Art Technique

How to Draw Anime the Easy Way

There are two main reasons as to why you would want to draw anime characters. One reason is to create fanart and show your appreciation for the anime that you are a fan of. Drawing it allows you to express the characters you love in a style that only you could create. The second reason is to create a manga or comic, and you want to draw characters from multiple different perspectives. There are a lot of different ways to draw anime. Some manga series, such as Death Note, have a very realistic style, while Dragon Ball and One Piece have circular eyes that make them instantly recognizable. No matter where you watch your anime, Crunchyroll, Amazon, Netflix, or Gogoanime — you’ll find a wide variety of styles to appreciate.

Find your style

Your style is likely the most important aspect of drawing anime. This will determine the setting and the characters that you want to create. If you’re going to create a manga, you need to have a good understanding of your limitations and your strengths. Some authors have a good grasp of anatomy, while others are stronger at creating a spectacle that technically speaking isn’t impressive. Try to draw the male characters in a masculine style before trying other styles. This will develop your fundamentals as an artist and prepare you more for drawing.

Trace for practicing

When trying to draw anime for the first time, you either try to replicate it or you can trace it. Trying to draw the anime will take many different drafts to replicate that style. You will become a better artist, but you will spend a lot more time drawing. Tracing the works that inspire you can develop you a lot and spend a lot less time on drafts. Tracing will also allow you to create muscle memory which will allow you to draw the characters faster. Though, you should not trace in a work you plan on publishing.

Appreciate the best aspects of anime art

The most popular manga all have distinct styles. Bleach and Jojo’s Bizarre adventure have similar levels of popularity. But they both have distinct features that make them be appreciated by others. Both of them take the best features of manga and have great anime adaptations. This allows the story to age better as time goes on. There are also a lot of details that people are likely to miss on their first readthrough. This allows you to draw with more detail, being someone who can appreciate other anime that have tons of detail.

Create drafts

A draft can be the most important aspect of creating anime art. Drafting shouldn’t take you that long, and it’s going to allow you to create more in less time. The draft is going to act as a storyboard, and almost act as a source for shot composition in your art. This makes sure that what you’re drawing has clear continuity, and you can add in more detail in later. Initially, you may want to just draw the characters, but later you can ink the art, color it and add in additional effects.

anime heads and hair
Create simple drafts of anime heads and hair to get a quick feel for your character.

Decide if you want to draw digitally or by hand

Both of these styles have their pros and cons. A lot of anime is currently drawn digitally. In fact, the age of hand-drawn cells has stopped in the late 90s. Not only is this down for anime, but it’s done for some manga. You can see the difference in a manga like Berserk, which has been going on 30 years and is now drawn digitally. Being able to draw by hand is going to allow you to have more precision and you can express more in your artwork. Digital is better for consistent drawing, but doing it with a pen and pencil is going to allow you to have more creative freedom.

Drawing different parts of the anime body

OK, now that we have some of the basics down, let’s discuss drawing tips and techniques for some of the major parts of the anime character’s body.

How to draw anime eyes

If you’ve got experience with realistic drawings, anime eyes will come easier to you. For some, this will be a challenge, but this article will teach you the foundation of how to draw anime eyes and get you on your way.

First, map out the facial features

Mapping out the face is an important part of drawing anime correctly. After getting the correct face shape, draw a single horizontal and vertical line that meets in the direct center of the face (for forward facing characters). The horizontal line marks where your eyes should be. Most often it marks the exact center of the eyes.

Next, draw lines to mark the top and bottom of the eye. This ultimately helps with uniformity. After that draw circles to generally mark out where your eye will go. Use three identical circles, using one to measure the distance between the eyes. This should be equal to the width of one eye.

This is the stage where you will decide the general shape. Larger eyes typically denote a “feminine” or “good” character while almond eyes are associated with “masculine” or “bad” characters. However, this is a general style guideline.

Draw the upper and lower eyelids

It would be smart to do this for both eyes at this point to keep uniformity. No one wants to draw two perfect eyes only to find out they don’t match.

The size, shape, and slope of your lids (or lashlines) can say a lot about the character. Again, these are general rules but rigid lines suggest seriousness while more sloped eyelids look more childish.

Draw the iris and pupil

While these are just basic outlines they can say a lot about your character’s emotion. Practice drawing different sizes and placements for the iris and pupil to convey different emotional states for your anime character.

These can also reflect age, as older characters tend to have smaller iris’ than younger characters.

Outline the shadow

There’s always a shadow in the eye caused by the upper lid. While it often has a more exaggerated curve than the upper eyelid, it follows the same general shape. If you are drawing a line or cell drawing this can be a darker line, if you’re planning on shading it draw a lighter line.

Look at references or play around to decide what sort of shadow looks best.

The eye light

If you’ve ever watched a live action movie you’ll notice that most characters have what’s called an “eye light”. These are tiny white spots in the eyes and, psychologically speaking, make the audience relate to the character. It is no different when you are drawing anime. Make sure to take the time to mark this out so you don’t accidentally color or ink over it.

Are there times you wouldn’t want an eye light? Absolutely. Eye lights make a viewer like the character more, it gives a sense of a soul existing behind the eyes (eyes are the gateway to the soul remember.) Some characters might not have this. Bored, evil, or possessed characters often lack this feature to make a point and show the viewer something about them.

Bringing it all together

There are a lot of different ways on how to draw anime. You have to think about the features that allow this medium to be creative. The best step to take is to get inspired by the anime you like and try to replicate those feelings you had in your own artistic style. This allows you to create something that is distinct but clearly fits in the anime genre. Anime has hundreds of different styles but there are a lot of different expressions to make anime distinct. It can come in many different forms that separate you from each artist.