25 Best Concept Art Books for Artists Everywhere

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Concept art is about the illustration of an idea, that is later fleshed out to create characters, landscapes, buildings, etc.

To find the right book to learn concept art can be tricky since this field is vast. You need to find guides which cover- the fundamentals of art, skills for technical painting, conceptual ideas and gives you a clear picture of the career prospects in the concept art industry.

You need to be well-armed with your skills in traditional art to use different painting software, to create your portfolio and to build a professional network. These days concept art has a lot to do with workflow, speed, and accuracy, but the main focus lies in design.

It is essential to understand how things are designed. If you look at any of the animated movies, will you be able to describe what went into making that film roughly? Or at least guess the ideas behind the creation of each scene?

If you can answer them correctly, then you are on the right footing.

For a budding artist, it’s challenging to create a masterpiece with an undeveloped set of art skills. When time is invested in learning the basics and practicing exercises given in the books, your skill will improve gradually.

Let’s look into the list of different books which can help to build your base in concept art!

Best Concept Art Books for Artists

Art Fundamentals

If you’re an aspiring concept artist, it’s essential to understand the fundamentals of art. For every piece that you create, you’ll have to use the skills that you gain from the fundamentals. The skill set includes measuring, figure drawing, light and shadow, rendering, perspective, colors, forms, and several others.

1. Light for Visual Artists

The concepts of light and shadow can get a little tricky if you’re new to the field of art. These concepts relate to value and how values are rendered in a painting or drawing. Light for Visual Artists will help you to understand the artistic techniques and raw scientific points of getting the benefits down correctly.

Light for Visual Artists: Understanding & Using Light in Art...
  • Laurence King
  • Yot, Richard (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 176 Pages - 04/27/2011 (Publication Date) - Laurence King...

As you read through the given resources and tips, the concept of light will be crystal clear. However, you cannot expect to become an expert at rendering value or a master draftsmen by just reading this book. Constant practice of the ideas that are given in this book will help you to improve your skills.

Lighting plays a massive role in every piece that you’re trying to create. We advise you to get this book if you’re having any problems with light in your artwork, the book explains the intricate details of this subject.

2. How to Draw

If you want to learn about perspective and drawing from the imagination, then this book by Scott Robertson will come of great use. He is an educator to digital artists and concept artists at the Art Center and also conducts various presentations all across the US.

How to Draw: drawing and sketching objects and environments...
  • Design Studio Press
  • Scott Robertson (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 208 Pages - 12/15/2013 (Publication Date) - Design Studio...

For a concept artist, it’s essential to learn about imaginative drawing and realist life drawing as these concepts amalgamate to help you create any piece from your mind with realistic rendering.

The teaching style of the author is pretty detailed yet pristine at the same time. If you’re a novice or an inexperienced artist, then it can get a little tricky to get your concepts clear from this book. However, if you’re ready to put in an ample amount of practice, then the lessons will get easier to follow.

3. Figure Drawing for Artists: Making Every Mark Count

When you focus on learning about figure drawing from a book, it’s more like learning to cook from a book. You cannot gain these practical skills until you get hands-on practice of them.

Figure Drawing for Artists: Making Every Mark Count
  • SC 192PG BOOK
  • Huston, Steve (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 192 Pages - 06/01/2016 (Publication Date) - Rockport...

Moreover, several books share different tricks and techniques of figure drawing that can be effectively applied while you practice this art. Figure Drawing for Artists by Steve Huston will help you to get the basics right for every figure drawing that you create.

If you’re a new artist facing trouble in analyzing the figure or rendering it correctly on paper, then this book will act as your guide. Steve has included his figure drawings in this book to give you a visual presentation of the techniques that he has employed.

But you cannot rely on just this book to improve your skills, because implying the techniques in the studio will be your most excellent teacher. However, we advise you to get this book if you want to know the foundational concepts or pick up a few tips on figure drawing.

4. Art Fundamentals: Color, Light, Composition, Anatomy, Perspective, and Depth

In this concise publication of 272 pages, the purpose was to introduce the reader to the fundamental topics. There is no in-depth information on the main fundamentals of art, like perspective, anatomy, or form.

Art Fundamentals: Color, Light, Composition, Anatomy,...
  • 3dtotal Team
  • Beloeil, Gilles (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 272 Pages - 09/03/2013 (Publication Date) - 3DTotal...

The book will help you understand the different techniques and their importance to digital art. However, this book is suitable for beginners to get the basics right, but it cannot use it as a professional study guide.

