[Anime Culture Monday] How to Draw Manga and Anime Characters?

There’s no doubt that manga and anime characters have an art style unique from most Western-based animation. It sets them apart as manga or anime just in one glance. For many fans, the style is what drew them towards manga and anime in the first place. And for some fans, simply watching anime and manga isn’t enough; they want to draw it, too! But it’s not always easy to start drawing anime and manga characters, whether it be your own originals or fan art of your favourites.

As with all art, it’s best to add your own voice and style to what your draw. But we have some basic tips to help you get started on your quest to draw manga and anime characters. So how do you start drawing an anime or manga character? Read on to find out our tips for success!


Of course, before you can even start to draw anything, the first thing you need to do is think about what you want to draw! Are you going to create an original manga or anime character, or are you making fan art of your favourite? Is your character human, or something else? What kind of clothes does he or she wear? What colour is their hair, and in what style? Do they have any accessories, piercings, tattoos, or unique features? What colours do they usually dress in?

After you figure out the ideas for your base character design, you have to also consider their poses and expression. What are they going to be doing in your picture? What is the setting in the background? Are they alone, or with friends, an animal, or something else? How are they feeling and how will that affect their posture and expression? What pose and action is best suited to their character and also to the story you’re trying to tell with your art?

These questions and more should be all in your head during the brainstorming stage of drawing anime or manga characters because it’s critical that you have at least some kind of a plan before you start. Otherwise, you’re likely to end up frustrated and staring at a blank piece of paper. It’s best to do some brainstorming before you ever even pick up a pencil.


Okay, now it’s time for the real drawing to begin! Time to grab a pencil and paper or your electronic tablet and get drawing. The next step to drawing manga and anime characters is to make the initial sketch. It’s important to understand that at this stage, it’s not important for your work to be perfect. It’s more important to get the basic drawing out because you can always edit and fix things later that you want to change, or that need fine-tuned.

Sketching should begin with the basic outline of the character’s shape, skipping the details until you’re satisfied with the overall outline. When doing the sketch with a pencil, be sure to use light strokes that are easy to erase and adjust when you later add the ink. A manga or anime character’s face is one of the most important features, so it’s good to spend extra time there. Manga character noses are usually not much more than a line or two, but eyes need a lot more work. If you want a really traditional manga and anime style eye, don’t forget to add the ‘catchlight’ - that’s the little white oval in the corner of the eye that mimics the reflection of light.

From here, just add the basic details for hairline and shape, as well as the basic fit of clothing. There’s no need to add all the finer details when sketching because you’re going to add them in the next step when you really bring your anime or manga character to life.


Okay, so you have made your great idea into a rough sketch - time to bring some life into that character. The final part of drawing manga and anime characters is inking them, and if you choose, adding colour. When inking, you go over the light lines you previously drew to make them bold and permanent. Inking is also when you add the final details like hair and clothing texture, which makes manga and anime characters look more believable.

Another important part of inking is shading and adding realistic shadows. Otherwise, you risk your drawing looking flat and unfinished. Shading makes even 2D characters appear to have real dimension and to be existing within their environment. Of course, this can be done with only black and grey like most manga pages, but you can also choose to do your shading and final details in colour! Especially, if you’re drawing fan art or anime characters, adding colour can be a great idea to really make your characters stand out. Either way, inking is your last step other than final touch-ups, and if you have gotten this far you should be proud of your creation!

Final Thoughts

Nothing about making art is easy, and drawing anime and manga characters are no exception. It’s a long process that involves patience, practise, and a lot of work. But for artists that are willing to commit the time and effort, you can create awesome anime and manga yourself! Whether you’re making fan art or your favourites or original art of your characters, these are the basic steps to help you get started. Where you go from here is entirely up to you; you’re only limited by your own creativity!
Are you an aspiring manga or anime artist? What tips work the best for you? Did this quick guide help give you some ideas? Do you have any advice for other anime and manga artists? Drop us a comment below!

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Author: Jet Nebula

Living the dream in Tokyo, where you can find me working at a theme café catered towards women. When I’m not writing for Honey’s, I’m working on original dystopian science fiction or blogging about Tokyo’s trendy coffee scene. I spend my free time in Harajuku and Shibuya wearing alternative Japanese street fashion. I love video games, J-rock, tattoos, and Star Wars.

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