How to get started with drawing anime

Anime has come a long way since its origins in the early 60s in Japan.

With blockbuster films, award-winning games and popular graphic novels, the anime style is now seen worldwide, with many picking up their pens to master the craft.

Learn how to draw anime by following the tips and techniques of other anime artists, and discover your drawing style.

Study anime proportions

Drawing by watercolor - anime girl, on a table with watercolor paint brush.

Anime proportions are a part of what makes it instantly recognisable. Unlike realistic art and conventional life drawings, anime techniques focus on altering facial features by making them bigger or smaller and defying basic laws of physics.

In general, anime characters tend to have the following:

  • Larger eyes
  • Small mouths
  • Different chin, nose and forehead heights compared to human faces
  • Hair that appears to ‘stand up’
  • Unrealistic facial expressions

Understand basic anatomy

Having a good understanding of basic anatomy will help your beginner anime drawing. Knowing the placement of different body parts allows you to craft your unique anime character by adapting it to classic anime styles. For example, anime characters usually have more oversized heads in relation to their bodies compared to real people.

Analyse perspectives

When reading an anime comic, you may notice that artists utilise the rules of perspective drawing. This means that 2D objects are enhanced to give them a three-dimensional feel.

Mastering this technique when learning how to draw anime characters makes for richer and more exciting creations. Practice first with basic shapes like cubes and spheres before branching out to more complex objects and delving deeper into the third point perspective or bird’s eye view.

Do drawing exercises

All beginner anime artists start with basic drawing exercises, practicing their techniques repeatedly until they’ve mastered their ideal style.

Incorporating line and shape drawing exercises into your daily routine is one of the best ways to learn to draw anime – grab your pen or pencil and a piece of paper and draw for 10-15 minutes. As your experience grows, you can make these exercises harder by experimenting with assorted shapes and symmetry drawings.

Learn from the pros

Learn how to draw anime by copying from the pros. These artists have spent years mastering their styles, and their knowledge of anime anatomy, perspective and proportions will help kick-start your explorations into the art style.

Allow yourself this initial lack of originality – the chance to develop your unique style will come later once you understand the basic techniques better.

Copying famous anime artists when learning how to draw anime will sharpen your eye, get your hand used to the pen style, and strengthen your muscle memory.

Use colour theory

Artists of all different mediums use colour theory, and anime is no expectation. Understanding the importance of light and dark shapes will immediately elevate your drawing skills and create deeper images.

You can practice colour theory and shading techniques by learning strongly to press your pen or pencil and doing shading exercises, such as crosshatching or stippling, before applying it to your beginner anime drawing.

Understanding anime emotions

Manga kawaii expressions asian anime girls characters. Anime cute woman comic posters, vector illustration set. Japanese cartoon manga comic book

Anime uses a different way of expressing its characters’ emotions than Western comics. The identifiable visual language is an important part of the drawing style, using certain shortcuts to convey complex situations and emotions.

For example, you may notice that anime drawings use:

  • A large bead of sweat to show a character is annoyed or exasperated
  • A snot bubble to show a character is asleep
  • Thick, block motion lines behind a character to show they are moving or making a big statement

Develop your style

The most rewarding and exciting part of discovering how to draw anime for beginners is when they start to develop their bespoke style.

Top anime artists have an individual drawing style, resulting from many years of practice and exploration of the craft. Study the anime field and take notice of things you like or dislike. While unique, your anime style will likely be a medley of common anime techniques and your favourite artists’ drawings.

The most important thing to remember is to embrace your mistakes. Drawing anime is a mindful practice that should be nurtured over many years, overcoming challenges and adapting to changing styles. The fun thing about anime is that there is no correct way to do things – you’ll find a place for your style, however unique.

Mariah enjoys typing articles for our blog on her laptop but she'd much rather be writing them by hand with a luxury fountain pen!

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