Drawing anime is a hobby that is growing at an incredible pace. Anime and manga have become one of the most loved animation styles across the globe. Even here, in South Africa, we know popular characters like Pikachu (Pokémon) and Goku (Dragon Ball).

If you are an anime fan you will also know characters from popular series like Lelouch Lamperouge from Code Geass, Levi Ackerman from Attack on Titan, Light Yagami in Death Note or Kurisu Makise from Steins;Gate.

Drawing animation is easier once you learn to apply some stylistic principles to your drawings. Watching as many popular anime series and films as possible, will not only mean the characteristics of the anime style become second nature to you, you will also learn how different artists apply the same principles to create their own unique characters with flair.

Is it that easy to draw manga?

You'll have to work hard and you'll need to break it down step-by-step. But it is possible and loads of fun, whether you seek a new hobby, want to try different styles of drawing or have a passion to become an animation artist or character designer at an international company like Toei Animation or Studio Ghibli.

This article is your beginner's guide as you start your anime drawing journey. We will look at what makes manga and anime so distinctive and unique and how you can then learn to draw and incorporate these elements and principles to your drawings.

The best Japanese tutors available
Judy
Judy
R250
/h
Gift icon
1st lesson free!
Alexandra
5
5 (22 review/s)
Alexandra
R546
/h
Gift icon
1st lesson free!
Akina
5
5 (8 review/s)
Akina
R546
/h
Gift icon
1st lesson free!
Aiko
5
5 (45 review/s)
Aiko
R728
/h
Gift icon
1st lesson free!
Maurício
5
5 (36 review/s)
Maurício
R199
/h
Gift icon
1st lesson free!
Alberto
4.9
4.9 (11 review/s)
Alberto
R153
/h
Gift icon
1st lesson free!
Tamires yasmin
5
5 (36 review/s)
Tamires yasmin
R228
/h
Gift icon
1st lesson free!
Konatsu
5
5 (12 review/s)
Konatsu
R293
/h
Gift icon
1st lesson free!
Judy
Judy
R250
/h
Gift icon
1st lesson free!
Alexandra
5
5 (22 review/s)
Alexandra
R546
/h
Gift icon
1st lesson free!
Akina
5
5 (8 review/s)
Akina
R546
/h
Gift icon
1st lesson free!
Aiko
5
5 (45 review/s)
Aiko
R728
/h
Gift icon
1st lesson free!
Maurício
5
5 (36 review/s)
Maurício
R199
/h
Gift icon
1st lesson free!
Alberto
4.9
4.9 (11 review/s)
Alberto
R153
/h
Gift icon
1st lesson free!
Tamires yasmin
5
5 (36 review/s)
Tamires yasmin
R228
/h
Gift icon
1st lesson free!
Konatsu
5
5 (12 review/s)
Konatsu
R293
/h
Gift icon
1st lesson free!
Let's go!

Manga and Anime Art Characteristics

Japanese anime has one of the most distinctive styles in global pop-culture. You will immediately recognise the style from certain visual cues. The normal eye will be able to pick this up without knowing exactly why, but the artist has a keen eye for the details that makes up the unified style.

Researching and understanding anime takes a bit of a time, but it’ll all be worth it and, hopefully, a lot of fun while you learn about the bright and colourful characters from the exotic worlds. During your exploration, you will discover geniuses like Hayao Miyazaki or Osama Tesuka, their contribution to the movement, and how Japan managed to establish anime on an international level.

Famous anime artists used a very specific look and feel, but they were all able to bring their own unique styles to anime, because they first learned and understood the basic principles.

Let’s help you get to grips with some key features which define the style of anime. It’s important to note that in anime every tiny detail, no matter how small, contributes to the characterisation and association fans have of a character.

newsstand selling manga
Browse through different manga to find interesting characters to draw. - Source: Unsplash

Big Anime Eyes

Big and googly eyes must be one of the most obvious, typical features of anime hero faces. Using hearts, stars, flames and spirals, artists show us what emotions the character goes through, mostly when not verbally expressing it.

Osama Tezuko, sometimes referred to as the ‘god’ of anime, created an iconic character called Astro Boy that established how manga artists have drawn their characters since. You can use the eye shape of existing heroes together with an online tutorial or two to help draw your own character’s face. Then, see how best you can make them happy and sad through changing and manipulating these, sometimes it's as simple as adding a line or two.

The eyes are the windows to the soul and psychologists established that the eyes of Japanese people are the centre of their emotional expression.

In anime the eyes contribute significantly to the character's personality and expressing emotional nuances.

Have a look at some images and learn about other iconic anime and manga characters here.

Stylised Hairstyles

Together with the eyes, nose and mouth, an impressive hairstyle is needed to complete the character faces in your drawings.

