Drawing isn’t exactly an easy skill to pick up. It can be wildly frustrating trying to get eyes the same size (and in the same spot on the face) and the fingers to not look like giant sausages. Some of us never develop the skill — all of our art looks like a small child made it. So, we have a ton of respect for anyone who strives to be an artist and takes up drawing. And if you want to learn how to draw anime, more props to you! It’s an incredibly cool and interesting art form that lets you have some fun and pay homage to Japanese culture.
A few things to note about anime before you begin your anime-drawing journey? Anime art has a very unique style with key points. To pull off anime, one should be able to master each of those specific features. For instance, most anime characters’ heads are slightly too big for their bodies, and their eyes are often much larger than “normal.” Their hair is also usually drawn in more distinctive styles and unnatural colors. (The “unnatural” hair colors are especially prominent in Kawaii culture, where girls often mimic the style of anime characters and rock pastel-colored hair.) While anime-style mouths are typically small with simple lines in roughly 90 percent of images, they are occasionally overdone, too. And, finally, anime characters’ emotional responses and reactions are often exaggerated. A funny anime character might go from a small upturned line of a mouth to a wide grin that takes up half their head. Similarly, their tears are often just as big as the eyes from which they fall.
So, how do you draw anime? Following a few simple rules will go a long way in helping you master the look.
Start With the Head
As previously mentioned, anime heads are often slightly disproportionate to the rest of the body. Most people suggest starting with a large circle or semi-circle. From there, you can angle downward and culminate in a point for the chin. You can also add loops for the ears roughly two-thirds from the top of your head shape. When you add the hair, remember that the less detail, the better. Even if you do a wild, sky-high mohawk, you shouldn’t focus too much on making it look realistic or adding too many lines to indicate hair strands.
Exaggerate the Eye-Size
In most instances, the eyes will carry the weight of expression for an animated character. A look at Disney’s Moana might best illustrate this — her large, wide eyes are incredibly expressive. If they were smaller, you might not notice it as much, though.
Fill in Minimal Facial Details
What is your character doing? Unless you’re conveying a big emotional moment, keep your anime character’s nose and mouth small and simple. In many instances, you can do both with just a simple line or two. During big moments where your character needs to express an emotion, you’ll want to exaggerate the mouth.
Anime Lips Drawings
When drawing anime, faces are super important. And although anime characters have very expressive eyes, lips are also key to conveying emotion. This video shows you how to create different mouths that help make your anime character’s face more nuanced and complete. Lips may seem like a straightforward design, but this video will show you how to draw them in a certain way.
Tackle the Body
When you start to finish off the rest of your character, you’ll want to keep the oversized head in mind — remember, that’s one of the keys to drawing anime, so you want to keep it a bit disproportionate. The tutorial below offers a fantastic walk-through of creating both male and female basic anime anatomy. Master this, and you’ll have a solid foundation to build off when you make future characters.
Learn the Specifics
While the above are just basic, overarching rules for drawing generic anime characters, it’s not the definitive guide. As with any art style, there’s so much to learn and so many nuances to practice before you can truly call yourself an “artist” of that specific technique.
Anime is a broad term, but there are actually five genres of anime and, within each of those, the artwork will vary. The five types of anime are josei, kodomomuke, seinen, shojo, and shonen. Each type of anime has a particular audience and individual take on the storytelling involved. Those details will obviously influence the art you’ll find.
Need More Help?
It’s hard sometimes to read directions and 100 percent grasp what you’re being told. We get it! This instructional video on how to draw anime is a particularly easy-to-follow one.
Did you follow along? How’d you do?
Use Anime Drawing Apps
Once you get the hang of this unique Japanese art, take your skills to the next level. There are several apps out there that can help bring your drawings to life. Using these programs below, add more features and authenticity to your art and see how far you can go!
- Adobe Fresco
- Adobe Photoshop CC
- Clip Studio Paint
- Corel Painter
- Final Thoughts
- MediBang Paint
- PaintTool SAI
Tips for Drawing Anime
- It might help to watch a few episodes of your favorite anime. This gives you a chance to really study the art style, making it easier to draw the characters on your own.
- Avoid tracing. This will help you hone your own skills.
- Don’t be afraid to take criticism.
- Practice drawing both men, women, and a variety of characters.
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