7 Reference Tools Every Artist Should Have in Their Studio

Drawing Reference Tools

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Learning how to draw isn't a straight line. While practice and studying can definitely help you improve your skills, sometimes you need a little bit of extra help. Reference tools can demystify difficult subjects like human anatomy and perspective so that you can stop struggling and start creating.

We've put together a list of seven different devices that you can add to your toolkit right now. From wooden hand manikins to handheld proportion scales, you're sure to find some use out of these utensils.

Scroll down to see our list of must-have drawing reference tools.


Check out our list of must-have drawing reference tools. 


Hand Manikin

Blick Hand Manikin

Blick | $25.19

Hands are often considered to be one of the most difficult subjects to draw. Fortunately, wooden hand manikins can make it a lot easier. These life-size models are easy to manipulate into different gestures and poses, making them a must-have tool for artists that draw, paint, sculpt, and more.


Human Figure Manikin

Human Manikin

Blick | $8.26

Understanding human anatomy can be tricky, and while photograph references can be useful, a wooden figure manikin provides other advantages. These tiny helpers have ball joints so that you can twist and turn them into a variety of poses.


Self-Portrait Mirror

This self-portrait mirror by Creativity Street makes capturing oneself much easier. Each one is made of durable, scratch-resistant acrylic so that it can hold up to travel and years of use. Plus, its can stand securely on any flat surface so that you can study your likeness undisturbed.



The ViewCatcher may be small, but it's chockfull of functions. Made of durable plastic in neutral gray #5, this lightweight tool helps artists determine composition, crop images, and identify color value.


Proportion Scale

Proportional Scale

Westcott | $5.52

The Westcott Proportion Scale can be used for a variety of artist activities, including framing and scaling sketches, as well as altering artwork digitally.


Picture Clip

Sketch Holder

Blick | $19.17

If you like to work from photos or sketches, then the Picture Clip is an ideal tool. It easily attaches to a canvas stretcher bar, so that you can keep your reference at eye level.


Compose It Grid

Need a little help understanding perspective and composition? Compose It Grids are the perfect utensil. Made of thick acrylic, you can use a dry erase marker to sketch directly onto the grid. Then, you can transfer that drawing to your medium of choice, like a canvas or paper.


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Margherita Cole

Margherita Cole is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met and illustrator based in Southern California. She holds a BA in Art History with a minor in Studio Art from Wofford College, and an MA in Illustration: Authorial Practice from Falmouth University in the UK. She wrote and illustrated an instructional art book about how to draw cartoons titled 'Cartooning Made Easy: Circle, Triangle, Square' that was published by Walter Foster in 2022.
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