Photo Reference Sources

"Along these lines, has anyone tried the new National Geographic CD collection yet? Seems like it would be a great reference for illustrating people."

Yes, I have it Blair, ordered from Amazon. I got the 90's, and it's fun to use. You can print out the pages. I think I'll end up getting at least 2 more decades worth. They're about 13.00 per decade set.


Date: Tue, 31 Mar 1998 18:50:36 -0600
From: Martens

Another source is the Fairburn System of Visual Reference which is a series of books published by Mitchell Press. I bought the Children set which is three books of about 200 pages each with 20 or more photos on each page. They show infants to teens in many poses, situations and ethnic groups. The set was $189. They are going out of print and I know the Faces and Heads set was gone, but they may still have others. The address is: Mitchell Press, P.O. Box 6000, Vancouver, B.C. Canada.


A really great reference for kids in action is the L.L. Bean Kids catalog-they don't pose, all the kids are "doing" something (running, biking etc.). All you have to do is call L.L. Bean and request it.


Date: Thu, 10 Sep 1998 10:14:02 -0700
From: John Nez
Subject: Re: illustration: Regarding Photo Ref.


It's one of those things that drives me nuts.... seems like it takes forever to find just the right picture.

I remember last year I was looking for a picture of an oriental grandmother (had to be a side view)... sounds easy right? Took about an hour to dig one up.

No wonder I draw mostly from my imagination. I know reference is a part of many artists' whole procedure... for instance Norman Rockwell would spend weeks digging up the stage settings.

Illustration in that case would be something akin to Hollywood stage decoration... which actually sounds fun to me. I know in reading about Rockwell, he had trunks full of costumes, props and stuff. Also had telephone books full of models... And what's really amazing is that he couldn't draw at all without something in front of him to look at!

One of his grandchildren once asked him to draw a picture when he was reading a bedtime story ... and he couldn't do it without something to look at.

Anyhow, back to reference... I really like the internet for reference. I needed to put a character in a bicycle shop the other week...(bicycles are such a pain to draw!) With a quick trip to HotBot, I soon had about six bicycle shop backgrounds to choose from. Zip zip zip.... into photoshop.... transform layer... flip horizontal... stretch... tweak... finished! Layer in the penciled character... print it out... and it's back to the drawing table for tight pencils.


p.s. Anyone know of any good online encyclopedias with lots of photos?

Date: Thu, 10 Sep 1998 15:58:26 EDT
Subject: Re: illustration: Regarding Photo Ref.

A few more places to look are have a huge photolibrary (18,000 photos) and you can download there Low Res pics to use as ref. Also more photos... but but but ....we need to really be careful about the copyright issues here

-- "I found both the children's and the Hands and faces ones on the bargain tables at borders bookstore. It's all luck in finding them. If anyone wants, I can check if they have more copies. Let me know if you'd be interested and I'll buy them up!"

I think these are regularly in the catalog of R. Hamilton, Bookseller, who advertizes in American Artist (and probably the Artist's Magazine) each month. This is a great catalog of remaindered and out-of-print books.

- -pd

You may be interested in the book, Animals, 1419 Copyright-Free Illustrations of Mammals, Birds, Fish, Insects, etc. A Pictorial Archive from Nineteenth-Century Sources selected by Jim Harter, published by Dover (ISBN 0-486-23766-4). Pages 87 through 89 have rabbits on them. The book is a great buy (the one I bought had a list price of $9.95 US, less than one cent a picture).

Carl Ginnow

Here's a couple of URLs of stock photo companies online:

Or do a search on "stock photography" - they are all online these days.


Cut of Men's Clothes, Cut of Women's Clothes, Costume in Detail (1730 to1930), The History of Underclothing, Patterns of Fashion 1520 to 1620, P of F 1620 to 1860, P of F 1860 to 1940, History of Costume (Kohler), and a bunch more are available from Smoke and Fire Co.P.O. Box 166 Grand Rapids, OH 4322. Donlyn and Dave are great people.

Readers Digest has a good book called: Everyday Life Through The Ages" that has great costtume reference

I've found these site helpful, and some have links to other costume sites.

My favorite is a tome titled "Costume Patterns and Designs" by Max Tilke, published by Rizzoli. It has a ton of great ethnic and period illustrations, in color with all the detail you could ask for...

Another great resource is The History of Costume by Payne, Winakor, and Farrel-Beck. More of a text book really, it gives a good idea of each period's specific silhouette.

A real good book on costume is: 30,000 Years of Costumes (or fashion, don't remember as my ex got custody of it) by Boucher. Thick and well illustrated. Another good one is: Fashion: The Mirror of History by Michael and Ariane Batterberry. Again, very thick and well illustrated. The Historical Encyclopedia of costumes by Albert Racinet. The illustrations were created between 1876 and 1888. Covers a lot of ethnic costumes from around the world.

