Ever since I started watching anime years ago, I always wanted to start drawing characters myself. I checked out a bunch of guides on how to draw manga and anime and over time, I learned a lot of great tips and tricks that I want to pass on to you guys. This guide is great for everyone, whether you’re new to drawing manga and haven’t drawn anything but stick figures, to people who have a bit more experience and just want to learn something new or are looking for inspiration. This complete guide on anime and manga art is going to introduce you to new styles and characters and I hope it’s as helpful to you as it is to me. If you have some great suggestions that aren’t covered in this article, please add them to the comments for me and other readers to try too.
Before you get started, it’s important to remember that not all manga art is equal and there are tons of different styles you could get into. Pick and choose what information you choose to take away from this article based on what you want your end result to be.
Contents of Anime Article
What do you need to get started drawing an Anime?
This guide is going to be perfect for beginner and intermediate artists so I’m going to start by talking about some of the tools I use to create my art. You’re going to want some type of graphics tablet or digital drawing pad. If you don’t want to invest so much initially, you can also use your iPad or tablet as long as you have access to digital art software.
So, what is the best device to use for digital art? The following have been recognized as the best drawing tablets for 2021: The Wacom Cintiq 22, Apple iPad Pro 12.9, Huion Kamvas Pro, Microsoft Surface Book 3, the XP-PEN Artist 15.6, and the Wacom Intuos Pro.
Which digital art software is the best? I’ve dabbled in a couple of these and I find pros and cons for each. Procreate is my absolute favorite since it’s very clean cut and extremely user friendly. There are tons of features and you can do almost everything you can think of; when I’m not sure how to do a certain thing, I search on YouTube. Since Procreate is used by so many people, there are always people sharing how-to videos on there. Another digital art software you might want to check out is Clip Studio Paint, which is often called the leading software for comic and manga creation. The EX version of the software has some awesome features for comic creation including customizing the way you draw with a function that calibrates pen pressure based on brush strokes. You can freely adjust vectors without losing image quality, or use the perspective ruler to draw scenes accurately. I like to use both Clip Studio Paint and Procreate because they each have their own set of features that I use when drawing.
Other digital art software you might want to look into are Wacom Intuos Pro Paper, ImagineFX, Adobe Photoshop CC, PaintTool SAI, Corel Painter, and MediBang Paint.
Can you use any stylus pen to create digital art? I’ve seen people create breathtaking digital art with their fingers, to be honest, and just because it’s possible it doesn’t mean it is the best way. Some of the best stylus pens for sketching and drawing are the Adonit PRO 4, which is made of lightweight aluminum, the Digiroot Universal Stylus, which is compatible with most touch screen devices, the Lynktec TruGlide Mesh Fibre Stylus, which has a precise, microfiber tip, and the Heiyo iPad Active Stylus, which has a great battery life and comes with three replaceable rubber tips.
1: Coming Up With An Idea to draw an Anime
When you are getting started, you probably have a million ideas running through your head. And you’re probably so excited at the thought of getting started that you don’t know where to begin exactly. When starting off, I suggest starting with a human – your choice on whether you want to lean toward male or female.
Once you pick one and have formed the general idea in your mind, start making rough doodles of how you want things to look with a pencil and paper. I like to start the sketch with an outline and then work on some basic details like how the character is standing, overall style, features, and expressions, etc. All the while, remember that this is a base sketch on paper and you don’t need to focus on quality and proper line work. When I started out, I would google images of specific features I want for my character drawing and would look at how they incorporated it to get some ideas.
2: Start Sketching Out Your Anime Character on Your Tablet or Drawing Pad
So, now you get out your drawing pad or tablet and open up your digital art software of choice. To start sketching out your character, begin at the head/ face. Holding your stylus very lightly, start with drawing out the basic shape of the face. Instead of focusing on features like the eyes or hair, pay attention to the form, angle, and size, making sure everything is proportionate. Start plotting out spaces where particular features like the eyes, nose, mouth, and ears, would go – again, don’t worry about details, just the place where it will be drawn.
Pro tip: Adding a different layer for every aspect of the drawing will make it very easy for you to add and remove layers as you go along. You can also keep parts of the drawing you may or may not use in a layer of its own. It’s a good idea to separate areas of your drawing out into several layers. For example, create one layer for the background of your anime drawing, a separate layer for your character’s hair, another one for the skin, and even a layer for the eyes and every other feature.
3. It All Starts with the Anime Eyes. How to draw anime eyes?
People usually say that the eyes are the windows to your soul but you’ll most likely hear anime artists say “eyes are the hardest part of the drawing”. Shape wise, they’re not so bad but you really have to get across what the character is feeling. For example, the shape of the eye will change based on whether your anime character is surprised, happy, sad, crying, etc., and getting that right is what makes the eyes the hardest part of drawing anime.
Do a quick Google search on “anime eyes” and you’ll see hundreds, if not thousands, of different styles. The first thing you want to identify is whether you’re drawing a male or female character, as they have recognizably different eyes in anime. Once you figure that out, ask yourself questions like “is my character good or evil?” and “what emotions are my character feeling in this drawing?” This will give you a great idea of what you want your end result to look like. You can always use your Google search images as a guide, and remember, it’s digital art, which means that you can erase and undo easily so all you have to do is get started. One tip you should keep in mind is to draw lightly – you can always add lines and deepen your drawing later.
Another aspect of drawing eyes in anime that most people don’t think about are ‘light reflections’ or ‘catchlights’ as they’re sometimes called. This is basically a white circle in the eye that is reflecting the light that is hitting them. Make sure you place them according to how your anime character is faced and where they are looking. This little detail will really bring your drawing to life and you’re not going to want to skip that.
