Five Artist Manikin Must Haves
By Melissa K. Vassar-Belloso
Drawing the human figure is no simple task. It requires understanding perspective,estimating lighting , and of course having a good grasp of the structure of the human body. But even the best artist needs references and tools sometimes. We’ve all seen the classic wooden manikin and it definitely still has its usefulness, but today on Creative 5 we’ll be looking at artist manikins that will make you reconsider that old-fashioned wooden drawing manikin on your shelf as your go-to drawing buddy.
Why Use Artist Manikins?
Artist manikins can be a great resource to have if you do any sort of figure drawing. They not only save you money and time by making it unnecessary to hire a model or search for reference pictures, but they can also be great as educational tools. Having a physical model can sometimes add to the process of gaining a better understanding of the human form and add a benefit not found in using a 2-D picture as a reference. It allows you to understand how the body moves,bends, and looks as a 3-D object and can even help you understand concepts of lighting and perspective when used creatively.
If you don’t own an artist manikin or maybe own a very basic one not benefiting you how it should, then this article is for you. While the classic and gender ambiguous wooden manikin still has its place of honor,manikins have come a long way. Many newer ones are much more versatile and better articulated so you can go beyond the limitations of the classic wooden models. This means you can create more distinctive poses and have a better point of reference for the anatomy as well as gain a much tighter grasp of understanding the structure of the human body as a bonus. So whether you’re shopping for your first manikin or looking to replace that wooden relic you’ve been using, I hope you can find some benefit from this article as we explore the new generation of drawing manikins and what they can add to your creative process.
Top Factors in Choosing a Manikin
A good drawing manikin is an investment, so it helps to know what to look for before dropping your hard-earned dollars on one. The key thing is to start by understanding your needs. Some models work better for different styles of art and they will obviously range in cost which means you have to consider your budget.
Today I will be grading the manikins on the following points:
Artist manikins like most art supplies vary in price, so when I look at how affordable they are, I will be weighing that in comparison to what value the actual product brings to a process. While some really are unreasonably priced, there’s no way to sugarcoat that you will need to shell out some bucks for a decent artist manikin. The lower end pricing for most of the manikins I searched was $26.00-$50.00 so if you want a good manikin,expect to shell out at least that much and times it by two to account for getting a male and female model.
Level of Articulation
In comparison to the tiny number of adjustable parts on a classic wooden manikin, most newer ones have 20-30+ points of articulation. The more articulation points the manikin has, the more dynamically you can pose it. Having more points of articulation will probably raise the price on the manikin but in the long run it also adds value and makes it more of an investment.
Some models will be more versatile and useful than others. Certain ones on the list are designed to be closer to true anatomy than others but other factors such as the figure accessories, can also add to how useful the figure is and what mileage you can get on using it.
As with all my other lists, I’d like to put it out there that this is my opinion. The list is meant to get you jump started into a topic so I would encourage you to do your own research on these and any other artist manikins you come across and make your own decision before spending money on them. If you feel like I’ve misjudged a product or missed something, definitely let me know but also remember it’s okay if you don’t completely agree with me.
If you want to buy the figures on the list, I was able to find all of them listed on Amazon for pretty reasonable prices so I would suggest trying there first. You can also try an art store like Dick Blick, Art Supply Warehouse, Art Supply Wholesale, or Jerry’s Artarama.
Body-Kun and it’s female counterpart Body-Chan are a set of very nicely articulated drawing manikins released by S.H. Figuarts. While they are arguably a bit stylized, they have the unique trait of coming with accessories they can actually hold properly and different sets of hands. They do have some less anime looking versions available called Figma-Kun and Figma-Chan and from what I can tell the figures work well if you buy props from Figma to use with them. The main site for the figures is here but you can also find them on Amazon as well. Please note you may need to translate the Figma page as it is a Japanese company.
Affordability:5/5 Level of Articulation:5/5 Versatility/Usefulness:5/5
Body-Kun and Body-Chan are definitely setting the bar higher in terms of what’s possible in an artist manikin. They are definitely an investment in my opinion and have been on my own wishlist for a long time. If you’re worried about the stylized bodies I would take a look at the Figma versions and keep in mind that these are probably some of the best articulated and readily available artist manikins you’re going to find out there right now.
# 2 Art S. Buck Artist Model
This particular manikin is one I can personally give a thumbs up on since I own multiple versions of them. They are very well constructed and nicely articulated. You can especially trust the good construction because I put everything I own to the test by either dropping it,misusing it, or finding some other way to unintentionally destroy it but these things are still in one piece after over five years of ownership. They are a little closer to being anatomically accurate then Body-chan and Body-kun and the stands are arguably not that great but these are still great figures that will last and come in handy over and over again.
Affordability:5/5 Level of Articulation:4.5/5 Versatility/Usefulness:4.5/5
These figures are a great investment and built to last. They are only slightly less articulated than Body-Kun and Body-Chan but around the same price point and with a more accurate anatomical build for those who really want one more realistic looking model to work with.
