15 best art books to buy 2023
Are you in need of some creative inspiration? Explore our pick of the best art books to buy from painting guides for beginners to coffee table art books
Art books come in a variety of forms from coffee table books to art history books and practical guides.
If you're new to art, a good technical art book can help you to develop your skills and learn from experienced artists. You can learn how to paint, draw, make prints and much more.
Sometimes a YouTube video doesn't include enough information to explain techniques fully. That's when an art book comes into its own. They're packed with practical tips and advice that you won't find anywhere else.
More experienced artists can learn more advanced techniques from art books and develop their understanding of art theory. In this guide, we'll look at some of the best art books for beginners as well as books for intermediate artists.
Just looking for the best coffee table books about art? We've got a few recommendations for you too!
Looking for more creative inspiration? Check out our watercolor painting ideas, learn how to paint a watercolor galaxy or discover how to use watercolor pencils.
15 best art books
1. Watercolour Techniques for Artists & Illustrators
If you’re thinking of taking a painting course – don’t! Choose a book instead. You can follow this book almost like a painting course. It explains all the painting equipment available in great detail, so you can decide what you need to buy. This book guides you through the basic techniques of watercolour painting. It begins with simple projects which become progressively harder as your skills develop.
There are lots of creative tutorials to try, so it’s a good book to pick up when you’re struggling to think of ideas. I keep a copy of this book on my shelf for reference, but absolute beginners may find the huge amount of detail on each page a bit off-putting. If you're an art student, you're likely to find it very useful.
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2. Anywhere, Anytime Art: Gouache: An artist's guide to painting with gouache on the go! by Agathe Singer
Gouache is a brilliant medium for anyone who wants to get into illustration. As an added bonus, gouache paints are not very expensive. This book was written by the talented painter and illustrator Agathe Singer and it’s packed with beautiful projects to try in her unique style. This book is clearly aimed at illustrators, so if you want to learn to paint realistic pictures with gouache then this isn’t the book for you.
It’s easy to follow and even beginners will be able to produce pleasing finished paintings. This is a good pick for absolute beginners or anyone looking for a fun project to try. These projects would look great on your wall!
Looking for more gouache painting inspiration? Check out our gouache painting ideas.
3. Block Print by Andrea Lauren
Block Print is a great choice for anyone who wants to try lino printing for the first time. The introduction guides you through the basics of this fun craft including the materials you’ll need to buy. However, the best part of this book is the selection of creative projects to try. You’ll learn how to create a range of colourful projects using basic block printing techniques – and you’ll be able to make some very impressive prints in no time!
This book is a good place to start if you want to try out lino printing. It’ll help you to build your confidence and give you a good understanding of the basic techniques involved. Check out our lino cutting guide for more tips to help you get started.
4. Figure Drawing: A Complete Guide to Drawing the Human Body by Jake Spicer
If you’ve ever browsed through drawing books in a bookshop, you’ll almost certainly have come across one by the artist Jake Spicer. Jake specialises in producing accessible drawing guides for beginners and this book is an ideal buy if you want to improve your figure drawing skills. It’s structured like a course, so you can start with the basics and build up to more difficult techniques along the way.
There are some excellent step-by-step tutorials you can try to learn the various techniques. As this is a guide to drawing the human body, it also has a great section on anatomy. This book would be perfect for art students or anyone taking life drawing classes.
Looking for more drawing books? Check out our best drawing books guide.
5. 365 Days of Art in Nature by Lorna Scobie
This creative art book is more of a journal than an instructional guide. This is a good book to buy if you want to bring creativity into your life and get into the habit of painting and drawing regularly. It's an entry-level art book for beginners featuring art prompts for every day of the year. There are other books in the series, but we like this nature-themed one. This would make a lovely gift for an arty person who loves to spend time outdoors.
6. Abstract Painting by Petra Thölken
Abstract painting can be a great way to experiment with different textures and colours in your work. If you've tried abstract painting unsuccessfully before, this book could help you to see this art form in a new light. Petra explains what materials you should use and why, guides you through a range of techniques and there are 20 projects to try. This book will really help you to branch out and give you the confidence to try out a new creative style.
7. Birds, Bees and Blossoms by Harriet de Winton
Harriet de Winton is an amazing watercolour artist who regularly shares tutorials on YouTube. She's also the founder of the de Winton Paper Co. Harriet has tonnes of expertise to share in this beautiful book, which includes 30 step-by-step painting tutorials. Learn how to paint Bengal tigers, bumblebees, peacocks and much more.
