One of the fundamental aspects that anyone who wants to dedicate themselves to 3D modeling or digital sculpture of characters must master is the human anatomy. However, the range of books and options that we can find is very wide, so it can sometimes be difficult to decide on one or the other.

Therefore, from this article I want to recommend a list of ten books on human and animal anatomy for 3D modeling and digital sculpture that for me are essential and that I think you should have on the shelf.

So without further ado let's move on to my ten favorite anatomy books for 3D modeling and digital sculpting.

1. Human Anatomy for Artists: The Elements of Form 

Book cover of "Human Anatomy for Artists: The Elements of Form"

The first book that I want to recommend is Human Anatomy for Artists, The Elements of Form by Eliot Goldfinger. This is a superb quality book that should never be missing from our human anatomy books collection.

Accompanied by a huge amount of illustrations, it shows us every one of the parts of the human body in detail. Starting with the skeleton and its different regions and views while listing each of the areas with names and valuable information such as joints and flexions of the different joints.

Then he will offer us information on the different types of muscles that we find in the body and gives way to the facial muscles and how to represent different expressions and gestures in detail. In this way, he gets us to understand how the facial muscles affect the various parts of the face and to make our sculptures correctly.

The book continues to show us the different regions such as the neck, torso, arms, hands, hips, legs and feet. All of them in different positions and showing the changes when the muscles are at rest and in tension.

The book ends with tables of proportions, diagrams, and tips for fitting shapes.

2. Anatomy for 3D Artists 

Book cover of "Anatomy for 3D Artists"

Anatomy for 3D Artists is designed for professionals in 3D modeling and digital sculpture. A book created by Chris Legaspi that has the collaboration of different 3D artists of the stature of Ian Spriggs or Djordje Nagulov, where they expose their advice and work methodologies to carry out their anatomical projects.

Provides high-quality, color illustrations. The book begins with a section for freehand drawing and line drawing by Laura Braga. In this first section we are taught the differences between the proportions according to the sex of the character as well as the lace patterns of the various muscles of the body. Then we will have a section of charcoal images where we are shown various ways of understanding the human body according to perspective. Some traditional sculpture tips are also mentioned to later focus on it from the point of view of 3D modeling, more specifically in ZBrush and Mudbox.

In the second section of the book we will have human anatomy exercises and the creation of anatomical characters from a beginner level to advanced tips, as well as complex postures. Step by step we will be shown how to create the complete model of a man and a woman.

The book ends with some very useful anatomical reference images for 3D modeling of natural characters.

3. Anatomy for Sculptors

Book cover of "Anatomy for Sculptors"

If of all the anatomy books presented so far in this guide, you asked me which would be the first one I would buy for digital sculpture and 3D character modeling, without a doubt, it would be Anatomy for Sculptors.

Born from a crowdfunding presented on Kickstarter to create a series of anatomical articles for sculptors that resulted in the book that I am presenting to you. This project led by Uldis Zarins and Sandis Kondrats, and which was financed by several patrons, ended up becoming the seed of a YouTube channel that bears the same name and that teaches sculpture-oriented anatomy lessons, whether traditional or digital.

The book is masterfully structured and provides a wealth of information from the point of view of sculpture that the other books do not offer. In addition to tables of proportions by sex and age, it offers us infinite references for facial expressions, ethnicities, creation of the blocking before starting the sculpture and even cross sections of the different parts of the body to know exactly how we should model each area, among others.

Of course, it goes without saying that the illustrations are very well worked and are very intuitive so that we can internalize very well the aspects that the book teaches us. Of all those seen so far, perhaps the most necessary for digital sculpture and 3D modeling of characters.

4. Artistic Anatomy 

Book cover of "Artistic Anatomy"

If there is a book that never goes out of style among anatomical artists, it is the famous Artistic Anatomy by Dr. Paul Richer, translated and edited into the English version by Robert Beverly Hale. Although the first publications of it were in 1890, it is still quite prestigious today and many professionals have it among our anatomy books.

The book is divided into two sections. In the first section, which is the most dense in terms of text, it offers us a detailed study of each and every one of the bones and muscles of the body. It also informs us of what other muscles or bones are affected and the movements that they allow to do and their different hierarchies.

In the second section, we will find all kinds of visual references. Starting with the human skeleton where he will offer a thorough study of each bone and its different areas with excellent detail. The bones are studied by regions (from the head to the extremities) and one by one so that we know how they are individually.

On the other hand, this second section also offers us an anatomical study from the point of view of the excellent musculature. It shows different ecorchés and their views in each of the regions.

Undoubtedly one of those books on human anatomy more than recommended that we should have among our resources for 3D modeling and digital sculpture.

5. Strength Training Anatomy

Book cover of "Strength Training Anatomy"

The Strength Training Anatomy was originally edited to understand muscle function during exercise. Despite being a book intended for fans of the world of bodybuilding, this is one of the best-selling books among anatomical artists for many reasons.

Written and illustrated by Frédéric Delavier, Strength Training Anatomy shows us a compilation of bodybuilding exercises to strengthen and exercise different parts of the body.

To begin with, it shows us a Greek sculpture where every muscle in the human body is represented. Then it gives rise to the index, which shows us the sections of the arms and forearms, shoulders, pectorals, back, legs, buttocks and abs.

Delavier accompanies all the exercises shown with a series of well-made illustrations marking the muscles that act in the different phases of muscular exercise. So we can see how the muscles act in detail and providing information that I have not seen in other anatomical books. Without a doubt, one of the best anatomy books to interpret well the appearance of the muscles of our 3D model or sculpture.

