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9 Best Drawing Mannequins for Artists

drawing mannequin

123rf.com (Юлия Завалишина)

With the help of a drawing mannequin, artists can stop struggling to find the perfect pose reference photo every time (and worry about crediting them properly) and create their own instead. These bendable dolls are on-demand drawing figures to model for you. They come in a variety of sizes and styles from basic wooden manikins to hyper-realistic seamless dolls. A quality posing doll is a clever choice if you’re looking for gifts for graphic designers and other artists.

What Are the Best Drawing Mannequins for Artists?

Grey and black Wireframe Body Kun figures Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Helpful wireframe lines
  • Latest 2021 model
  • Trusted brand
Price: $50.00 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Hyper-realistic silicone action figure Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Ultra-realistic
  • Highly poseable
  • 28 points of articulation
Price: $89.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Two wooden poseable hands Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Both left and right hands
  • 12-inch size
  • Ball-joint wrist
Price: $25.89 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Wooden horse figure Amazon Customer Reviews
  • A blessing if you draw horses
  • Includes stand
  • Nice size
Price: $89.96 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Male and female anatomical models of muscle structures Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Two figures in the set
  • Half skin and half musculature
  • Includes removable stands
Price: $58.80 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Two female silicone dolls in bikinis sitting on a Coke can Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Small and easy to store
  • Amazing detail and movement
  • Realistic silicone build
Price: $47.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Family of wooden drawing manikins Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Four figures with stands
  • Three different sizes
  • Affordable
Price: $30.89 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
FDCFK female action figure with weapons and clothes Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Includes clothes
  • Realistic silicone posing doll
  • Highly flexible
Price: $383.90 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Black and grey human anatomy model half skeleton and half muscle Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Shows bones, muscle, and skin
  • Medical-school quality
  • Limbs are removeable
Price: $269.69 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Our Unbiased Reviews
  1. 1. EDITOR’S CHOICE: Tamashii Nations Body Kun New Wireframe Figures (6 Inches)

    • Wireframe lines for anatomy drawing
    • Great articulation
    • Joints are limited for natural posing
    • Male and female figures available
    • Too small for some
    • Female figure is stylized
    • Doesn't come with lots of accessories

    Bandai and Tamashii Nation’s new Wireframe Body Kun Figure is the latest edition of this famous line of drawing models and has a truly innovative addition that will make a huge difference when drawing. It seems simple, but these wireframe lines are great guides to help artists map out the three dimensional shapes of the body and get proper proportions.

    Most artists are trained to draw figures by starting with a skeleton stick figure and then blocking out the basic shapes of the body. This new design includes references for where those lines should go as well as the full 3D figure to add on top of that base scaffold. It’s a huge improvement over older models or Body Kun. 

    This new edition also has added joint limiters which help to stop the limbs from moving past normal ranges of motion. On older model dolls, you could twist their arms and legs into all sorts of positions that are generally impossible for most people. With these limiters, the dolls are constrained to a more normal range of motion allowing for more natural-looking poses.

    It’s available as the male figure Body Kun featured above (5.9 inches tall) and the female figure Body Chan (5.3 inches tall). They both come with four sets of hands in different positions for eight total hands.

    They are pretty small to work from directly but great for setting up your pose, taking a photo of it, and then working from there. For their small size, they have great articulation and you can get a lot of nice poses out of them. I own an older version of the Body Kun and Body Chan figures so I can say that I’m impressed with the type of motion you can get. 

    To see the Body Kun line in action and the best ways to get the most out of your figures, check out this review on YouTube

    If you like this style but want something that has a little more life to it, try a 1000 Toys TOA.

  2. 2. Phicen M33 1/6-Scale Seamless Silicone Figure (12-Inches)

    • 28 points of articulation
    • Ultra-realistic
    • Silione with stainless steel skeleton
    • Includes three sets of hands
    • Head sold separately
    • R-rated anatomically correct accessories
    • Doesn't include stand

    The Phicen M33 1/6-Scale Seamless Silicone Figure proves that we’ve come a long way since blank-faced crude wooden dolls. It’s ultra-realistic at a 1/6 scale size with incredible detail. This action figure style doll is made up of a stainless steel skeleton covered in stretchy silicone which provides all the shape of the muscles. This seamless silicone shell stretches as the body bends allowing for more realistic shapes of the muscles. 

