The Best fantasy art books

In Art, Books, Review by improveyourdrawings

This is our definitive list of twelve of the best fantasy and science fiction art books you should have, or at least you should check for sure. From number twelve to number one, we will guide you through some of the most inspiring and amazing books you can find on the market, regarding the fantasy art gender. No matter if you are a professional artist, a beginner or just an art fan. We are sure you will find at least a couple of books in this list that will make your head spin of joy:).

Let’s start with the list:

12. The Art of God of War

Dark Horse Books and Santa Monica Studio brings you the quintessential companion book to the latest and most anticipated game of the God of War saga. The book presents you a series of master art pieces that will take you into the universe of this epic of tremendous scale. Based on the Norse mythology, this new edition of the game will impress you with superb characters, creatures, and environments.

I’ve been a fan over the years of the God of War series, following it since it’s inception. This book is a masterpiece and shows you just about each and every step that the developing team took in order to bring this game. And if you’re a fan of art books, this one is definitely one to pick up! Each page is coated in gorgeous pictures top to bottom, from starting sketches to fully rendered illustrations. From Kratos to Brok and Sindri, from the trolls to the Dragur to the dragons, this book covers every scrap of information that the game has in it is beautiful, stunning detail.

Sony and Dark Horse made a fantastic art book with this one, and I cannot say enough positive things. In my opinion, this book is a true centerpiece in any art book collection.

Here you have the link to the book:

The Art of God of War

11. The World of the Witcher

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This book is a compendium from the Witcher video game saga. Even if you never played the games and you are only a fan of the novels, this book is an artistic jewel. Coming from the forges of the polish studio CD Projekt, this marble of artistic endeavor will amaze you with all the environments, illustrations and character concepts you will find inside it.

Also, you will find interesting information and in-depth knowledge about the locales, the deadly beasts that inhabit this universe, and the lethal weapons used to put them down.

I think this book is a must-have in any Witcher’s fan library and also for any admirer of the fantasy art in general.

Here you have the link to the book :

The World of the Witcher

10. Out of the forest… The art of Paul Bonner

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This book is a classic for every fan of the fantasy gender. Publish in 2007 by Titan Books, this volume collects over 150 pieces of Paul Bonner’s art. Mostly pieces from his period working for Fasa Corporation, Riotminds, and Rackham ( which are my favorites of the book ). Also, you will find some early pieces done for Games Workshop.

This book shows the evolution of Paul’s art on his more than 20 years of work as a pro artist. I will highlight the refinement of his style coming from the Mutant Chronicles period, heavily influenced by the 90’s style of illustration with lots of contrast and color saturation, to the more recent pieces done for the defunct editorial Rackham, which are more balanced and quite spectacular.

His dwarfs and orcs designs are simply awesome and you can see how they influenced great artists like Wei Wang and the rest of artist from Blizzard.

On the negative side, I will only say that some of Paul’s artwork tends to the “horror vacui” with lots of details everywhere that sometimes doesn’t allow the composition to breathe.

Never the less a great book and a great artist, who has been and still is a household name in the fantasy art world.

Here you have the link to the book :

Out of The Forest

9. How to Render: the fundamentals of light, shadow, and reflectivity

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The main author of this book is probably one of the most renowned concept artists nowadays. Scott Robertson is the master of the vehicle design. His work is heavily influenced by his product design background, presenting clean lines and polished surfaces. His work can be seen in blockbusters like Minority Report. Also in products from brands like Nike, Raleigh Bicycles, Fiat and Mattel Toys.

Co-written with Thomas Bertling this book is divided into two major sections: the first explains the physics of light and shadow. One will learn how to construct proper shadows in perspective and how to apply the correct values to those surfaces. The second section focuses on the physics of reflectivity and how to render a wide range of materials utilizing this knowledge. The book contains also links to free online rendering tutorials that can be accessed via the URL list or through the H2Re app.