One thing is certain, hair is used in a much more expressive way than in classic Disney animations. In true anime style, there are fans and experts who analyse the character traits and how the colour and shape of characters' hair help to reinforce certain aspects of their personalities.

In real life, style helps us to express ourselves, while in in anime hair colour can tell us whether a character is feisty and passionate, calm and healing, calculating and cold, or warm and approachable. Isn't it amazing that the colour you choose can influence people’s perceptions that much?

In anime hair is also used to highlight the popularity of certain characters. The hero will have spikey and well stylised hair to make them stand out and colour again comes into play, with blue being one of the more popular ones. In Japan, marketing teams saw that characters with striking hair are easier to market through identifiable silhouettes and youngsters find it easier to gravitate to characters that are funky, interesting and exciting.

Hair is also used a lot in the movement of the character and the more experienced you become the more you will focus on how your character’s hair moves in different ways. What type of haircut will you choose for your character? Hair that doubles as wings, a beehive, or a fanned mohawk?

Emotive Faces

To make characters likeable they need to be as human as possible with a dash of fantasy.

Anime does this well as the artists manage to bring emotive qualities to characters like robots and inanimate objects. This is essential if you want your audience to fall in love with the character and associate with her/him.

The emotion expressed in the characters will become imperative as you show the development of the character throughout the story. We’ve covered how important eyes are, but they work with a whole range of motifs, like head position, nose changes and facial lines, to express the character’s emotional state.

Facial features can disappear when characters panic, and when they are angry they could be surrounded by black lines. Even in these examples there are variances in how the eyes, nose, ears, cheeks and hair move.

Anatomy, Body Shape and Gender

Creating the perfect anatomy for anime characters is a skill on its own. Artists learn about symmetry and how to make use of shapes to create the curves around their characters.

Think about creating a head as example; anime artists will use an overall shape, slightly squared off and more rectangular for boys, divide the shape into sections, add eyes, nose and ears, all in very specific placements. Female characters will have thinner eyebrows, and rounder eyes and noses. You can find free online tutorials to show you how to draw male and female characters step-by-step.

The body of a hero character in anime will generally be thinner than the other characters, while the overall rule is that a guy will be larger than a girl, who will have a narrow waist and shoulders.

Character designers are familiar with these shapes and how they can be transformed into the various poses that female and male characters will take on. They learn to manipulate these and colour them with differences to make the character stand out.

Anime websites for fans are filled with the basic shapes used in the animation of characters, which will include content and images to help you draw:

  • Running poses
  • The dashing pose
  • The kicking pose
  • The ‘tane’ pose (when a character is pointing a finger in a challenging way, mid-air)
  • The sunrise stance is used as wide-angle pose to reveal them with a weapon
  • The ballet pose
  • And many more ...
person sticking manga illustrations on wall
Remember to pay attention to facial expressions to create a realistic anime character drawing. - Source: Unsplash

Style, Movement and Colour in Anime Drawings

Like any artist, to find your own unique style, you will have to practise and work for years on creating anime. In the current world of anime design there is a range of different styles.

Artists still make use of the core elements discussed above, but these elements are drawn and applied differently with varied line strokes and applications. An anime in a realistic style, like Black Lagoon and Cowboy Bebop, is for an older audience and is almost real-life-looking. Chibi is a bright colourful style that appeals to young kids. You can investigate more styles with an easy online search.

You need to be aware that the style of animation you choose will also influence the character you create. You can create characters with a drawing that is minimalistic and simple, or a detailed animation with free drawn lines still used in certain elements.

A very popular style in anime is where some carefully selected elements run over others. For example, sometimes the eyebrows continue to run over the character's hair, even if the movement of the head changes and the hair falls over the face.

Ready, Set, Draw and Animate

To bring funny and lovable characters to life in anime, you’ll have to ensure they are emotive.

The world of animation is a colourful and interesting one and anime is even more diverse with all its own different genres and styles. Ready to dive deeper into this expressive art form?

The internet is filled with tutorials and ideas to help you practise and draw manga. If you plan to animate your characters, you will have to transfer your images to digital formats to bring your characters to life through movement.

Here are a some resources you can use for provide step-by-step guidance on creating a typical anime image:

  • Online ‘how to’ articles and blogs
  • YouTube and other video tutorials
  • Online anime drawing courses
  • Private lessons from a Superprof tutor

On Superprof there is a range of experienced art tutors to help you develop your characters and drawing skills. They will work around the basic elements like shape and form, colour and actions before you even consider making these artworks digital and animating them. Classes can be scheduled around you, and teachers work according to your own personal goals and current level of experience.

Contact one of them now and set-up your first drawing class.

>

The platform that connects private tutors and students

1st lesson free

Enjoyed this article? Leave a rating!

5.00 (1 rating/s)
Loading...

Mauritz

Writer and qualified yoga instructor, who is passionate about health and well-being.