Japanese dancers from page 73 of “Letters from the Land of the Rising Sun”, 1894

Think of it.  One million historic pictures to use and adapt however you want.

That’s the goal of British Library Labs, an initiative within the British Library.  On their website, they describe their mission as “guarantee[ing] that the wealth and diversity of the Library’s intellectual digital heritage is available for the research, creativity and fulfilment of everyone.”


A comedic advertisement for glue from page 284 of “Monsieur At Home”, 1885

To accomplish this, the British Library posts a variety of images to their tumblr page.  Every day, more pictures are scanned and added from the library’s collection of books.  To see new entries hourly, you can follow their Twitter bot dubbed the “Mechanical Curator”.


A man surprises his love on page 53 of “The Quiver of Love. A collection

of Valentines ancient and modern by W. Crane and Kate Greenaway”, 1876

Besides the visual interest in perusing the catalog, there is also the benefit that every picture is copyright-free.  That means you can download any and all of their images to use and edit however you like.


A comparison of Cleopatra’s Needle and Pompey’s Column on page 615

of “The Manners and Customs of all nations”, 1827.

Whether it’s for a personal project or a commercial business, anything is fair game.  Personally, I look forward to using them as reference pictures for any number of future projects.  It might also be fun to play around with some of them in Photoshop.


A sheet of piano music for a Polish dance song on page 409 from “”Letters literary and political

Poland; comprising observations on Russia and other Sclavonian nations and tribes.

[With an appendix and “specimens of music.” By K. Lach-Szyrma.]”, 1823

Conveniently, the collection is grouped into albums, or categories, like Flora, Book Covers, Heraldry, and Portraits, just to name a few.  There are also thousands of maps which are all interesting to look at.


A German (I think) map on page 83 of “Heiṃatkunde von Steyr, etc”, 1893

The collection as a whole is fascinating.  It truly feels like a time capsule, with little bits gathered from past few centuries.  There are also images depicting a variety of cultures, making the assortment even more meaningful.  Many thanks to the British Library for sharing these one million (and growing) peeks into their massive collection!

Have you checked out the pictures?  Did you have any favorites?  I’d love to hear in the comments below!

If you’ve ever taken an art class in school, you’ve likely seen one of these guys:


Pardon my art-y mess in the background, please 🙂

They can be helpful.  Being able to manipulate a figure and lighting to match your idea gives you a reference unique to your design.

Unfortunately, most of these little figures aren’t exactly posable.  For a basic shading reference they can work, but once you start trying to get dynamic (or just un-stiff) poses, it proves useless.  I almost broke mine (above) once trying to put his arm above shoulder height.

When I stumbled upon these figures by Max Factory, I nearly gasped.  They bend.  And pose.  And that’s kind of it but it’s still exciting.  Thanks to the accompanying stand, you can also position them jumping and flying.


Even in a break-dancing contest


 Or climbing a mighty magnet board

Coming in both flesh and gray colors, the Archetype Next Figmas look like superheroes.  The muscle definition on the man seems especially useful, and the proportions of both genders look realistic (if not really toned).


 Fight scenes, anyone?

Granted, you get what you pay for.  My wooden miniature cost about $8 I believe.

Which is why I shouldn’t be surprised at how these awesome and bendable figures by Max Factory are pretty pricey.  In the original sale, they were about $30.  Now they’re mostly available in secondhand sales, ranging from $33-$104 on Amazon.

So as great as they look, I’ll have to hold off for a while.  (You can tell this isn’t sponsored, because I don’t have one and am too broke to buy one haha).  But I’ll definitely keep the figures bookmarked for the future.

If you want to take a look, here are their links on Amazon:

Flesh-toned Man

Flesh-toned Woman

Gray Man

Gray Woman

On a side note, I’ve also heard of people using action figures for musculature and pose references.  Other artists, like Dinotopia creator James Gurney, build mini sets and models to base their art off of.

Do you use any figures or models when drawing?

[All Archetype Next Figure photos are from Max Factory’s digital pamphlet]

For any beginner artists, tutorials are an incredibly helpful tool.  When I started getting into drawing, I relied on the one how-to-draw book I had.  It didn’t really have any words, just step-by-step images on drawing various animals.  And while it was fun, I wanted to learn about drawing other things.

Soon after, I started looking around online for tutorials.  As you would probably assume, there were countless numbers of them— some more helpful than others.

So I’ve put together a list of the websites I’ve found most useful and may help you as well.  (They’re in no particular order, by the way.)  And the best part?  They’re all available for free.

1. DragoArt

I used this website nearly daily when learning to draw.  Featuring step-by-step tutorials, you can find guides on everything from pop culture icons and characters to backgrounds and shading techniques.

(The website has changed a bit since I used it, and some of the tutorials now link to drawinghub.com. However, the tutorials still look the same.)

Many of the tutorials are user-submitted, so they can be a bit stylized.  However, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  As your skills improve, you could even submit your own lessons.  There’s also a small community if you’re interested in sharing your finished drawings and seeing those of others.

I want to give a shout-out to FinalProdigy, whose DragoArt tutorials taught me a lot of what I know about working with graphite.  I highly recommend you check out their guides.  They’re easy to follow and teach a lot about shading and developing a drawing.

2. Drawing Now

Also featuring user-submitted tutorials, DrawingNow is unique in that you can use a slider to scub through a speed drawing.  The video automatically pauses at set steps, or you can fast-forward and rewind in slow-motion to see each line as it’s drawn.

As for the subjects, most of the videos are for cartoony designs.  But you can also find anime and semi-realistic ones, too.  There is also a small community for sharing your art.

