Every artist’s creative process involves the use of references. Even though each artist has a distinct style, they need to find inspiration somewhere. Before the creative process begins, an artist or designer examines a reference image (which can be a drawing or a photo) to better portray details, get additional information, or generate ideas. Alternatively, when you are employed for a project, you need to show references to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Remember: the better your understanding of a project is, the more accurate the outcome will be.
Searching for a reference is a creative research process. It involves studying the works of other photographers, designers, creators, and artists, analyzing them, and choosing the best ones. It takes a lot of time to find a reference, yet there are situations when you don’t have time to do so. It’s useful to have a list of sources where you can quickly find what you need.
We’ve compiled a list of resources with references for artists, designers, and animators. They’re sorted into sections for your convenience.
Stock content platforms such as © Depositphotos offer photos for reference. Depositphotos has a huge library with files on any topic. The site includes pictures of nature, landscapes, food, interior items, clothing, animals, people, and faces.
Pinterest and Tumblr are popular resources for searching and storing photo references. Here you can find illustrations, videos, animated GIFs, and many types of artwork.
PhotoBash.co is a great site where you can purchase full packs of references. The resources on the site are designed for photobashing, but they can also be used as references.
DeviantArt is one of the largest online art communities with a diverse range of artwork, videography, and photography.
Google Arts & Culture is a service that provides cultural image collections. Classic paintings, landmark photos, exhibitions, and expositions of museums from all over the world. You can also “walk” through galleries and museums online.
Line of Action, Quick Poses, SketchDaily Reference Site are reference websites where you can find a variety of timed practices on drawing hands, feet, poses, faces, expressions, animals, and landscapes. You can choose how many photos you want shown in one practice, and how long each drawing should take. You can find the perfect pose reference photo on these websites.
Human Anatomy for Artist and Female Anatomy for Artist are two large libraries of ultra-high resolution anatomy photo references.
Anatomy360 is a site with 3D scans of different people and body parts. The majority of scans have a price and are only available via an app. Each scan has to be bought separately. Free screenshots of 3D models are available on the site.
Folio Montreal is a fashion website that features editorial portraits shot by professional photographers. It showcases hundreds of different models, providing a diverse spectrum of faces. This resource is perfect for drawing front, profile, and three-quarter angle views, as well as the same face in different expressions.
This Person Does Not Exist is a site with photos of fake faces created by artificial intelligence. Despite being generated by an algorithm, portraits appear to be very realistic. You need to refresh the page to see a new photo.
Onehundredone is a library with photos of men, women, and children’s faces. You can sort materials by age.
Only the best portraits is a site with hand-picked portraits from 500px, Flickr, Instagram, Pinterest, and Tumblr.
Clothing and Fashion
The Met’s Costume Institute is a costume reference library and one of the world’s first fashion libraries. It contains a collection of more than 33,000 objects that represent seven centuries of fashionable clothing and accessories for men, women, and children.
Demobaza is a site with a photo collection of apocalyptic outfit designs.
The Sartorialist Blog contains fashion for both men and women, as well as daily looks.
Set of Pinterest fashion boards: Cultural + Historical Costume is a photo collection of ethnic clothing and costumes from different cultures, both traditional and modern iterations.
Props and Environment
Malopolska’s Virtual Museums is a collection of free 3D models from various museum exhibitions in Poland. Rare vases, decorations, furniture, plaques, and antique clocks are among the heritage pieces.
BoneClones is a gift shop with osteological reproductions that sells bones and skulls. Fossil hominids, zoological items, paleontology items, non-human primates, and forensics sets are among the items on display.
Google Earth and MapCrunch are services with a 3D representation of Earth. You can select a random mode and travel to an unknown location.
Technique and Weapons
Guns is a website that sells guns and collectables.
Pinterest Boards: Weapon References and Weapon & Armor have numerous images of futuristic and realistic weapons, as well as armor.
IndustryForever is a large photo archive of automobiles, planes, ships, motorcycles, and other equipment.
X6UD is full of animal photo references from different perspectives.
Yudy Sauw contains photos of insects in macro mode from an Indonesian photographer.
WildLife Reference provides a large archive of affordable wildlife photos for reference.
Textures, Share Textures, Quixel, Poly Haven are websites that provide digital images of various materials. Fabrics, wood, metals, bricks, plastic, and a variety of other materials can be found. Textures are images that can be utilized for graphic design, visual effects, computer games, and in any other occasion where a good pattern or background image is required.
AmbientCG is a great site for texture downloads, as well as free public domain PBR materials, photogrammetric textures, and substance files.
The Pattern Library website offers a large number of textures and templates.
Character Design References is a large visual library for animators. The library’s materials are organized into specific boards.
Traditional Animation is a site with a big collection of model sheets. They feature characters from a range of cartoons, including Batman, Garfield, and Mickey Mouse.
Sakugabooru is a site with GIFs from numerous cartoons.
References allow artists to have a better understanding of their subject. Don’t limit yourself to looking at trending photos on Google Search when it comes to references. Many artists use identical photos from the same sources, and the search results are, for the most part, the same for everyone. Movies, TV shows, cartoons, clips, art exhibitions, ads, illustrations, paintings, computer games, and anything that has already been rendered can be used as a reference.