Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Male Form: Stock Resources and Inspiration

When women paint women, we tend to find it easier than painting men. We absorb visual reference from all around us, and so when we starting to paint or draw men, we can find ourselves unconsciously falling back on the features and forms we know best - the ones we see in the mirror every day. This is why sometimes our guys can start to turn out unintentionally androgynous or feminine, and we have to forcibly correct ourselves.

Another reason it can be tougher to paint men is the lack of good reference material. The female form is definitely more popular with photographers and artists, and women just seem more willing to strip down and dress up in the name of good stock photography. You might have a boyfriend or a spouse at home, but they may not like being photographed and if they are, do they even have the right look or body type for your subject? (Incidently, if you do happen to have a gorgeous, sexy and ripped male partner who is completely happy to strip off and pose all day long; firstly, I hate you, and secondly, any chance you could share the photos?) However, there are resources for the male form out there if you know where to look, and I'm going to share some of my favourites here.

Most of these are on DeviantArt, except for a few at the end, and are therefore free to view (though not neccesarily to use)

DeviantArt Stock Photographers

DeviantArt figure stock artists are seriously generous individuals who make life a lot easier for many artists, by setting up a home made photography studio and providing the dA community with a wealth of human reference - nude, costumed, modernly clothed, with props, with varied lighting, poses and locations! The boys can be hard to find, but you'll find a few of the best here. I'll note whether you can expect nudity or not. I will also link to their terms of use where applicable. These guys are artists doing a community service, which does not mean their stock is free for all and any purposes. Some may prohibit commercial, or outside of dA use, while others just want to see the final picture when you're done. Please respect their rules.

Deviant: Justmeina
Stock Type: Full nudes. Classic. Great for fine art studies and general reference.
Terms of Use:

Deviant: JadeMacalla
Stock Type: Action man! Guns, combat and extreme activity poses
Terms of Use: - See footer

Deviant: MJRanum-Stock
Stock Type: Male and Female. MJRanum photographs mostly females (costumed AND nude) with a fetish theme, but he has some great male models too, who are all clothed for now. You can go directly to his male stock here, although I highly recommend the rest of his gallery. Fantastic costumes and professional quality.
Terms of Use:

Deviant: Watchstock
Stock Type: Full body nudes, but the face is always concealed. So, good for figure drawing and muscle studies.
Terms of Use: Unavailable, but he states here that no permission is needed for using his stock, and his main goal is education. I would recommend you contact him and check before doing anything commercial with his stock.

Deviant: Tigg-Stock
Stock Type: Male and Female. Male stock is here. Modern, clothed, urban style, with some nice face close ups.
Terms of Use: See "Stock Rules" on their main page. You may need to scroll down.

Deviant: Lindowyn-Stock
Stock Type: Male and Female. Male stock is here. Fantasy style costumes, with a few modern and quirky ones thrown in for good measure. Both outdoor and studio shots.
Terms of Use:

Deviant: Katanaz-Stock
Stock Type: Male and Female. Male stock is here. Modern fashion and mostly fully clothed, though there are a few yummy shirtless guys. Professional quality!
Terms of Use:

Deviant: Snak-Stock
Stock Type: Bond. James Bond. Fully clothed, modern/urban fashion, plus action poses with swords and guns.
Terms of Use:

Deviant: B-e-c-k-y-Stock
Stock Type: Male and Female. Very cool sports, music and dance action shots, mixed in with beautiful full body and face portraits. Male stock is not separated, but it's a small gallery and I highly recommend looking at it all.
Terms of Use:

Deviant: Jesper-Stock
Stock Type: Varied outfits and styles - modern/costume/gothic. Some underwear shots but no full nudes.
Terms of Use:

Deviant: Felixdeon
Stock Type: Full nudes, and some group/action shots.
Terms of Use:

Figure Photography

Sometimes stock isn't enough, or sometimes you aren't looking for a stock photo. Sometimes you just want some inspiration, or you're struggling with complicated lighting (which most stock doesn't come with), or you want to see more of a variety in muscle definition or bone structure. This is where checking out the artistic photographer galleries comes in handy. I've found galleries chock full of sensual, gorgeous nude or semi nude men which are SO instructive for learning about the way strong light falls across a ripped body, or how those particular muscles bunch that way, or getting inspiration for poses, or studying skin in high res, perfect detail, or a hundred other little things. Including lifting my mood. What they AREN'T for, of course, is outright copying, as they are fully finished pieces of art by themselves and the photographers or models are posting them as portfolio pieces. So...

DO: Look, Admire, Get inspired
DON'T: Copy, Trace, Manipulate.

Of course, I'm sure I don't really need to tell this to the majority of you.

Name: Phil Wood
Nudes: Yes, artistic.

Name: Sita Mae Edwards
Nudes: Yes, artistic/fashion, male and female. The gallery has mostly female models, but she has amazing male models too and they aren't hard to find.

Name: Fabien Bosdedore
Nudes: Yes, artistic/emotive, and a variety of ethnicities too.

Name: Andre Pizaro
Nudes: No, but fashion/glamour type photography, so some underwear shots.

Name: Raymond Corbett
Nudes: Yes, classic/artistic/fetish (pretty mild, though)

Name: Tony Gibble
Nudes: Yes, artistic/glamour

Name: Michael Kilgore
Nudes: Yes, artistic/glamour

Other Resources

Character Designs: An Artist's Resource

Character Designs is a free site for - you guessed it - character designers. My favourite part is the free photosets (under Archives>Photosets) which are high resolution and professionally shot. Most have an interesting twist be it dynamic lighting or a gorgeous costume, and there are a ton of poses to choose from in each different set. Most of the sets feature female models, but look down the list and you'll see a few with male models too.


Tons of royalty free, high res stock photos especially for fantasy and science fiction artists, featuring male and female models posing as knights, samurai, barbarians, space troopers and more! Most you have to pay to download, but it can be as little as a few dollars per photo and they have few really nice free samples for download too.

Human Anatomy For Artists

From the same people behind 3Dsk, this is a subscribers only site (although they do have a handful of free samples), and they have a huge database of models in all shapes, sizes and sexes, used by professional games companies and 3D modellers/concept artists. Check out the site to get an idea of what they have to offer, subscription options, and pricing.

Image Credits:
Above: "Body Paint Study" ©2008-2009 Melissa Findley
Based on "Body Paint 3" (Stock) ©2006-2009 Becky Van Ommen

Image used here with the artist's permission


  1. Thanks a lot for sharing all these resources with us!

  2. Great article, Louisa! Thanks for compiling all those links. Must get to painting some dudes, now! :)

  3. Thank you! You are so right, those are some of the reasons I don't paint that many men.

  4. Oh wow, this is a great post, thanks very much for sharing!
    Have you ever seen vishstudio's profile on Deviantart? He has an enormous collection of male nudes, and they're all completely free for use.

  5. Some wonderful stock here! Thanks so much for turning my eye towards them. I'd like to add Darknight-stock at DA to the list as well. Wonderful model with a muscular form and plenty of action poses.

  6. hello Louisa!! just found your delightful blog, loved it! thank you so very much for the links, sometimes I go nuts looking for male poses. those are amazing galleries, and I'll certainly make good use of them. I'll be coming back more often. hugs!!