    With 28 points of articulation, this doll allows for precise posing exactly how you want it. Phicen dolls are a great choice for people looking for a drawing reference doll and especially for comic artists because you can set it up to match the pose you need and then slightly change as needed for the next panel.

    They’re customizable to an extent as well. You can dress them in 1/6 scale clothing and you can choose a head (called a sculpt) that best matches your character to add to your figure.

    That’s important to note–this doll does not come with a head. It is headless to start with but you can choose from a wide variety of 1/6 scale Phicen head sculpts to get the look you want.

    It comes with three sets of hand (six total) in different hand shapes because the fingers themselves are not poseable. You get the black wrist and ankle bands along with those black underwear. It also includes a set of three male anatomy additions in different positions and sizes that attach to the base “Ken-doll” pelvis–so just be aware that will be in the box.

    You may also want to pick up a figure stand to make more dynamic and gravity-defying poses easier. 

  3. 3. Wooden Left & Right Articulated Hand References (12 Inches)

    • Articulated joints are poseable
    • Two hands, left and right
    • Nice size
    • Affordable
    • Thumbs have limited range
    • Only hands
    • Not anatomically correct

    Drawing hands is the bane of most artists’ existence so make it just a little bit easier with these Articulated Hand Models. You get two 12-inch wooden hand models, one for the left hand and one for the right hand. This makes them close to actual size (depending on the person, obviously).

    Each finger joint is carefully articulated to hold the pose of your choice and even the wrist has some movement in it, although not a full range of motion. It’s not highly detailed like some anatomical models but they did go the extra mile to add the outline of fingernails which is a nice touch. 

    If you prefer something smaller, a seven-inch set of wooden reference hands is also an option.

    For  more hand references, you can also check out nail practice hands used by nail technicians to learn how to give manicures. They have some impressively realistic articulated silicone hands to work with.

  4. 4. US Art Wooden Horse Manikin (12-Inches)

    • Horses are so hard to draw
    • Built-in stand can adjust the angle
    • Good detail with hooves and tail
    • Nice as a decoration too
    • Not for human figure drawing
    • Neck isn't bendable
    • Elevated off the ground when level

    If you or someone you’re shopping for draws horses, just put this Wooden Horse Manikin directly in your cart right now. Rendering horses well is notoriously difficult. Horses are gorgeous creatures but if you’re going strictly by anatomy, they are sanity-rending, toenail-walking nightmares. 

    This 12-inch wooden horse model is highly articulated with joints that stay where you place them so you can get the exact position you need. A knob allows you to adjust the angle of the horse on the stand so you can make the figure buck or rear up on its hind legs. I love that they made the effort to add a hair-like tail instead of going with wood so you can get a better idea of how gravity would affect a horse’s tail. 

    There are a couple of downsides to this. Obviously, it’s only good for horses so if you only rarely find you need to draw a horse, it might be a tool you don’t need. On the other hand, having this might make you want to draw horses more. The neck of the horse is not poseable which is a bummer. Finally in order to allow the horse room to rear up, the hooves don’t sit on the ground when the horse is level. That’s fine as long as you’re not trying to set up a scene with another doll and need them on the same plane.

  5. 5. Male & Female Anatomical Art Mannequin Set (11 Inches)

    • Male and female figure
    • Ideal for anatomy studies
    • Split skin and muscle structures
    • Modeled after real people
    • Not posable
    • Not everyone wants anatomical figures
    • Too adult for some

    This Anatomical Art Mannequin Set comes with two 11-inch resin figures, one male and one female. They are exactly what you need for doing anatomical studies on how to draw the musculature of the human body and the way skin lays on top of it. You also get two black base stands that the figures fit into but are also removable.