5. Human Anatomy for Artists: The Elements of Form

The Human Anatomy for Artists by Eliot Goldfinger has everything you want to know about mastering the human figure. It is one of the most detailed books that you can find on the human anatomy.

Human Anatomy for Artists: The Elements of Form
  • Oxford University Press USA
  • Hardcover Book
  • Goldfinger, Eliot (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

If you want to draw something from your imagination, then focus on studying the general concepts of your subject- looks, behavior, and the way it operates. To gain explicit knowledge of the human anatomy can be difficult, but for drawing a figure, it’s vital to master every part of the anatomy.

As you have a good understanding of the muscles, facial features, and the poses, then your figure drawing will turn out to be perfect. Human Anatomy for Artists is a scientific manual which gives all the lessons on muscles, bones, and tendons. Every professional artist has learned all these bits and pieces to become an expert in what they create.

Digital Painting

As you complete with the fundamentals of art, you’ll gradually want to move into painting. Few artists will get into the traditional medium (oil paints), but if you’re interested in concept art, then you should focus on digital painting.

The three aspects of digital painting are:

  • To gain an understanding of how the graphics tablet should be used.
  • To understand your choice of painting software.
  • Focus on your skillset and goal.

1. Digital Painting for the Complete Beginner

The book focuses on the process of transitioning from the traditional medium to digital painting. It will be of more value for artists who are into oil painting than for the ones who have experience in drawing with pencil.

Digital Painting for the Complete Beginner
  • Beccia, Carlyn (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 160 Pages - 04/24/2012 (Publication Date) - Watson-Guptill...

But an aspiring digital artist having the base knowledge of the fundamentals and with experience in the different mediums of traditional art should read this book. The methods and goals of painting are the same in a conventional and digital forum. This book will help you understand the change in techniques and medium when you’re new to digital art.

2. Beginner’s Guide to Digital Painting in Photoshop

If you’re starting with digital painting, then you should pick up Beginner’s Guide to Digital Painting in Photoshop. The fundamentals of working with Photoshop in a creative studio has been covered in detail in this book.

Beginner's Guide to Digital Painting in Photoshop
  • Aleksander, Nykolai (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 224 Pages - 01/31/2012 (Publication Date) - 3DTotal...

Many artists prefer to select their software for painting, but animation studios and game studios mostly prefer Photoshop. The painting canvas and the brush panel is clearly explained in this book by 3DTotal.

The book has a few exercises that will help you to understand the groundwork of painting in the Photoshop environment. If you’re going to pick up this book, then you should have some artistic experience. Moreover, without the fundamentals, you will not understand much about painting from this book.

3. Digital Painting with Krita 2.9

Photoshop comes with a big price tag, but everyone might not have that kind of a budget. So, Krita, which is a free and open-source painting software, will be a good option that works on all the operating systems.

Digital Painting with KRITA 2.9: Learn All of the Tools to...
  • Petrovic, Scott L (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 232 Pages - 10/22/2015 (Publication Date) - Louvus Media...

If you want to start using this software, then Digital Painting with Krita 2.9 by Scott Petrovic will come of great help. The book begins with a clear description of the interface in Krita and gradually moves into the techniques for digital painting.

Once you cover the basics, the book moves into the shortcuts along with a few quick tips that will help to broaden your knowledge. The book appears more like a Krita software book and less like a book on digital painting.

The author also mentions the different techniques which can be used to improve your workflow in digital painting. We recommend this book for semi-experienced artists who have an idea to paint on a tablet, but it might not be of great help to beginners.

It’s essential for you to know the proper use of a graphics tablet before you dive into this book. Scott has done an excellent job of presenting Krita, but do watch a few tutorials to understand if this software will come of use to you.

4. Digital Painting Techniques

The goal of this book does not help you master the skills and techniques that you will require while painting digitally. This book of 288 pages is a gem which targets the semi-experienced to advanced artists.

Digital Painting Techniques: Practical Techniques of Digital...
  • Focal Press
  • 3dtotal.Com (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 286 Pages - 09/16/2009 (Publication Date) - Routledge...

There is sufficient practical information given in this book to paint different objects and to render them accurately. This book is from 3DTotal, and it’s part of a more extensive series. You should start with this book, but we advise you to read the other books in this series too for understanding the teaching style.

As you get your hands on the other volumes, you’ll be able to learn a lot about the 3DTotal staff while the given exercises will enhance your painting skills.