"The Chronicle of Western Fashion" (from ancient times to present day) MANY color plates with descriptions of type of "class" who wore them! Harry N. Abrams, Inc. Publishers by John Peacock copyright 1991 and "The Costume Timeline" (5000 years of Fashion History) Thames and Hudson (publishers) by Claudia Muller copyright 1993. These are fold up pull out pages. Mostly color images with some descriptions.

Your post got me thinking about the GOBS of catalogs I have as reference for children's clothing. Beyond just what kids are "wearing these days", I find certain catalogs very helpful in coordinating patterns and colors. At least it has given me a place to start with my imagination.

Here are a few examples:

(800) 375-6002

(800) 224-4396

(800) 543-7123


I have a book called "The Book of a Hundred Hands" by George B. Bridgeman that I use for reference when realism rears its ugly head and challenges my abilities.

It is one of those inexpensive Dover books.

- -Kevan (dexterously challenged)

George Bridgman's "Constructive Anatomy"

Burne Hogarth's "Drawing Dynamic Hands"

Joseph Sheppard's "Anatomy: A complete guide for Arists"

Date: Thu, 11 Feb 1999 13:40:51 PST
From: "David Hubbard"
Subject: Re: illustration: Drawing Hands-Book

The sign-language book I chose for hand reference material had some of the better looking hands; it's title is: The Perigee Visual Dictionary of Signing, by Rod R. Butterworth and Mickey Flodin

- -David T. Hubbard


I have a huge stash of fabric that I use for quilting that does give me lots of ideas for clothing patterns as well. I also saw at Borders in the art reference section, a bunch of thin paperback books that were just fabric patterns from various ethnic and/or time periods. I am planning on getting a couple.


Copying fabric patterns

Be careful because of the copyrights...there's such thing! You will need to find fabrics without copyrights or permissions from companies.


You bet! I just got one the other day-it is called: 127 Authentic Art Deco Patterns in Full Color by Aug. H. Thomas and G. Darcy It is just a thin paperback, but has a lot of really great designs in it.


I forgot who wanted to know more about using fabric in illustrations but here are a couple of good books that I have:

Fabric and Needlework Illustration, Graphic-sha Publishing Co., 1994. (Japanese, pricey but worth it)

Amazing Sculptural Illustration: Objects and Figures Constructed of Paper, Clay, Leather, Stone, Metal, Fabric, and Styrofoam, Graphic-sha Publishing Co., 1994 (Japanese, pricey but worth it)

3-Dimensional Illustration/Designing With Paper, Clay, Casts, Wood, Assemblage, Plastics, Fabric, Metal and Food by Ellen Rixford (may be out of print but I see it at Charrette's all the time)

Deidre Shearer, Work in Fabric & Thread, C&T Publishing, 1997. (beautiful portraits)

Fabric Sculpture: The Step-By-Step Guide and Showcase, Kathleen Ziegler and Nick Greico, Rockport, 1995.

Most of these should be available through Amazon or They all deal with illustrations using fabric.

Denise O.


Date: Fri, 12 Feb 1999 02:35:23 +1100
From: "Sonya Naumov"
Subject: Re: illustration: Drawing Hands - video captures

Hi all I've got a neat trick that I've used for my last 3 books. I illustrate for Better Homes and Gardens (Australia) and most of the illos involve hands holding plants, digging and general gardening stuff.

I recently put a video capture card into one of my computers so I can attach the video camera or video player to it. All I do is grab an unsuspecting friend or family member, shuv an object in their hands and shoot away...presto! Perfect instant stills that can be printed out, altered in PhotoShop and just traced. Saves heaps of time and developing needed. The last 10 illos I just finished are the best I've done so far hand-wise...I've always been pretty bad at hands and feet.

The same can be done with wildlife subjects from zoos etc. I'll have to get the old videos out of the zoo visits, rainforests and outback adventures from way back...there's a never-ending supply of reference material just waiting to be captured and no worries about copyright!

Date: Thu, 11 Feb 1999 10:19:21 -0800
From: Chad Greene
Subject: Re: illustration: Drawing Hands - video captures

no.. you don't need a digital camera to download your video...any video camera will work, with high 8, and digital giving you the best quality as far as resolution is concerned..

simply plug your camera into the video in -- on the video card.. and use programs such as adobe premiere to capture the frames onto your computer.. you can capture any amount of frames-- as long as you have to hard drive space to hold it! once the frames are on your computer, you can edit it.. add effects.. remove removes, etc.. and then plug into your VCR through the video out and record!

i have a video capture card.. and i use Premiere for this..


Back to the Library directory.