    Each figure is split in half with one side showing a normal skin view and the other half showing écorché which is the term for an artist’s work showing the human body with the skin removed. Having these two sides represented is a huge benefit because you can compare what the muscle structures look like on one side and with what the skin looks like layered on top of that muscle. 

    The mannequins are highly detailed and accurate to 1/6 scale. They were sculpted from real athletes and they specify “live athletes” so they aren’t copies of cadavers. 

    They are fixed sculptures so you can’t pose them as a reference tool. While they aren’t sculpted after the Ken-doll model and might be too R-rated for some to keep on their desk, the anatomy is fairly subtle and not complete. 

  6. 6. Phicen TBLeague 1/12-Scale TO3A Seamless Silicone Figure (6 Inches)

    • Realistic silicone body
    • Body, head, hand set, and feet set
    • Comes with a stand and base
    • Articulated steel skeleton
    • Too small for some
    • Not as detailed as the 1/6 scale models
    • Included head isn't what is shown

    If you’re looking for something smaller, check out Phicen’s 1/12 scale line like this TO3A Seamless Silicone Figure. It has a soft, stretchy silicone body and articulated stainless steel skeleton, just like the larger Phicen dolls but in a more pint-size six-inch form. You can see them to scale next to this Coca-Cola can. 

    The TO3A model is a feminine version with a slender body and not too much muscle definition. They are highly poseable though not quite as much as the larger versions. Their proportions are good and not overly exaggerated in the chest.

    It comes with one doll body, one blank head sculpt, three pairs of hands (six total), two pairs of feet (four total), a bikini, wrist bands, ankle bands, and a stand with base. I love that the doll includes a stand to keep it upright and that this one comes with a head sculpt. Do keep in mind that the head that comes with this is not the head that is pictured above. 

  7. 7. 4-Piece Wooden Manikin Family (12.5 Inches & Shorter)

    • Classic wooden mannequin
    • Removeable base
    • Set of four figures
    • Articulated limbs stay in place
    • Affordable
    • Interactive poses
    • Very little hip movement
    • Doesn't provide muscular structure
    • Child proportions aren't exact

    Sometimes there’s no replacement for the original, but you can up the ante with this Four-Piece Wooden Manikin Family. It comes with two parents and two children of different sizes. The adults are both 12.5-inch manikins, one child is 7.8 inches tall, and the smallest doll is 5.5 inches tall. 

    With a set of four, you’re able to set up interactive group poses. Groups are much more difficult to block out with only one doll filling all the roles. Each doll has articulated joints including poseable hands and feet and a tilting head. They come with a base stand that allowed them to stand on their own and stay in gravity-defying poses. This stand is removable so you can also work with them without it. 

    They are just basic wooden dolls so don’t expect them to have the same level of posing as a more expensive reference doll. The hips are in particular pretty stiff. They’re also lacking the anatomical accuracy and musculature detail that other dolls provide. 

  8. 8. FDCJK Painkiller Jane 1/6 Scale Silicone Reference Figure (12 Inches)

    • Includes full set of clothes
    • Seamless silicone figure
    • Accessories are highly detailed
    • Steel skeleton
    • Only one set of hands and feet
    • Might not fit your character look
    • Unclear what is included

    Painkiller Jane by FDCJK is a seamless silicone figure with a stainless steel posable skeleton and molded silicone body. She’s designed to be accurate to a 1/6 scale and she’s around 12 inches tall which is a nice size for a posing doll.

    Silicone figures like this are nice for pose references because they have more realistic body shapes. Unlike stiff plastic figures, the silicone structure of their muscles and skin actually stretches when their limbs are manipulated. 

    The title states that this doll comes with a figure and a full set of clothes. They aren’t specific in what is included in that “full set” of clothes and if that includes all the accessories shown or the head sculpt. Some parts of the listing suggest everything shown is included and other sections (that are less specific to this particular model) say they aren’t. Going from other FDCJK listings of similar prices (like this male mercenary soldier) that are more clear that all the accessories are included, I would think you’re get everything shown.