5. Digital Painting Fundamentals with Corel painter X3

If you’re looking for another alternative to Adobe Photoshop for digital painting, then a quality substitute is Corel painter. This book does an outstanding job introducing Corel painter. The 256 pages in this book cover various fundamental topics like color theory, mixing of colors, balance, and composition.

Digital Painting Fundamentals with Corel Painter X3
  • Cengage Learning
  • Draws, Rhoda Grossman (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 288 Pages - 09/30/2013 (Publication Date) - Cengage Learning...

You can probably learn the entire interface of Corel Painter, through the given practice exercises. Most of the projects focus on shortcuts and techniques in Painter to help you progress in this field.

For a beginner, this book will be of great use if they are ready to put in the required effort to learn about digital painting. The fundamental concepts are given a lot of focus throughout the book, which makes this piece great for any artist.

Concept Art

If you have an excellent foundational knowledge of art and you know how to paint, then it’s all about practice. As you repeat the techniques that you have learned, you’ll gain a clear insight which will lead to constant growth by fixing the gaps

Concept art act is the guideline, inspiration, and the mood that is prevalent for film or game production. We have a list of a few concept art books which you can use for constructing new ideas and for making a mark in this field. However, if you want to gain some excellent skills in concept art, then these books will be your guide.

1. The Art Of Mulan

In this book, you’ll find that the main text has been broken down into four parts which have been detailed pretty well. This book gives a clear description of how this movie was created. Disney puts a significant emphasis on the story, and that is prevalent in this book. Some subtle and exquisite pieces of art are present in the first two sections of the book.

The Art of Mulan
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Hardcover Book
  • Kurtti, Jeff (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

The research process that was followed by the artist is an exciting part of the book, as they visit China, and travel throughout the country. For a book from the nineties to have such details about the research trip will you more keen towards following them on this journey. The artists explain the learning process and how they were inspired to create every different scene.

This large piece explains the philosophy and details that went into the story, art, and the production of the film Mulan.

The design and layout of the book are fantastic as it connects well with the world of the film. If you’re an ardent fan of animation, then we advise you to treat yourself with this book.

2. The Art of Pixar: The Complete Color Scripts

When we think of a book by Pixar, it’s pretty normal to expect some playful and funky concept art. Unlike the other books of concept art, this piece features an extensive collection of color scripts.

The Art of Pixar: 25th Anniv.: The Complete Color Scripts...
  • Chronicle Books CA
  • Hardcover Book
  • Amidi, Amid (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

Many of us got to know about color scripts only after Pixar books made this concept famous.

This book goes beyond the intricate details in the images and the artistic style used in each of the color scripts. The Art of Pixar: The Complete Color Scripts is visual anthropology, which is made by the art directors from the most influential studio of filmmaking.

3. Surf’s Up: The Art and Making Of A True Story

This book is filled with sketches, concept art, movies stills, and 3D WIP imagery. You will find an adequate amount of character designs of penguins, along with the color keys and concepts of different sequences from the film.

Surf's Up: The Art and Making of a True Story
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Hardcover Book
  • Maverick, Cody (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

The various extracts from the film that is present in bits and pieces within the book make the book and the reader travel along with the film.

You are also given a small sneak peek into the character creation phase, where you’ll get to see the different stages of from 3D models to concept sketches.

On the whole, if you love animation, then this is a must-have book for your collection!

4. The Art Of Robots

This book is similar to any other another art book by Pixar. As you take a glance at the images, you’ll understand the amount of thought that was put in for highlighting every intricate detail.

The Art of Robots
  • Hardcover Book
  • Amid Amidi (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 144 Pages - 12/30/2004 (Publication Date) - Chronicle Books...

The selection of art and the quality of the designs in this book is vast. There is a lot of sets and character design. Interestingly, you’ll also find pages with photos of materials and characters that were used for texturing the 3D models.

If you’re already a fan of the Art of Pixar books, then you’ll enjoy this piece. This artbook has some of the most amazing, talented, and awe-inspiring pieces of work.

5. The Skillful Huntsman: Visual Development Of A Grimm Tale

The three artists Mike Yamada, Khang Le, and Felix Yoon share their experiences as students of the Art Center at Pasadena, CA. They explain their journey and the unique sketches that eventually paved their way into the entertainment industry.

The Skillful Huntsman: Visual Development of a Grimm Tale at...
  • Design Studio Press
  • Le, Khang (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 160 Pages - 05/01/2005 (Publication Date) - Design Studio...