6. Women's Strength Training Anatomy Workouts

Book cover of "Women's Strength Training Anatomy Workouts"

We go back to another good Delavier. And it is that if in the previous recommendation we saw the Guide to Bodybuilding Movements, in this case it surprises us again with another book of bodybuilding exercises, but on a female version.

As in the previous case, Delavier shows us a series of exercises for the different parts of the body, but showing us the reaction and behavior of the muscles in the female body. The perfect complement if we join it together with the book I have talked before.

However, I must say that in this book I would miss a section more focused on the arms since it is mainly focused on exercises for the back, leg, buttocks and abdomen. But as I have commented it is a perfect complement and allows us to see the muscles in different positions.

7. Atlas of Human Anatomy for the Artist

Book cover of "Atlas of Human Anatomy for the Artist"

Stephen Rogers Peck's Atlas of Human Anatomy for the Artist. It is a very popular book among professional anatomical drawing artists, but it is also useful for 3D modeling and sculpture. This book includes freehand illustrations by the author himself as well as photographs of models in various poses for practice.

In addition to giving us anatomical information of interest both about the human skeleton and its musculature, it gives us important advice from fitting to blocking our work. It also offers recommendations for making drawings from different perspectives that can be of great interest and help.

Finally, the book also includes a section dedicated to the different expressions of the human face, explaining in detail how the muscles influence the different facial expressions. It also offers another section mentioning the differentiation according to the ethnic group of the people and some tables of differentiated proportions by age and sex, very useful when fitting our models or digital sculptures that will undoubtedly facilitate the task.

8. The Artist’s Guide to the Anatomy of the Human Head

Book cover of "The Artist’s Guide to the Anatomy of the Human Head"

A book published by 3dtotal titled The Artist’s Guide to the Anatomy of the Human Head. A facial anatomy book geared especially towards 3D modeling and digital sculpting, although it also includes some interesting illustration work.

The book begins with a series of line drawing illustrations in which we are shown different types of facial expressions and gestures on a face to usher in the first chapter of the book.

In this first chapter we will see a study on the skull and its different areas. All of this, of course, accompanied by high-quality illustrations and ending with a summary of the distribution of the facial muscles represented in a 3D model.

On this bust in 3D we go to the second chapter where we will see the different expressions and planes of the human face. Mario Anger makes the illustrations in “low poly” of a bust in which we are shown how to represent different gestures and expressions with a more stylized model.

Personally, the section that I like the most is the one where we see a series of characters made by the artist Pablo Muñoz Gómez and that masterfully represents how to apply different expressions to different characters. Below we can see illustration works by Sylwia Bomba and other more stylized by Abigail Larson.

9. Anatomy of Facial Expression

Book cover of "Anatomy of Facial Expression"

From the hand of Uldis Zarins, whom we have already mentioned before with Anatomy for Sculptors, he brings us the perfect complement to this book. On this occasion he has launched this volume aimed at understanding and sculpting the face as well as its different gestures and expressions.

Like Anatomy for Sculptors, Anatomy of Facial Expression is a wonderfully structured and illustrated anatomy book. It has examples of all kinds accompanied and explained with 3D models so that we can see how to sculpt the various areas of our characters' faces.

The book begins with a detailed study of the skull, its different zones and landmarks. In fact, it shows differences in age and geographical areas in this section that are quite interesting that are not seen in other human anatomy books.

After the section on the skull, we will now study the muscles of the face. From the structure and functioning of the various muscles to the impact they have on the skin of the face. We will also find a large amount of information on how the eyes affect the adjacent muscles according to the direction where they look, as well as the nose and lips for expressions. The book covers other areas such as ligaments and distribution of facial fat.

Finally, it offers us a compilation of a huge library of facial expressions by sex, age and ethnicity, so this book is without a doubt one of the best options when it comes to facial anatomy.

10. The Artist’s Complete Guide to Facial Expression

Book cover of "The Artist’s Complete Guide to Facial Expression"

The Artist’s Complete Guide to Facial Expression by Gary Faigin is a book focused as his own name indicates in understanding and representing facial expressions in a way that is trustworthy. Despite the fact that the book is aimed at illustrators, we can take part, as modelers, from his teachings.

The book begins with a section in which he analyzes the basic structures of the head, the fundamental forms of the skull and recurring proportions, all in preparation for understanding full facial expression.

The second part describes the muscles of expression in the three key parts of the face, all in preparation for understanding full facial expression in the last part.

Finally, on the last part is where we can find the basic facial forms from part two, that now are combined to form the six basic human expressions - joy, sadness, anger, fear, disgust and surprise. Each expression is depicted in steadily increasing intensity.

(BONUS) Animal Anatomy for Artists: The Elements of Form

Book cover of "Animal Anatomy for Artists: The Elements of Form"

We end with Eliot Goldfinger, the author of the classic Human Anatomy for Artists, brings us this easy-to-read reference guide to animal anatomy, containing more than five hundred original drawings and more than seventy photographs.

Originally designed for painters, sculptors, and illustrators who use animal images in their work. Animal Anatomy for Artists offers very complete and in-depth information on a multitude of animals. It not only covers the anatomy of the most common ones, such as the horse, dog or cat, but also the anatomy of numerous wild species, such as the lion, giraffe, deer, hippopotamus and more.

The book focuses on the volumes that are created by muscles and bones, giving us a three-dimensional understanding ideal for sculpture work. Included are drawings of skeletons and how they move in joints, individual muscles, cross sections, photographs of live animals, and related animal silhouettes that compare their shapes, similarities, and proportions.

An incredibly comprehensive book and along with The Art of Animal Drawing the best you can find on animal anatomy.