  9. 9. Full-Body Human Anatomy Study Model (23.6 Inches)

    • Accurate enough for medical education
    • Shows several levels of anatomy
    • Limbs are held on by magnets
    • Also available with female anatomy
    • Not poseable
    • May not want an anatomy manikin
    • Very accurate--not a Ken doll

    The Vacoomcom 60-centimeter Full-Body Human Anatomy Study Model is a good choice for artists looking to improve their grasp of human anatomy. Vacoomcom anatomical models are suitable for both artists and medical education so you know there’s been great attention to detail to make the anatomy as accurate as possible. 

    The model shows multiple layers of the human body including skin, muscle, and skeleton. The figure has two halves so each side has a different set of structures showing like the face being a skull on one side and muscle fibers on the other. This way, you can see what different layers build on top of each other.

    At 23.6 inches tall, it’s bigger than many artist reference dolls allowing for greater detail, but not so big that it’s bulky. Each arm, leg, and head is held in place with a magnet so they can be detached for closer study and to get a better 360-degree visual of the structures. 

    Keep in mind that it’s not poseable so it’s not a good choice for people looking for a pose reference model. Also, when I say it’s anatomically correct, I mean everything. He’s not a Ken doll if you know what I mean. So if that’s a concern for you, you might want to skip this one. 

    Vacoomcom also sells this doll as a Set of Two with a male and female figure. 

How Do You Use a Wooden Mannequin for Drawing?

The typical wooden mannequin, like this one from HSOMiD, is what most people think of when they think of a drawing figure doll. It's what most artists start out with because they're affordable and easy to find. 

These mannequins are good for practicing getting comfortable with proper proportions for the human body. You can also position the doll to get a vague shape when you need a pose reference for a drawing. 

Dolls like this are fairly crudely shaped and not detailed so if you're looking for a realistic pose reference doll you'll need to move onto ball-joint dolls and silicone options. 

Is It Only for Pose References?

Higher quality pose dolls are more than just stick figures to help you understand how to render arms the right length. There are 3D anatomical drawing figures (like this Bonew figure) that help you to understand the muscle structure of humans that lies beneath our skin. Understanding the foundation will help you draw people more accurately.

Some art education programs even start deeper and have students focus on drawing skeletons first to nail down the proportions before adding anything on top.

The great Rennasainse masters, including Michelangelo, studied cadavers to gain a better understanding of anatomy and the human form. Most artists these days (I'd say all artists but who knows what some of y'all get up to) don't have access to human cadavers to study muscles in 3D so an anatomical doll is a good study guide.

What's the Difference Between a Drawing Figure, a Mannequin, and an Artist's Manikin? 

That sounds like the lead-up to a cheesy joke, doesn't it? The truth is, they're just different names for the same thing. I've also heard them called sketching dolls, pose reference dolls, and art mannequins.

What Is the Right Artist's Manikin for You?

That depends on your art style and what you'll be needing it for. 

Comic and graphic novel artists may want to go for something like a seamless silicone doll like this one from HiPlay because they allow for great movement of limbs and have a more realistic structure than a bare-bones wooden doll. You can get them in all sorts of body types and the heads are interchangeable for different characters you're working with. 

If your ultimate goal is realism, start with an anatomical doll to study the underlying structures.

For those who prefer more freedom, plainer ball-joint dolls don't have quite the range of motion as higher-end dolls but they get the job done and provide a good framework of the human shape.

Why Not Just Use A Photograph for Poses?

Unless you're specifically using an open-source reference photo, you have to be careful with your artwork. Depending on the photo, you might need to credit the original artist. According to lawyer and photographer, Rachel Brenke, if someone makes a drawing based on a photograph, that photographer might be able to bring a copyright lawsuit against the artist.

By using your own 3D models, you can create the poses you want without having to worry about any of this legal stuff and get right to creating your artwork.

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