The Creative Portfolio of Melissa K. Vassar-Belloso

Five Artist Manikin Must Haves:Animal Edition


Drawing animals is no simple task. It requires understanding perspective,estimating lighting , and of course having a good grasp of animal anatomy.  But even the best artist needs references and tools sometimes. Today on Creative 5 we’ll be looking at artist manikins that will change the way you tackle drawing animals.

By Melissa K. Vassar-Belloso

Why Use Animal Manikins?

Artist manikins can be a great resource to have if you do any sort of animal drawing. They not only save you money and time by making it unnecessary to 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  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 any animal artist manikins or maybe don’t see them as an essential, then this article is for you.

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. Please keep in mind that the grading on these doesn’t necessarily refer to quality of the product but rather where they rank on the criteria below and how much of an investment I’d consider them to be on the more practical points.

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 sometimes need to shell out some bucks for a decent artist manikin.

Level 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 and application possibilities 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 most 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.

#1 Dog

Starting off the list we have man’s bestie. Household pets are great to draw and this little wooden adoptable is perfect for reference and gaining a better understanding of pet anatomy. You can also try out the wire version of Rover the Doodles Dog for a slightly different experience.

Affordability:5/5           Level of Articulation:5/5          Versatility/Usefulness:4/5

Final Grade


Final Verdict….

These affordable little gems are a great basic reference for pet anatomy and can easily be adapted to work for a wide range of projects.

#2  Horse

The horse is perhaps one of the most difficult animals to properly capture in a drawing so this animal manikin is an essential. Horse anatomy is complex but it can also give a lot of insight into more complex animal anatomy.

Affordability:3.5/5           Level of Articulation:4/5          Versatility/Usefulness:4/5

Final Grade


Final Verdict….

If you buy any animal manikin at all it should be a horse. Horse manikins can be a bit pricier but are well worth it and definitely an investment into not just learning how to draw horses but gaining a general better understanding of animal anatomy.

#3  Elephant

This is one that I thought was really interesting. It has really unique articulation and is a great figure for studying large animal anatomy as well.

Affordability:3/5           Level of Articulation:5/5          Versatility/Usefulness:3/5

Final Grade


Final Verdict….

This may not be an essential or the most affordable but may be something to look into if you feel you have a need for it or just want an interesting manikin to study larger animal anatomy.

#4 Cat

We can’t put man’s best friend on this list without also listing his boss. Like the dog, this is a great and very affordable reference for household pet anatomy and you can check out Whiskers the Doodles Cat for a wire alternative.

Affordability:5/5           Level of Articulation:5/5          Versatility/Usefulness:4/5

Final Grade


Final Verdict….

Like the dog manikins, these ones are very affordable and a good basic reference to have on hand as well as great for a number of projects.

#5  Giraffe

So this one was a bit of a weird find and still not the weirdest find on this list as you’ll see with number six. I found this and six on a Chinese site which you can find if you feel so compelled to track this or the next manikin down at . You do need to buy these by the carton unfortunately but you might also find it other spots like Ebay or Amazon if you look hard enough.

Affordability:1.5/5           Level of Articulation:5/5          Versatility/Usefulness:2/5

Final Grade


Final Verdict….

While this isn’t an essential it is definitely weird and fun. It might be interesting to track down just to have a strange collectible.

Bonus! #6 Dinosaur

This is the definite weirdest list entry and another one I found at . You do need to buy these by the carton on the Chinese site but you can also try to find it other spots like Ebay or Amazon if you’re really determined to find it.

Affordability:1/5           Level of Articulation:3/5          Versatility/Usefulness:2/5

Final Grade


Final Verdict….

While this is definitely not essential, it is by far the most fun and interesting and might be worth looking for as a collectible item.

That’s it for this Creative 5 but I hope you feel inspired to look at animal drawing in a new light and reconsider what artist manikins can do for your creative process.

If you liked this and want more on artist manikins check out my earlier piece “Five Artist Manikin Must Haves”!

Thanks for reading this issue of Creative 5!

What did you think of this article? 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 Art Supply Warehouse,Dick Blick,Julies’ Art Materials,Jerry’s Artarama  and Art Supply Wholesale for the product images.

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