Pinterest

Another absolutely huge library of images of all types, including countless pose references, Pinterest shares another quality with Google Images (above) – it can be absolutely 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.com

QuickPoses
Quickposes Website Interface
  • URL: quickposes.com
  • Type: Model Photographs
  • Pricing: Free / Donation for App

Quick Poses can really help get an artist out of their head and into drawing human poses and form more spontaneously – and often, as a result, with 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, man sitting or 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.net

SketchDaily
SketchDaily Website Interface

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, based on a few parameters that you select, displays excellent quality photographs of models in various poses. 

While the configuration does not allow you to find specific types of poses – like sitting, kneeling, dancing, etc – it does allow you to specify:

  • Gender
  • Clothing
  • 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.

Best Pose Reference Smartphone Apps in 2021

Let me start this section with a few basic comments. I am only including free apps here, since it has been my experience that paid apps are often, well, 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 reference, and the level of configurability and flexibility are awesome, but 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

Magic-Poser
Magic Poser Website Interface

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 – and when you adjust the mannequins they have a kind of correct and familiar movement and automatically adjust themselves into natural position. A really valuable free resource for any artist!

Poseit App

Poseit-App
Poseit App Screenshots from Apple Store

A newer pose reference app on the scene, Poseit presents more of a fully realized 3D image, which can help you better get at not just poses but 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 really well developed and useful free app.

Easy Pose App

Easy-Pose-App
Easy Pose App Screenshots from Apple Store

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

PoseMax-App
Pose Max App Screenshots from Google Play Store

If you check reviews on this app, many people complain about the lack of added or advanced functionality, like changing hair, clothes or other features, or extended animation. But really, when you consider what it’s for, and that it is a free app, Pose Max is actually an incredibly well made, intuitive, powerful and complete app, and definitely worth checking out.

Best Pose Reference Books in 2021

  1. Pose by Pose: Learn the Anatomy and Enhance Your Practice
  2. Pose by Pose: Learn the Anatomy and Enhance Your Practice

    By Kelly Solloway and Samantha Stutzman

    Volume 2 - The Yoga Anatomy Coloring Book


    Buy Now on Amazon
  3. A Visual Guide to Form, Function, and Movement
  4. A Visual Guide to Form, Function, and Movement

    By Kelly Solloway and Samantha Stutzman 

    Volume 1 - The Yoga Anatomy Coloring Book


    Buy Now on Amazon
  5. Figure It Out! Drawing Essential Poses
  6. Figure It Out! Drawing Essential Poses

    By Christopher Hart

    The Beginner's Guide to the Natural-Looking Figure

    Buy Now on Amazon
  7. The Complete Book of Poses for Artists
  8. The Complete Book of Poses for Artists

    By Ken Goldman

    A comprehensive photographic and illustrated reference book for learning to draw more than 500 poses


    Buy Now on Amazon
  • What are the best pose reference books for 2021?
  • 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 real 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 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 onto 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 for 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 

I know, this article isn’t a guide to yoga books, or anatomy books, but these beautiful and enormously popular coloring books do such 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 – and so it is much more than just pose references. Although clearly written at a certain level, many adults have also enjoyed and benefited from this delightful book, but for kids it’s a slam dunk. 

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

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 illustrations that are beautiful, accurate and useful, and really 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 a really 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 in the right way. 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.

What is a Pose Reference?

  • What exactly is a pose reference?
  • What are pose references used for?
  • Are pose references necessary?
  • Are there male pose references and female pose references?
  • Is a pose reference as good as a real model?

When you are a world famous artist, with a fabulous studio overlooking the Seine, wings devoted to your work at various international art museums, and models lined up to work with you, you can tell the model du jour to sit straight, to slouch in the chair, to stand up, to raise their right hand, to bend their left knee, to sit in a full lotus position and levitate off the ground – whatever you and your composition want or need. And they will be willing and able to do almost all of them.

This is exactly the idea of a pose reference book, site or app. You will have a model – either an avatar-type computer figure, a realistic drawing, a photograph or a 3D scan – on your screen (or page), and be able to draw the exact pose you want or need.

Many of the sites will have pre-prepared images of human forms, both male and female (and, more and more, non-binary), as drawings or reference photos, or somtimes incredibly detailed and lifelike 3D scans, and in those cases you simply go through a library of on-hand images to find the exact pose (and often the exact body type, gender, age, style (or state) of dress and other characteristics) to draw from. 

Other sites, and most apps, will have a sort of configurable digital mannequin, which you can manipulate – make sit or stand, move and bend elbows, knees or any other joint, basically get into any position you fancy – so that you can see exactly how the body looks in that position. You can also usually change the angle of view, or rotate the avatar, and change the lighting color or direction, among other variables. You can even sometimes add additional figures, props or imported images.

And there are other ways, like an actual plastic or wooden mannequin (again, a popular artist tool for centuries), a printed book of drawing poses, or an actual model. All have advantages, and some may appeal more or less to your own practice or disposition, but the range and convenience of digital pose references is making them incredibly popular of late.

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

Is It OK to Use Pose References?

  • Is it ok to use male pose references?
  • Is it ok to use female pose references?
  • Do fellow artists use pose references?
  • Do professional artists use pose reference websites and apps?
  • Is using male or female pose references cheating?

It’s amusing that even really experienced artists still have this kind of unrealistic and unfair expectation that they should be able to draw or paint things just from their mind’s eye and/or imagination, without any reference or visual aid. We can even feel a little guilty about needing a model, a photograph, 3D scan or drawing of, for example, a human pose reference.

But we do. Using visual references is not somehow cheating, but instead it is the correct way to draw, and all artists do it. In fact even the great masters, when they painted a character from myth or history, always used live models. “Wow, great painting, Rembrandt, but is that really Moses, or Arnie from the tavern?”

And using visual models is also the correct way not just to draw or paint, but also to learn, and this is especially true with the human body in its range and variety of movements and poses. This is why mannequins have been so popular with artists for hundreds of years – not to mention life drawing courses – and why websites, apps and books are huge these days. 

Is It Legal to Use Pose References?

The question of artistic rights, copyright, creative property and usage is not, apparently, completely clear. It is generally thought that poses themselves are not copyrightable or controllable, and if you are using a pose reference for personal use, to see how the human body looks when kneeling, but making your own unique artwork, you should be absolutely fine to use the reference without payment, attribution or worry.

If you are directly copying artwork, however, it might well be illegal, and/or inappropriate, to publish or sell your copy – whether the image you copied constitutes your whole piece or just a part of it. And if you are actually using (like copy/pasting) another artist’s work, or any copyrighted image, you should (or in some cases must) contact them for permission, and possibly pay usage fees and royalties (commercial use).

You must be clear, though, that I am not a lawyer or legal expert, and these paragraphs should not be used as final or authoritative legal advice. When in doubt, ask, and be cool and respectful to other artists always. 

All that said, again, using pose references to make your own unique and individual art, without copying, collaging or the like, is usually just fine – really, that’s what they’re there for!

Thanks so much for reading my latest article – Pose References 101: The Best Websites, Apps and Books for Pose References –  and please visit my blog – Art Side of Life – for tons of other inspiring ideas, resources, articles, buyer’s guides and a lot more!

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