#3 Figma (Archetype)
Now I had a little bit of confusion on this entry. While there does seem to be some tie between Figma-Kun and Figma-chan most sites I looked at for reference designate they are in fact something separate from Figma’s archetype line. I could be wrong about that though. Whatever the case, these figures do appear to have a lot of similar traits to Body-kun and Body-chan as some do come with extra hands and Figma also sells a nice range of accessories that they are scaled to go with. They will probably be the hardest to get your hands on as the listings for them on Amazon are sparse and searching Figma’s site is entertaining but somewhat daunting and there may be a currency issue since they are a Japanese company.
Affordability:3.5/5 Level of Articulation:4/5 Versatility/Usefulness:3.5/5
If you’re a weirdo like me and digging for a product you want doesn’t bother you than you may still want to go for this one. If anything I’d definitely check out the accessories and some of the truly weird figures they do have on the site.
#4 Obitsu Manga Figure
Obitsu is a name that might sound familiar to you if you have any interest in balljoint dolls. While balljoint dolls and other dollmaking supplies are their claim to fame,they also have a set of manga style drawing manikins you can buy. Unlike the picks so far, these ones have less articulation and on top of being harder to find they are extremely stylized in body. It’s also important to note that you can simply buy a basic obitsu body as well and they might be of better build than these and worth a higher price tag. I did find listings for the Obitsu manga figures on Amazon and this site. If you’d like to check out the regular Obitsu bodies check out Parabox .
Affordability:3.5/5 Level of Articulation:3/5 Versatility/Usefulness:3/5
They are definitely a step up from a basic wooden manikin but in my opinion are a bit overpriced and not articulated enough. If you do want a very manga oriented figure they might be worth checking out at the very least.
While there are the least fancy item on the list, I found them to be really interesting. Magnepoze is an upgrade to the basic wooden manikin that adds magnets to the feet and hands.thus adding a little more pose versatility to the old classic
Affordability:5/5 Level of Articulation:2.5/5 Versatility/Usefulness:3.5/5
If you do love the true blue classic of a wooden manikin then I would highly recommend this one. They are super affordable and a nice upgrade to a classic staple in art supplies.
Bonus! #6 Doodle Man/Woman
These ones were too weird to not add to the list. The Doodle Man and woman are two of the four figures I found in this line. There’s also a dog and cat. I think they’re really interesting looking and present a unique approach to studying the human body.
Affordability:5/5 Level of Articulation:4/5 Versatility/Usefulness:3.5/5
While I wouldn’t be likely to buy these myself, I think they would appeal to someone and are just really interesting little manikins.
Other Essential Figures
By now you’re probably thinking about your options for a better artist manikin, but there’s more than one kind of manikin out there that you should consider essential. So far we’ve just talked about ones that are full body and ideal for pose references.
Here are a few other Manikins and figures you might want to consider adding to your shelf:
Hands are by far one of the most challenging things to draw when it comes to drawing people. That’s why if you’ve never thought of investing in a hand manikin,you definitely should. It’s a great reference to practice or just to make sure you’ve drawn a hand correctly in a picture. Having a larger scale reference of a hand makes a big difference and gives you a great tool to understand the structure of the hand more over time. You can buy a hand manikin at most art stores and while you may not see it’s value right away, it will more than pay for itself over time in the benefits it gives you when it comes to mastering drawing hands.
Understanding the skeleton can go a long way when it comes to blocking and understanding the body. Likewise, knowing the skull can be a great boost in your skills in drawing faces. Knowing where things are makes a big difference in figure drawing and while you may not use it every time,having some good models of the skeleton and skull will pay off over time and help remind you how the body is put together at its most basic level.
All the figures I’ve talked about in the main part of the article have the bonus that they can be lightly considered anatomical models but they’re main boon is being poseable. What’s just a important is understanding anatomy and for that you need a model focused on not posing but rather showing the detail of the more intricate parts of human anatomy under the skin. Some of the best ones I found were at 3D Total Shop and anatomical figures.com but you can definitely search around other sites for similar products. These models aren’t poseable but they’ll definitely help you understand the planes of the face, the muscles of the body, and even expressions at a much higher level.
So that is it for this issue of Creative 5. Whether you’re shopping for your first one or looking for something new and better, I hope this article can point you toward the perfect artist manikin for you and then some.
Thanks for reading this issue of Creative 5!
Do you agree or disagree with me? Do you use artist manikins? What artist manikin is your favorite? Please feel free to let me know by leaving a comment or using the contact form on my site here to reach out to me. Also if you like my work and would like to see more of it or support it I’d love it if you’d check out my Patreon page or follow me on Facebook or Twitter via @themeinav! Also, big thanks and due credit to the Body Kun product website,Art Supply Warehouse,fineartstore.com,Amazon, and Art Supply Wholesale for the product images.