As you read this book, you’ll realize how it feels more like as though you’re going through a student project or a  journal. Each of the concept artists has created the characters, props, environment, and other painting for The Skillful Huntsman by following the Brothers Grimm story.

In this jam-packed book, you’ll get a collection of design techniques and beautiful concept art. The book is filled with conceptual sketches, where you can see the process of an idea giving birth to an entire piece.

With this book, you’ll be able to get a glimpse inside the minds of the three artists as they continue to develop their vision and create a well-known story.

Scott Robertson, who is a renowned teacher from the Art Center, leaves comments beneath each page where he critiques and gives an insight to the work. It’s amusing to see how a teacher continues to critique the piece being created by his students.

The descriptions are brief enough and will not take your focus away from the designs. It is also exciting to read how the students of concept art create a piece that is based on an existing storyline.

If you love interpreting folklore and creating stories, then this book will be a gem in your collection.

6. The Art Of Star Wars Episode II: Attack Of The Clones

This part of the trilogy has more details about concept art than The Art Of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. In this book, the pages are filled to the brim with environment painting, storyboards, character designs, ships, and sculptures.

The Art of Star Wars, Episode II - Attack of the Clones
  • Hardcover Book
  • Vaz, Mark Cotta (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 224 Pages - 04/30/2002 (Publication Date) - Del Rey...

The book shows how the different aspects- the weapons, the characters, location, and crafts had evolved in various stages before it came on screen.

Every page has captions given by the artists which describe the idea that they are trying to put across through every image. It is like the artist is providing you behind-the-scenes details to present an artistic side to help you understand the movie-making process.

As usual, the sketches and character designs in this book appear larger than life, especially the environment paintings. Moreover, you’ll get the entire script of the movie at the back of the book.

We recommend this book for Star War fans, concept artists and sci-fi artists. You’ll be amazed by the talent that was put into effect to create such a stunning piece of concept art.

7. The Disney Archives Series: Design

The Design edition of The Disney Archives Series is one fantastic book that will take you through the complete visual development history of Disney Animation. The book also has a few excerpts from other abandoned projects.

Walt Disney Animation Studios The Archive Series Design...
  • Disney Editions
  • Hardcover Book
  • Walt Disney Animation Research Library (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

Try looking into The Disney Archives Series: Design, which is a concept art book that was written way further than the last decade. We advise you not to compromise on your creative potential, by just focusing on books from this decade.

8. The Art of How to Train Your Dragon

The character designs in this book are not over-rendered while they have been well-balanced with some epic environments and high-resolution pieces.

The Art of How to Train Your Dragon
  • Newmarket Press
  • Hardcover Book
  • Miller-Zarneke, Tracey (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

The book features around 350 pieces of development artwork, which includes concept painting, story sketches, and character designs.

If you’re looking out to have a reference material that will guide your sketching work, then getting this book will help you to a great extent.

9. The Art of Monsters, Inc.

The Art of Monsters, Inc. is filled with a ton of set drawing and character designs. Other than the credits and caption in this book, there is no other text that you can find.

The Art of Monsters, Inc.
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Hardcover Book
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 144 Pages - 10/01/2001 (Publication Date) - Chronicle Books...

The various art concepts in this book are very colorful, and you’ll enjoy every panel of the pastel drawing by Ralph Eggleston and Dominique Louis. With this book, you can get inspired as you observe the excellent quality of skills used in creating art.

This collection of concept art has been created by using different mediums, and it was made before digital painting came into the arena.

10. The Nine Old Men & The Art of Animation

The Nine Old Men & The Art of Animation has some expert animation drawings, and it consists of the grandfathers who are part of the history of Disney’s animation.

Walt Disney's Nine Old Men and the Art of Animation
  • animation details
  • many examples of production steps
  • Disney attraction details
  • Haunted mansion characters

Each chapter in this book talks about the projects and career of each of the animators along with sequences that give you more explanation.

When we consider how rare, strong draftsmanship has become these days, we understand that such pieces of books are essential to set the standard in concept art.

11. Big Bad World of Concept Art for Video Games

If you’re studying art and you choose to make your career in the field of concept art, then you’ll love this book. In this book, the author Professor Eliott Lilly speaks about the student’s work and his experience of teaching the young minds who aspire to be artists.

Big Bad World of Concept Art for Video Games: An Insider's...
  • Lilly, Eliott J. (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 144 Pages - 05/31/2015 (Publication Date) - Design Studio...