One of the things I’ve noticed when drawing male anime eyes is that their eyebrows have some slight differences compared to female anime characters. Male eyebrows can not only vary in thickness but they usually have a much wider main line and a very short and narrow angled tip at the end.
And lastly, just play around with your drawings, try different things, and don’t be afraid to draw, erase, and draw it again until you’re happy with it.
4. How to draw an Anime Face?
Now that you have a head and some amazing eyes, let’s get on with the rest of the features. After I have the eyes complete, I like to move on to the nose because that’s always the easiest part for me. In manga and anime drawings, noses are often just a couple of angled lines, placed in the direction the character is looking, and with some shading to give it a bit of depth. There’s not too much time and detail put into an anime nose because even the most basic strokes will start bringing your drawing to life. I usually just do my most basic of noses at this point and then go back and add details I think of later on.
Now the mouth is a little bit more expressive than the nose but definitely not as difficult as the eyes – once you have your eyes down, the hardest part of your drawing is pretty much over. Again, I suggest Googling different anime images and finding the image of a mouth drawn as close to as what you’re looking to express in your character.
Mouths, like noses, are also a bit of playing around with different sized lines, angles, and some shading. What makes drawing anime mouths a bit more different than the nose is the curve; adding varying degrees of a curve can express anything from a sarcastic sneer to a full-on hearty laugh. As with any feature you’re working on, start with light strokes and add deeper, darker strokes once you’re happy with what you see.
I haven’t really messed around with drawing anime characters with additional features such as wrinkles, moles, blemishes, scars, or even stubble, mustaches, or beards. These are small features to add and you can play around and try different things until you’re happy.
Now that you have the eyes, nose, and mouth of your anime drawing completed, features that remain are ears, hair, and additional accessories such as nose rings, earrings, hats, etc. Ears are the next feature I usually start working on and here’s a measurement that I live by when drawing anime ears: ears should go from about the top of the eyes to the bottom of the nose. Of course, that’s not set in stone and if you want a character with longer ears or are drawing something more than human, go crazy with the length of your ears. But I use this as a basic guide when drawing mine.
Manga hair, or anime hair, is where you can really let your imagination go wild. The options are almost endless – first pick a texture such as straight, curly, frizzy, etc. Then decide whether you want his or her hair to be long or short. And then think about features like bangs or a mohawk – you might want to even add a particular hairstyle like space buns or pigtails.
Before I put any details to paper, or digital drawing pad as we have it, I start by drawing a rough outline of the hair and where I think things will sit. It’s good to remember that while other styles of drawing have intricate details and tons of individual strands, the hair of anime characters are often drawn in clumps with a few strand details. I usually draw in some finer strands of hair just to show direction or a hair part depending on the style I’ve picked. Then, pick the point from where the light is hitting the character and start shading in the parts of the hair that would be blocked such as near the nape of the neck, etc.
And if you get frustrated, like I definitely did the first few times I tried to draw a character, I just made them bald or added a hat. Afterward, add any jewelry details that might be visible based on the angle of your head and whatever is visible after the hair is drawn.
5. Time to Add Some Color to your Anime Life
At this point, you should not only have a more defined outline but all of your facial details should be fitted in. The next step after this is to add the color to really bring it all together.
I first like to grab a dark color, often black, and very carefully go over the lines of my drawing. One trick that I’ve found to be useful is to not lift my stylus pen halfway through a line. Drawing one, long stroke gives you a steady and solid line that makes your drawing look clean and professional. Once you’ve outlined everything properly, remove the sketch layers from the background so you know what you’re working with.
Now you’re in the last lap of your drawing. Remember that with a graphics tablet or digital drawing pad, the possibilities are truly endless. Just a side note here to test all the features your drawing software offers before you start with this particular anime drawing. Try out using different shades, blending them together, adding different textures, etc. There are literally thousands of tips and tricks out there for you to use when coloring in your drawing – Youtube and Google are great tools to utilize to learn more about them.
Then, it’s just a matter of picking out your colors and filling in the white spaces. I like to start with the bigger spaces, often the background, so that a majority of the color is down. Then, I move on to the skin color, whether it be the face, arms, or any other part that’s visible. This might be one of the last steps, but don’t rush it. Taking your time will really make a difference with the end outlook.
Tip: Don’t be afraid of the zoom in/ magnifying tool. This let’s you really get into all of the nooks and crannies to make sure the color is within the lines and not overlapping. This really helps your drawing look professional after it’s all said and done.
After you’ve colored in the base colors of your entire drawing, start with some shading. I like to imagine a source of light from one particular direction and then think about where the shadows would fall from that perspective. This will add some realistic touches to your anime drawing and make all the difference. When shading, use a larger and softer brush tool. Then, when picking the color, it could go either way; if I have more shadow than light on my drawing, I pick a lighter shade and just work those in so that I have less work to do. So, if you’d have very few areas with shading, then you would pick a darker hue of your color and work those in. Do not rush this and do it section by section so that you don’t miss anything. Again, don’t forget your layers; this will save you a lot of heartache if you decide you want to try different angles for your shading and want to see which would work best for your drawing.
6. Time to Export Your Anime Image & Enjoy the Final Result
And last but not least, you’re going to want to make sure you’ve added all your final layers and export your awesome anime drawing. Artists usually use various file formats but the most popular are .img or .png – the latter is my favorite because you can download your drawings with a transparent background. This is handy if you’re going to use your drawing as a sticker or share it online.
If this is your first time drawing anime or manga, the first thing to keep in mind is that these skills improve the more you work on them. Just keep practicing and you’re sure to become better at drawing, coloring, and editing as time goes by. Don’t be afraid to make the most of tutorials like these, watch videos, and to try different things until you figure it out. Who knows? You may even publish your own manga or create your own anime one day!