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How to Draw an Anime Character

Updated on August 12, 2015
Anime Mermaid girl
Anime Mermaid girl | Source

Growing up on anime

I grew up on watching Sailor Moon, Dragonball Z, and Pokémon and reading manga like Mars, Paradise Kiss, and Kodocha so it's no surprise that my drawing style was very heavily influenced by Japanese animation and manga.

In the beginning, I wanted to emulate my favorite artists. I would draw lots of fanart and was very proud of myself when fellow classmates would gasp in awe, stating that they couldn't believe I drew a character that looked exactly the same as they did in the show. I prided myself on making my drawings as true to their shows/comics as possible.

It wasn't long though until that wasn't enough for me. I wanted to make my own character, develop my own style, and find my own place. Over the years I have experimented a lot with different styles and techniques of drawing. I've finally found a place where I am comfortable, but as any good artist will admit--I still have a lot of growing to do.

Manga and Anime Style

When drawing in a "manga/anime style" it is important to keep in mind there isn't just one way of doing it. Just like cartoons from the west have many different looks and genres, so do animations from the east. No artist is going to draw something the same as another just because they are from the same hemisphere. That's just silly.

So what, exactly, sets anime apart from other animations?

  • Typically the eyes are much larger and lively.
  • Hair and eyes can be any colour you imagine.
  • Hairstyles and fashion are very out there.
  • Characters are extremely expressive.
  • Storylines will jump to random sequences that have nothing to do with the plot.
  • Super-deformed (chibi) miniatures of characters may pop and appear from time to time.

These are just a few differences that set anime apart. Although these cannot be applied to every anime and other cartoons have begin to adopt some of these aspects. So everything is starting to blend together.

The point is, there isn't just one "anime/manga style." However, depending on the genre of an anime you may see certain similarities.

In children's anime/manga characters are round, short, and cute. Everything is drawn rather simplistically, brightly coloured (often flat), and everyone has big expressive eyes. Examples of this would be Doraemon or the Sanrio characters, like Hello Kitty.

In girl's anime/manga (shoujo) characters tend to have slender elongated frames. Most (if not all) the male characters are androgynous and beautiful. Characters have long flowing hair, big detailed eyes with fluttering eye lashes, and trendy outfits. Everything is coloured in bright colours or pastels and may have a dreamy look to it sometimes. There is also a good chance of coming across a few sequences of sparkles or flower petals. Examples of this would be Sailor Moon or anything CLAMP (like Cardcaptor Sakura, Tsubasa, and Kobato)

In boy's anime/manga (shounen) you may come across a couple of things. You might see a more masculine take to the shoujo style, where boys are more boyish and everything isn't as sparkly. Like in Pokémon or Yu-Gi-Oh. Or you may come across characters drawn in a very serious, angry sort of way that is more realistic or depicts them as being really buff. Like in Akira. Or you may come across a combination of the two. Like in Dragonball Z.

Then there's mecha anime/manga which is typically seen in shounen manga/anime but really deserves to be a category on its own. This style depicts futuristic machinery and all sorts of cool gadgets. Great examples of this are anything Gundam.

Chibis are super deformed figures of characters used to add humor to a situation or just to be really cute. They are seen in many animes and mangas, but particularly comedies like Place to Place.

You see, just simply wanting to draw in an "anime style" could mean a lot of different things. Yet, I have decided to take on the task of giving tips on how to do this anyway (because I'm crazy).

My personal style is on the shoujo side and I love chibis. For this Hub I will do my best to create useful tutorials and resources for many different anime/manga styles. I hope it will help you develop your own style. Best of luck!

How to Draw Shoujo Style

anime style mermaids
anime style mermaids | Source

Shoujo Girl

4 Manga Hairstyles

Shoujo style or girl's style manga and anime is very soft and round with androgynous pretty boys and slender glam girls. Eyes are very dramatic, fluttery, and romantic looking. Hair flows in beautiful, elegant, and charming ways.

Keep these things in mind when draw shoujo style:

  • Characters are typically slim with elongated features.
  • Eyes are glittering and expressive.
  • Shoujo manga/anime is very colourful and trendy.
  • Shoujo hair can be done in all sorts of wild and beautiful styles.
  • Shoujo characters are typically very stylish.
  • Men are usually androgynous looking.