The  Big Bad World of Concept Art for Video Games offers a few distinct tips for selecting the right classes, the right school,  the practice exercises to focus on, along with suggestions to help you improve your portfolio. There are also tips shared by the author on how a young artist wanting to make a career in the video game industry can get jobs.

The works of students and professionals are widespread in this book to help you understand the level of progress and quality skills of different artists. By following this book, you’ll gain the required knowledge to prepare you for the competitive path in the life of a concept artist. This will, in return, help you to hone your skills as an artist.

The author is straightforward and transparent with his thoughts, which helps to make this piece a good read. It is going to inspire you to learn different techniques to improve in the field of concept art, or it will make you second guess your career choice.

Irrespective of the outcome, we believe that this book will be of great use for you to understand the field of concept art.

12. Imaginative Realism: How to Paint What Doesn’t Exist

If you’re an aspiring concept artist, then you should read Imaginative Realism. The book will help you understand how you can paint the things that don’t exist and gives you different tricks over 224 pages.

Imaginative Realism: How to Paint What Doesn't Exist (Volume...
  • Andrews McMeel Publishing
  • Gurney, James (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 224 Pages - 10/20/2009 (Publication Date) - Andrews McMeel...

Every concept artist is paid to create designs of things and characters that don’t exist in real life. You might find that the book is not written for concept artists, but only if you focus on the details hidden behind each page will it get helpful for you.

In this book, James Gurney shares different techniques for helping you render various concepts like humans, creatures, building, environment, and more.

It’s simple to have different imaginative ideas on your mind, but the real test comes when you have to render them correctly. With this book, you’ll understand how to represent your ideas on paper.

13. Drawing Basics and Video Game Art

If you’re into video game art and you want to use your skills with a purpose, then you should try to give this book a read. You’ll understand how concept art is applied to the world of video games.

Drawing Basics and Video Game Art: Classic to Cutting-Edge...
  • Watson-Guptill Publications
  • Solarski, Chris (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 240 Pages - 09/18/2012 (Publication Date) - Watson-Guptill...

The complex and rich history of gaming, along with a description of the different artistic styles have been covered in this book. A large portion of the book focuses on describing how video game art can be efficiently interwoven with fine art and how this concept has advanced over the past decades.

There are many sections in this book which talks about the different fundamentals of art like lighting, figure, composition, and general techniques used for sketching. This is an artists book, even though it takes a dip in gaming.

Drawing Basics and Video Game Art has more to do with the history of game art and is not much of a drawing book.

14. How to Become a Video Game Artist

Sam R. Kennedy, who is a renowned game artist, has several years of experience and fellow workers who are employed in the gaming industry. The help that was rendered by his colleagues was to put to productive use by the author in making How to Become a Video Game Artist.

How to Become a Video Game Artist: The Insider's Guide to...
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Kennedy, Sam R. (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 160 Pages - 05/14/2013 (Publication Date) - Watson-Guptill...

In every chapter, you’ll find a description of the different jobs in the field of concept art- animators, environment art, character art, and GUI designers. Each of the chapters consists of stories from professionals who are employed in this industry and the advice given in this book helps to guide the aspiring concept artists.

The book describes the skills, requirements, and demands of each job, which gives you a clear overview of the professions. The last chapter has tips by the author for the aspiring concept artists for refining their portfolios and how they should be preparing themselves for the field of game art.

15. Beyond Art Fundamentals

When you have covered the basics of traditional art, you’ll be left wondering how you can advance towards concept art from an ideal point of view.

Beyond Art Fundamentals
  • 3dtotal Publishing
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 224 Pages - 09/27/2016 (Publication Date) - 3DTotal...

When you plan to design a piece, it should be technically creative along with it being philosophical to a certain extent. The topics that have been covered in  Beyond Art Fundamentals cannot be easily found in any other book.

In this book, you’ll find several professional artists sharing their opinions and views gestures, mood, emotion, and gives you ideas to create designs that will fit in perfectly with the story line.

According to the view of professional artists, every image should have a specific emotion, purpose, and a feeling associated with it. This book helps you to understand these subtle nuances that need to be incorporated in your artwork and the different approaches that you should use for creating every piece.

Final Words

Use these books to your benefit to help you develop the fundamental skills of art, a professional network, and the right portfolio. These will pave the way for you to become a professional concept artist. There is no better way to learn than practicing religiously and following the experiences of other artists in this field.

Till next time keep exploring the field of art!

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