I didn’t download the app but I was able to check some of the tutorials on YouTube related to the content of the book. I think this book is great because it gives you a good understanding about how light works over different surfaces and how materials behave depending in their own reflectivity.

This book is part of a series of books called “How to draw”, but I can’t give you an opinion about the rest because I didn’t check them yet.

Here you have the link to the book.

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8. Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter

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The first part of this 2 books series, called  “Imaginative Realism” didn’t impress that much. I think because maybe the style, or maybe the type of work James Gurney does is not of my taste. Also, the first book was more focus on how to make your mind work in order to not copy reality and instead of that how to transform it. And this was something I already knew because of my background.

Nevertheless, somebody recommended me this one. My friend pointed out this book was more focus on how to create a painting in terms of proper composition, color combination and accurate values. In my opinion, James Gurney nailed this one.

The book has awesome tips and tricks on how to make your paintings more appealing to the viewer. How to place the light sources better in order to accent the drama of the scene, how to structure your compositions to create a clear focus of attention and how to manipulate your values to achieve more depth and balance in your paintings. All this artistic observation is done from a rational and sometimes almost scientific approach. 

This is a read I really recommend, especially for those who are interested in creating illustrations with lots of characters, interesting light effects, and well-balanced values.

Here is the link to the book:

Color and Light: A guide

7. Facial Expressions: A Visual Reference for Artists

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I bought this book years ago and it was and still is a great tool for visualization. Often I use it forgive me an idea about what to draw when I’m lacking ideas. I just open the book and start to check expressions and going through the pages the ideas start to spark on my mind. Most of the time I’m not drawing a particular face from the book but instead of that, I’m using it as a loose reference for a character I’m creating. This book gives you a better understanding of how the skin, muscles, and bones of the face behave. Through methodical observation and analysis of all these images, this book will help you to give life to your characters making them way more believable. 

Here you have the link to the book :

Facial Expressions: A Visual…

6. Last Man Standing: Killbook of a Bounty Hunter

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Honestly, I don’t own this book. Last year I went to a Dan Luvisi’s lecture and he was showing the book to the people there after his talk. The size of the book is impressive. The illustrations inside are really cool and for what I was able to read, the way the history is narrated is super cool too. Is a scrapbook-style character bible and a prologue book for the series.

The main hero is called Gabriel, and the whole set up looks like a perfect script for a movie. In fact, the book was optioned by Paramount who bought the rights, but the project went dead. After more than 2 years of fighting, Luvisi got back the rights. I don,t know if any studio is interested or not on making this film at this point, but it will be really cool to see Gabriel’s adventures on the big screen.

If you wanna enjoy a good read and stare mesmerize to some of the coolest sci-fi artwork out there, this is your book.

Here you have the link:

Last Man Standing: Killbook of…

5. The Art of Dishonored 2

The first time I saw this book was in pdf format. Some colleague sent me a link to a pdf file. I felt in love immediately with it. Honestly, I never played the game, but I heard very good things about it. My friend sent me this book knowing I would love it because I really like the art of  Sergey Kolesov aka¨Peleng¨. I couldn´t help my self and after 2 min. checking the book I bought it right away on Amazon. But this book is not only about Kolesov´s art. In this art book, you will find some of the finest fantasy concept art done by an awesome artist. With Kolesov´s character designs and illustrations, I will highlight the work of Cédric Peyravernay who also contributed to the game with awesome characters and illustrations and  Piotr Jablonski who contributed to the game with fantastic illustrations, environments and action scenes. Any of the artwork of one of this artist would deserve a book by itself.

