Best Type of Art Books for Beginners & Experienced Artists

Are you looking for the best art books?

Whether you’ve only just started feeling the itch to enter the world of artistry or you’ve been a part of that world for many years you have one specific area of common ground. This transcends the medium you use, whether you work traditionally or digitally. This common ground is shared by painters, sculptors, concept artists and all.

One certainty too is that art books can be a great way to overcome a creative block and find creative inspiration.

Art books.

Whether they are ‘Art of’ books from your favourite videos games and movies, ‘How to’ books showcasing techniques and step-by-step guides, or books that document the ‘Life of’ an artist or art movement; art books are a prominent feature of your library, and in most cases, the only feature of your library.

Over the years I have collected so many artbooks that my shelves are buckling and in need of renewing, and despite making myself the rule of not buying another until completing one, I just can’t help myself from adding to the ever-growing collection.

The idea of this blog post is to take a look at a few of the different types of art books, the benefits of owning art books and also a few recommendations.

To get things started, let’s take a look at a few types of art books, this list is by no means exhaustive, just a summary of a few main types that come to mind.

Types of Art Book

How To

Tutorial books that are written with aim to teach the reader new techniques and methods in order to improve skill as an artist. Whilst usually aimed at beginner artists, there are an abundance of ‘How to’ books for intermediate artists too.

Life/Work of Artist/Movement

Biographical/History books that are written to document the life and works of a particular artist or art movement. These are a great way to become more familiar with the life and work of a favourite or as an introduction to a new one.

Art Of

This type of art book usually focuses on the art and design of a videogame, movie or TV show and they are a great way to have a peek behind the curtains and see how such an IP is bought together and the steps taken to envision an idea and bring it to life.

Exhibition Catalogue

These are the books that document all of the artworks from a particular exhibition, they cover much of history and every type of art movement. Gallery visits and exhibition viewings almost always end up with a new one of these for the bookshelf of any art lover.

‘How to’ art books are the ones that have a real variety of shapes and sizes in terms of intended audience. They range from beginner artist right up to master artist techniques, cover every medium and technique imaginable and approach the methods of teaching in different ways too.

The differences in approach are the key to the enjoyment and knowledge you will be able to gain from reading them. Some will explain a method, show examples and encourage the reader to apply what they have learned; whereas others will spend a heavy introduction teaching you how to hold a paintbrush and suck eggs.

It’s a huge market and it has been saturated with amateur artists self-publishing so it’s always worth checking reviews before hand.

There’s no doubt that if you’re self-teaching you need some way in which to develop an understanding of what it is that you want to do, once you grasp the basic fundamentals of a particular medium, the best thing to do in order to grow is to use it and experiment.

There is certainly knowledge and inspiration to be gained from ‘How to’ art books but don’t hedge an art career on undertaking some step-by-step exercises and thinking they will result in masterpieces.

They won’t.

‘Life/Work of Artist/Movement’ art books are the best way to get more acquainted with your favourites or to learn more about those you’re less familiar with. It’s not a bad idea to go into a library and pick up some of these on artists/movements that you’re unaware of or only vaguely aware of. You’ll be surprised just how much this can not only grow your knowledge of art history, but also give you the urge to try new techniques or styles and experiment with different media.

This type of art book is the one that dominates my shelves.

‘Art of’ art books buy into the curiosity of us mere mortals and give us a sneaky peek behind the curtains and glimpse into the reality of what can seem a totally magical or alien world.

I mostly tend to gravitate towards ‘Art of’ books as I love seeing behind the scenes, the storyboarding, development and idea generation of videogames and movie studios. My next collective endeavour is to get all of the Star Wars art books and indulge myself in a Galaxy far far away.

‘Exhibition Catalogue’ art books are a definite must pick up from every exhibition visit. Maybe even every gallery visit if you have want. These are great inasmuch as they usually contain images of a very high quality and standard, they are made to show of the pieces of artwork in all their glory and splendour.

My copy of ‘Beyond Caravaggio’ from the exhibition of the same title is quite possibly my most treasured art book and a great go to if I’m needing inspiration and a feast for the eyes.

Benefits of Art Books

Determining the best art book for you and the benefits you can reap totally depends on your circumstances and what it is that you wish to get out of it. For me, I have a variety of reasons as to why I will reach for an art book and each time I pick one up is for a different on of those reasons, or a combination thereof.

– Learning a technique

– Studying the work of another artist

– Getting some inspiration and breaking a creative block

– General reading for recreation

– Curiosity

My reason for picking up an art book will also usually determine the type of book that I choose.

Anatomy Books

As an aside, I bought a fair few books on anatomy and in my early days started drawing each individual bone and muscle and writing and learning the names, this exercise killed my creativity within a a few days. It’s worth bearing in mind that learning anatomy is essential if you wish to draw the figure, however, training to become a doctor is not essential.

Keep it light, let it be enjoyable.


‘How to’ – Color & Light/Imaginative Realism – James Gurney

‘Life/Work of’ – Middle-earth – Donato Giancola

‘Art of’ – The Hobbit Chronicles – Art & Design – Daniel Falconer

‘Exhibition Catalogue’ – Beyond Caravaggio – Aidan Weston-Lewis

I won’t give a break down review of each of those books that I would recommend, perhaps that will be the content for a future post on the blog, however I would say that each and every one of them holds up to their respective category. With the James Gurney books I just had to include the two, but I would count them as one, and they are by far the best ‘How to’ art books I’ve discovered.

So we have determined that the best art books for beginners and experienced artists alike are totally dependent upon the needs and the mood of the individual.

I didn’t want to put together a list of the top ten art books or the best books on drawing and painting, those lists are helpful in deciding what to buy but can never truly please every reader, or fulfil the needs of every reader. I decided to focus more on the process of finding the best art books and looking at some different types; also adding a few recommendations from my own collection.

When deciding on an art book, simply think of what it is you want the book to do for you, what do you expect to achieve as a result of the art book you want. This reasoning will help you in your efforts to get a book that rewards your investment, and doesn’t become a doorstop, a coaster or an unread dust collector.

Let’s Have a Conversation

What is your favourite art book?

What’s the next art book in your reading list?

What type of art books do you gravitate towards the most?

Please also feel free to share this post and get others involved in the conversation, it would be great to know what you’re all reading or planning on picking up next!

Explore Worlds, Tell Stories.

Success! You're on the list.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close