There are tons of art apps on both iOS and Android that can make instant artists out of anyone for points on social media. Then there are art apps for pros that enable them to create awesome renditions of characters and landscapes, both real and fictional. But sometimes need references, especially for beginners. Are there reference apps as well? Like Steve Jobs used to say, There’s an app for that. This time, we discuss the best reference apps for artists for both iOS and Android.
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List of 8 Best Reference Apps for Artists
As mentioned, all Pro artists start as beginners, and they need references such as anatomy for human figures, poses they can copy, proper light and shading, and others. And many Pros actually do their stuff on their computers, so it would be inconvenient to do both drawings and referencing on the phone. Instead, the phone can act as the reference while the artist works their magic on the desktop. There are reference apps available, and that’s what we’re here for. So without further ado, below are what we think are the best reference apps for artists.
1. Handy Art Reference Tool
Handy Art Reference Tool by Belief Engine is a reference app available for iOS and Android. It’s not for free, but its renders look incredible and inspiring enough to be followed by both experts and beginners. For just $2 and additional in-app purchases, you can make stunning drawings complete with proper light and shading, not just of humans but animals as well.
Even the co-creator of the Walking Dead comics recommends this app. Believe it or not, many Pros have problems with hands and feet. And this app is just perfect for them because hands and feet can be rendered and referenced with different angles and poses and can even be modeled with various weapons. Head busts are just as easy. It will cost a bit collectively, but it’s the results of your work that becomes priceless. The app itself is relatively easy to use and intuitive despite its intimidating tone.
ArtPose by Artware apps is another handy reference app for iOS and Android. There are three versions called Artpose FE (Female), Artpose (Male), and Artpose Pro, as some artists tend to concentrate on a specific gender. These apps aren’t free, but they’re not expensive either. The more expensive Artpose Pro includes both genders.
Artpose basically displays the human body in 3D, complete with light and shading, shadows, and even adjustable camera angles and backgrounds. In addition, there’s a body type slider to show different body types. The controls are intuitively composed of buttons and sliders for various elements. The app has over 240 pre-set poses which can be later manipulated and saved. In addition, the app can display two figures interacting, so artists can create not just poses but scenarios. This is arguably one of the best reference apps for artists available out there.
3. Easy Pose
Easy Pose by MadcatGames is also available for iOS and Android. It is an easy-to-use reference app for comic artists. Highly popular, it has over 10 million downloads for Android alone.
Like the other apps available in this list, Easy Pose provides a plethora of poses for many body types that users can manipulate. Easy Pose is an excellent app for beginners looking to draw stylized characters, great for making comics, animation, and game characters. Easy Pose also allows for scene illustration with up to six models on one screen. This is great for group shots, fights, and sports scenes.
The free version can create various poses either from scratch or by loading one of several pre-rendered poses. However, posing them using the app takes a bit of getting used to. Yes, it’s easy to use once users get the hang of it. The models can also be animated and paused once the user finds a satisfactory pose.
Additional elements such as costumes, hair, weapons, props sometimes require the user to watch an ad or purchase them outright before they are unlocked. Plus, there’s a DLC shop of additional props and models of animals, vehicles, weapons, and equipment. It can get expensive depending on the user’s chosen genre. And to make the most of the app, tablets are recommended. The paid version gets rid of ads, allows more models on the screen at once to create a group scene, and more base models are added. Completed poses can be saved for later use.
4. Pose Max
Pose Max for Android by BG Studio is another great reference app for artists to draw human characters. Pose Max would be a great start if you’re looking for a basic and free reference app. You may graduate to the other apps in this list once you’re confident enough.
As mentioned, this app is completely free with no subscription or DLC. Ads will be popping up for a while, and not all character models can be customized. Customization is very flexible when in terms of anatomy with over 40 options. But hair and clothes are not customizable. There are also a variety of stylized non-customizable characters to choose from.
The app is very easy to use, as easy to use wooden reference dolls could be. There is a library of poses and animation applicable to all the characters, including customized ones. You can choose over 50 animations, including walking, running, punching, and flying, which can be paused and copied. The UI is rather simple, composed of buttons, sliders, and dropdowns. Artists on a budget definitely need to give Pose Max a try.
Download: Pose Max | Android
Poseit app is rather popular with artists, with over half a million installs for Android and perhaps just as much for iOS. Unlike Handy Art Reference Tool, which is so far the closest, the art is a cross between anatomical and wooden dolls. There is an appeal to it that it does not make the reference drawing too intimidating. It’s a free app, which means there will be ads and in-app purchases that are not at all expensive.
Poseit makes great use of color and lighting, and its pose-doll aesthetic allows for better learning of angles and proportions than anatomically accurate references can. The interface also looks quite simple to use, with intuitive buttons and sliders. There are also plenty of pre-rendered poses not just for one model but several figures, including animals in one scene.
6. Magic Poser
Magic Poser is perhaps the most popular in this list of best reference apps for artists, with an install base of over 5 million for Android alone. There’s also a version for iOS and a web app for those who want bigger screens to work with. It’s pretty popular thanks to its anime aesthetic which most young artists work with nowadays, though the adult models closely resemble actual human faces.
The characters are rendered smoothly, unlike Poseit, whose doll model creates specific boundaries on each body part, which is handy for artists later on when doing proportions. Nevertheless, Magic Poser models are rendered smoothly, look great, and are easy to copy. Magic Poser is free to download but requires users to subscribe to download pre-rendered models and scenes and additional models for hair, clothing, tools, and props.
7. Gesture Drawing Practice
Gesture Drawing Practice by Dark Mati3r takes a more hands-on approach to help artists get better. It provides both reference images and timed practice at the same time. The images can come from the app itself or the users’ image gallery. The app gives users a set time to sketch over the reference image as a form of practice for users to get used to human anatomy and various poses.
The user can set any time limit, and the least amount of time is 30 seconds. The user can also choose the type of exercises such as survival mode, quantity mode, or rounds. The app tracks practice sessions and tells the user if he/she is getting better. The app is free but is limited by ads and in-app purchases.
Download: Gesture Drawing Practice | Android
8. Action Anatomy
And lastly, we have Action Anatomy by CGILAB. There are two versions, Lite and PRO. In this instance, we’ll be looking at Lite. We all know the importance of proper human anatomy when it comes to drawing more realistic images and some media genres that make use of it. This may seem intimidating for beginners, but learning basic human anatomy is a must for any artist who draws human subjects. With a good understanding of human anatomy and action, a good artist will rarely need any references.
This app shows muscle movement and placement and how the skeleton is positioned during various poses, giving users a thorough understanding of the human body in motion. The app shows detailed representations of bones, muscle, skin, fascia, and even fat as it represents most body types. The app itself is easy to manipulate. Models are easily posed as well as camera angles and lighting. This is an excellent app for artists obsessed with anatomical accuracy, especially when it comes to bones and muscles.
Download: Action Anatomy – 3D anatomy pose app for artists | Android