The book includes an introduction to watercolour painting for beginners at the beginning. At the end of the book, there's a section explaining how Harriet creates some of her stunning patterns. Well worth a read!
8. Watercolor for the Soul by Sharone Stevens
Watercolour painting is brilliant for relaxation – and you don't need to be an experienced artist to reap the benefits. This book keeps things simple and the main focus is on art as a way of unwinding. There's a variety of art projects to attempt ranging from easy gift tags to much larger paintings. It includes a good introduction to colour mixing so you can learn to create your own beautiful colour palettes.
9. Linocut for Artists and Designers by Nick Morley
Looking to get into lino printing more seriously? This is the only reference book you’ll need. It contains absolutely everything you could ever want to know about linocut printmaking, from types of ink to buy to the benefits of various types of paper. It’s full of useful information and practical ways to tackle common problems. It’s like having an experienced printmaker to turn to when you get stuck! As an amateur printmaker, I often turn to this book when there’s something I want to learn about lino printing. It always has the answers I’m looking for!
10. Painting with Bob Ross
Over the years, Bob Ross has inspired thousands of people to take up painting. This book captures Bob’s unique style and painting techniques, so you can recreate his paintings at home. Each painting project has easy steps to follow with detailed instructions. You’ll be able to master the basics of oil painting and create your own stunning canvases as you go.
Need to stock up on supplies? Check out our Bob Ross painting kits.
11. If You're Bored with Watercolour Read this Book by Veronica Ballart Lilja
This book is perfect for anyone who is stuck in a creative rut and looking for fresh ideas. If You're Bored With Watercolour Read this Book will help you to fall back in love with watercolour painting. There's a very good section covering painting supplies at the start of the book. There are lots of short exercises throughout the book, which encourage you to try different techniques. For example, have you ever tried turned painted paper into a watercolour collage? Or combining watercolours with embroidery? You're bound to find something new in this book that you haven't tried before.
12. The Art of Gouache: 20 Fun and Creative Painting Projects for Everyone by Viktorija Semjonova
Follow your dream of becoming an illustrator with this beautiful book by Viktorija Semjonova. There's a good introduction to gouache painting, followed by 20 stunning projects to try. This is a brilliant book to choose if you're looking for fun art projects to paint and you're feeling uninspired at the moment. The paintings in this book look really professional, so if you want to create artwork for your home this will definitely fit the bill.
13. The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron
The Artist's Way isn't a new book: it was first published in 1992 and has been hugely popular with artists and creative people ever since. The Artist's Way encourages you to look at your creativity in a new way, so this is a fantastic book for anyone who wants to rediscover their creative side. The book aims to help you get into a state of creative flow, where you can explore ideas without feeling restricted. You may find that this book changes your life and your outlook on the world!
14. How to Be An Artist by Jerry Saltz
This book is a New York Times bestseller and has received glowing reviews from renowned artists Grayson Perry and Tracey Emin. It has lots of practical advice for anyone who is experiencing creative block, ways to follow your artistic instincts and how to complete a project that you've started (something many people struggle with!). Buy this book if you need to feel motivated and inspired.
15. The Art Book
The Art Book from Phaidon is the perfect coffee table art book. It's colourful, stylish and packed with information about hundreds of artists. The artists featured range from medieval painters to modern creators. It's the ideal book to pick up and leaf through when you need some fresh ideas.
We hope you enjoyed our pick of the best art books to buy! Looking for some creative projects to try? Learn how to draw a tree step by step, how to draw a bird, or have fun with our mug painting ideas.
If you enjoy watching art TV shows to improve your skills, check out our guides to Grayson's Art Club, Sky Portrait Artist of the Year, Sky Landscape Artist of the Year and Watercolour Challenge.
Sarah Orme is a UK-based linocut printmaker, digital editor, feature writer and award-winning podcaster. She's been editing the sewing and art sections of Gathered.how – and before that our sister website calmmoment.com – for over 3 years. She’s the host of Gathered’s We’ve Made It podcast and A Calmer Life podcast. She’s a keen crafter and artist and loves creating DIY tutorials for Gathered. Sarah has previously written features for The Guardian, In The Moment Magazine, Project Calm Magazine, countryfile.com, radiotimes.com and yourhomestyle.uk. She enjoys designing her own unique lino prints and dreams of opening her own online shop. She shares her work @sarahormeprints
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