Anime Anatomy

How to Draw Shounen Style Characters

Shounen style or boy's style manga/anime is a lot sharper, bulkier, and rough around the edges. Character's are big and extremely muscular. Depending on the content of the show it can be drawn in a way similar to Shoujo, but less flowery, or it can be drawn in a more somber and serious manner with more realistic and intimidating characters.

Some things to keep in mind when drawing shounen style:

  • There can still be cute elements in the drawing like expressive eyes or adorable sidekicks.
  • Men aren't usually androgynous, but very masculine.
  • Action is a definite must-have so action poses are necessary.

How to Draw a Chibi

Drawing a Chibi
Drawing a Chibi | Source
The chibi in my example is based off of my son.
The chibi in my example is based off of my son. | Source

Chibis are probably the easiest anime characters to draw--depending on the level of detail you want to add. Chibis are typically used to illustrate comedic, cute, or embarrassing situations a character may be in. Generally speaking they are drawn with a lot of attention to the head (especially expressions), but very little detail to the body (sometimes making it only a wormy little thing with no arms or legs).

Things to keep in mind when drawing chibis:

  • Chibis have very large baby heads. Look at some chubby-cheeked baby pictures and you'll see what I mean.
  • Chibis have tiny bodies; the same size or slightly large than their heads.
  • Chibis are VERY expressive.
  • Chibis sometimes have animal like features like cat or dog ears to go with their personality.

How to Draw Mechas

Mechas come in a variety of styles; you have mecha suits that are roughly the size of a human being, there are mecha robots that come in a variety of sizes, and you have the transforming mechas like in Power Rangers or Transformers.

If you want to draw mechas you should really spend a lot of time looking at tech equipment, vehicles, and all things mechanical for inspiration.

I'm not a fantastic mecha artist myself, but I have come across these wonderful videos to help you draw fantastic anime-styled mechas.

Beginner - Intermediate

Intermediate - Expert

Tips and Resources

To the right are some books I have used in the past to learn how to draw. The Manga for Dummies book is particularly helpful because it demonstrates various genres and styles.

Here are some tips to improve:

- Copy your favorite anime/manga characters or create your own character in the style of the show you like. By creating fanart or drawing in a style of a show you like you not only practice drawing, you familiarize yourself with a style. It's OKAY to draw in a style that is someone else's when you are starting out. Believe it or not ALL great artists started out by emulating artists they looked up to, even Michelangelo and Picasso. So don't feel like you aren't being original, you're learning.

- Practice drawing in several different styles. Following up with the last tip, once you feel comfortable drawing in a certain style--challenge yourself by drawing in a different style. Once you have become comfortable with a few you'll start to get a sense of your own aesthetics--what you personally like to see in a drawing style. Then you will be able to develop your own trademark style.

- Use poses in magazines and pictures to practice drawing. This is one of my favorite ways to practice. Find a picture of a pose you like and draw a character in that pose. This is an especially good exercise if you have trouble drawing males or drawing females or drawing a certain body type. If you are working on the computer you can even practice by drawing on a layer on top of your reference photo--as if you were tracing the photo.


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    • NBYomi profile image

      N B Yomi 10 months ago from Dallas, TX

      If only we "fav" hubs...

    • followthestray profile image

      Samantha Harris 4 years ago from New York

      Thanks! I'll add this as a resource.

    • Ayu Bi profile image

      Ayu 4 years ago from Sorajima

      Hi, you might want to check this out

    • followthestray profile image

      Samantha Harris 4 years ago from New York

      Thanks for the encouragement! I was nervous about this Hub because there isn't exactly a right way to draw anime style, but I definitely wanted to highlight the characteristics that set anime apart from other cartoons.

    • Kathryn Stratford profile image

      Kathryn 4 years ago from Manchester, Connecticut

      You put a lot of detail into describing what the characteristics of the types of anime/Manga are. I especially like the example of the chibi, based on your son. That was clever, and very cute.

      I also like that you added several videos that would be very helpful, as well as the books and resources. I have seen some of them before, and they seem pretty handy. Thanks for sharing this with us!

      Have a wonderful weekend!

      ~ Kathryn