Before finishing this book review I want to mention the rest of the concept artists involved in Dishonored 2. They did a fantastic work designing weapons, tools, environments and all sorts of assets for the game. Their quality and attention to detail is some next level sh%&t!!! 🙂

Here is the book’s link:

The art of Dishonored 2

4. The art of District 9: Weta Workshop

This book shows you the insights of the creation process of one of those Science Fiction film jewels every fan of the gender loves. Totally unexpected, this low budget film with an unknown cast, became a blockbuster hit, putting his director name, Neil Blomkamp, in everybody´s mouth.  But once you know which studio was in charge of the artistic side of the film, District 9´s success becomes less mysterious and more evident. Weta Workshop, the New Zealand´s based studio famous for their work in the Lord of the Rings saga, was in charge of the concept designs, the creation of vehicles, weapons and other props with some of the special effects displayed on the film.

The book shows you the complete design process, from the earlier designs, including the rejected ones, until the final art. Special mention to the weapon design, really innovative, using colors like white and orange for some of the alien rifles. The aliens itself, very insect-like, look great too. But the cherry on top is the Alien Mech that appears on the cover of the book. The moment I saw this cool robot armor, I had the same feeling of amazement I had when I was a kid an I saw for the first time the Cargo Power Loader from Aliens.

The book is a must-have for those who salivate uncontrollably every time they see a cool weapon or a cool robot design. Simply fantastic.

Here is the link to the book:

The art of District 9

3. Creative Illustration by Andrew Loomis

This book needs an initial disclaimer. The book was not aimed for non-artist or beginners because most of the exercises are based on the assumption you already have an artistic background. If you are a beginner I would recommend you “Fun with a pencil ” or “Figure drawing for all it´s worth”, where you can find the core fundamentals of figure drawing explained at it´s best. My decision to include this book instead of the more beginner ones is due to the fantastic tricks and methods the book shows to improve particular aspects of your creative method, meanwhile the other two are more useful if you are trying to learn the basics, a knowledge you can find in other books too ( but lots of them follow the Loomis method).

The book is divided into 7 chapters, which includes line, tone, color, telling the story etc…and inside you will find fantastic exercises that will help you to improve specific aspects of your art. I will highlight
for example, the informal subdivision exercises which help you to create appealing compositions using lines as guides which divides the canvas into nonsymmetrical parts.
This classic book is more than 70 years old an is still relevant and super-useful today. Another must-have in my opinion.
Here are the links to the books:
2. Degenesis: Rebirth Edition by Sixmorevodka

I know, I know… this book is an RPG game and not an art book. But when a concept art studio full of talented artists like Gerard Parel or Maki Planas, and own and directed by one of the most influential marvel artists of the decade,
called MarkoDjurjevic launches an RPG game, believe me, it will be an artistic masterpiece. I have the pleasure of owning one copy, it was a present from my friend an artist Julian Del Rey, and let me tell you is a thing of beauty. In words of Maki Planas, one character design could be going from one artist to another for a month in order to achieve a ridiculous level of detail.
With amazing character design and illustration, this RPG present us a post-apocalyptic world, with factions of barbarians, mutants, robots and many more. In this dystopian future, humanity survives in an almost barbaric state, preserving the little technology that is left from their advance civilization they were living in before the collapse.
I’m coming back to this book over an over again, and I’m sure you will do the same if you have it on your shelf.
Here is the link to the book:
1. Sketchbook vol.1 & vol.2 by Karl Kopinski

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Yes, there are two books in the number 1 position. The reason why? Pretty simple, both books are part of the same collection series of sketches of my favorite artist, Karl Kopinski and both are masterpieces of the pencil drawing and the inking technique. I can’t tell you which one is better, both have amazing drawings in it.
The books are character based sketchbooks showing a variety of themes, from fantasy to sci-fi, superheroes, cycling or pirates. I fell in love with Karl’s work back in the days when he and Adrian Smith were working full time for Games Workshop. His work inspired me to become an artist myself and I will not be denied his work heavily influenced mine.
AS far as I know, the sketchbooks are self-publish so you can buy them at Karl´s website.
Here are the links:
Hope this information was useful to you. Stay tuned for more articles, tutorials and many more.
Toni Justamante Jacobs.

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