While DragoArt’s user tutorials are mostly beneficial, Drawing Now does show one of the downsides of such tutorial generation more prevalently.  A few of them are not, well, good, but there are quite a few useful videos.  And being videos, they may be easier to learn from than step-by-steps, depending on your learning style.

3. Toad Hollow Studio

Also known as “Carol’s Drawing Blog”, there are so many helpful guides for learning both essential techniques and advanced methods of drawing.

This website teaches everything from the basics of using pencils and shading to creating realistic graphite illustrations.  There are also lessons on drawing what you see, which is an essential skill for growing artists to start learning and improving upon.

4. Pinterest

Now this one may seem a little strange, but hear me out.  Pinterest functions as an aggregator, or collector, of things on the internet.  For artists, that means it gathers tutorials and reference pictures from across the interwebs into one viewable platform.

You can search for whatever it is you are interested in. If you want hand tutorials, horse reference pictures, or clothing designs, Pinterest brings together images from other websites that match your search terms.

Thanks to Pinterest’s format, you can then ‘pin’(or save) whatever and as many of those images as you want onto your pin boards (a filing system, like folders on your computer).  For example, I have ‘clothing folds’, ‘animal references’, and ‘figure and pose references’ boards.  Whenever I find a useful image, I’ll pin it to the corresponding board I’ve created.

Then, say, if I want some help drawing clothing wrinkles, I can go to my ‘clothing folds‘ board. There I can see all of the ‘pins’ I’ve saved for reference.

Each user can personalize the boards however you want, so you can organize the tutorials and references you’ve found in a way that works for you.

And trust me, you’ll definitely find a lot of helpful resources you may not have otherwise. When I want to practice or learn how to draw something, Pinterest is my go-to.

You do need to create an account to make your own customized boards, but it’s totally free—it just takes an email address.


5. Easy Drawing Tutorials

Perfect for young artists, this website’s title is pretty accurate.  It has step-by-steps for popular characters from Disney movies, Nickelodeon cartoons, Nintendo games, and more.

Each tutorial includes an image for each step, and a video for the whole tutorial.  Which is nice, I think, because different learning styles benefit from different methods of teaching.

6. How 2 Draw Animals

A companion site for Easy Drawing Tutorials, this one aptly focuses on animals.  Most are realistic pencil drawings, but a small number are cartoons.  There’s a great variety of species to choose from.  Like the other website, each tutorial consists of a video and a written/pictorial guide.

7. YouTube

Okay, this one isn’t a tutorial website per se.  BUT, it is home to many-a tutorial video, including those for drawing.  MarkCrilley is one of the most popular YouTube artists, and with good reason.  He posts weekly how-to-draw videos that are both clear and easy to follow, and tend to be quite humorous.

There’re too many other tutorial artists worth checking out to mention, but a few notable ones are Alphonso Dunn, Art ala Carte, and Fine Art-TipsArt for Kids Hub is great for kids, as each video features the channel’s family in an art lesson.

8. ArtGraphica

ArtGraphica is somewhat special in that they also offer instructions on how to use an assortment of mediums, such as watercolors, pastels, and ink.  In addition, they do have standard drawing lessons.  They’re pretty much all free, but there is a shop where you can buy more guides.

I should point out, too, that this website is for fairly intermediate to advanced artists.  I’m hesitant to call the tutorials step-by-steps, because while there are steps, there are also giant leaps between them.

That said, if you are a more experienced artist you may find new and interesting techniques here for further refinement or experimentation in your art.

9. How to Draw Cartoons Online

Going back to sites great for kids, this website is exactly what it sounds.  Both original and pop culture characters can be found in these step-by-step tutorials.  To make things a little easier, they are organized in general terms of Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced difficulty.

The website is legitimate and safe to use, but it does use clickable ads.  Most of these have unclear intentions with big “Start Download” buttons, though, so be sure to avoid clicking them (or tell your little artist to do the same).

10. Drawing How to Draw

Despite the website’s name, especially with the subtitle of “How to Draw Step-by-Step Drawing Tutorials” (which grammatically should make you think it teaches you to make drawing tutorials), Drawing How to Draw actually teaches you how to draw.

Most of those tutorials focus on cartoony styles, like kawaii chibis and silly cartoons, but there are dabbles into realism and perspectives.  A lot more than dabbles, really, but they do take up the minority of lessons.  The clothing fold section would likely be very useful, if you’re like me and are still learning the fold-y language that is cloth wrinkles.

So there you have them.  While there are many drawing websites out there, a lot of them require a paid subscription or another purchase to see their lessons.  I hope you find these free websites fun and educational!

Are there any other free tutorial websites you visit? Or were these helpful? Let me know below!

Color Theory Made Easy

Colors have the power to bring immense emotion and life to artworks.  They’re also one of the more slippery and intimidating techniques to understand, let alone utilize.

I found a video a while back that explains color theory in a clear and understandable way.  From the more basic concepts of saturation and value to color schemes and their effects, Blender Guru makes color theory fairly easily understood.

There are many examples provided and explained for each topic.  Effectively, Blender Guru pulls from many artistic styles and mediums to convey the various ideas.

The video is 23 minutes long, but it’s easily digestible in small bits.  It’s organized from basics to more advanced concepts.  I do recommend watching the whole thing, either in parts or entirety.

Of course, one video can’t teach everything about color theory.  The best teacher will be your own experience as you illustrate over the next weeks, months, and years.  But…

…if you are new to using colors consciously, this video is a great introduction.  If you already have a grasp on color theory, it’s a useful refresher and source of inspiration.  I felt I had a decent understanding, but I learned new things and thought of a lot of new ideas on how to play around with color in future drawings.

I hope the video is helpful to you!