How to Draw Anime

Anime is a fantasy style of art invented in Japan but loved the world over. Anime and manga are both known for “big eyes and small mouths.” Learning how to draw anime means learning the principles of anime sketching, then starting to sketch your own favorite characters in the Japanimation industry. When you’ve gained a certain amount of competence in the craft of drawing anime and manga characters, you can try your hand at creating your own.

What Is Anime?

Manga is a type of Japanese comic book published in serials by manga studios. These comic books read from right to left. Manga books are more mainstream in Japan than comic books are in the United States, and adults find little social stigma in reading manga titles.

Anime are animated cartoon movies which are often based on popular manga. Book length light novels are also converted into anime and manga, if they’re popular enough. Anime movies have certain conventions that don’t appear in American cartoon animation, such as a lower frame rate and different artistic styles. For people in North America, the terms “anime” and “manga” are synonymous, and when people talk about drawing anime, they mean drawing manga characters.

How to Draw Manga

Get an 18×24 drawing pad or portable sketchbook, a pencil sharpener, several 4H to 6B drawing pencils, a kneaded eraser, a nylon eraser, a blending stump and black ink pens of various weights.

Sketch basic shapes to get used to your drawing instruments. Draw cubes, cones and spheres.

Look at how others draw anime. Study the lines used in these sketched pictures.

Starting an Anime Sketch

Drawing boys and girls in anime style requires getting people’s proportions and shapes right, first. Then you use a slightly different than realistic head to body ratio for smaller children. Draw eyes large and round and set them lower down the face than you would a normal human’s eyes, without eyelashes. This gives them a more innocent appearance.

Use tiny circle for the mouth and nose, while showing ears on a boy’s head. Make the feet larger in relation to his body than normal.

For older boys, make the face more angular in appearance. The eyes should be smaller and almond shaped instead of round. Add no eyelashes for older boys, but make the nose and mouth more defined.

The body of boys in manga or anime tend to be longer and thinner, so elongate the body. Consider a 1-to-8 ratio on the head to body for older boys.

Drawing Manga and Anime Girls

Girls should have round heads with large rounded eyes. Like young boys, a manga girls’ eyes should be further down the head. The bigger the eyes in proportion to the head, the younger the character looks.

For anime females, you want the hair to cover the ears. Use a 2-to-1 ratio for her head. The body should be short and be twice the height of the head, which should give a rounded look to a little girl.

For older girls, draw smaller eyes and add eyelashes. Her mouth should be enlarged, while her face should be more angular. Give her either longer hair or a more stylish look, while lengthening her body. At its maximum, the head to body ratio should be 1-to-8.

Making Anime

How to Draw Anime

How to Draw Anime

For drawing anime, you’ll need a few extra tools. Buy a registration system, which keeps you paper in alignment when sketching and re-sketching. Buy sturdy animation paper, a light table, and non-photo blue or carmine red erasable color pencils.

Install Video Editing Software

Add video editing capability by installing Adobe Premiere for PCs or iMovie for your Mac. Consider what you’re going to do for audio taping, and buy sound-mixing software appropriate to what you want.


Get a story idea. For your first anime story, make it small and quick. Don’t get too ambitious to start, or you’ll frustrate yourself. Choose a story with one character with one goal and a few obstacles. You can write your epic with a cast of thousands and dozens of plot twists after you’ve gotten some more experience in the craft.

Write a script. Don’t write 1-hour and 30-minute screenplay, but something you can put on video in a limited amount of time.

Draw a Storyboard

Draw a storyboard. This is a comic book style blueprint of your anime. It’s comparable to a rough manga version of the finished anime.

Scan the Storyboard

Scan the storyboard panels into your video editor. Record a soundtrack to fit with your scanned images, then sync these sounds on the video editor at a pace of 24 frames per second.

That means a lot of pictures, and it’s going to look like a slideshow to begin with. Keep producing new anime pictures, making liberal use of your registration system.

Produce Model Sheets

When producing your animation, you want visual references for each character. These are different poses and facial expressions from a wide variety of angles. This means you’re going to be drawing your characters over and over again, streamlining their look.

Work on Backgrounds and Setting

If you want to get a little more detailed and advanced, consider adding backgrounds and foreground items. Use your image editor to see how different color backgrounds look.

Produce Layouts

Layouts are precise and accurate storyboards. This is getting closer to the finished product. Once you have these, splice these into your animatic device and sync them with your soundtrack.

Once you have the rough layout, finish the job by editing out needless shots and story points. You want as little edited out as possible, since this represents a lot of work. Still, if the final product has slow moments or superfluous material, it’s better to edit it.

Drawing Anime – Suggested Reading

As you can see, drawing anime to be turned into a short movie is a lot of work. Big anime studios go a step further to add “main animation’, along with extra detailed work on color and ink.

If you want further instructions in how to draw anime cartoons and manga characters, consider buying a “How to Draw Manga & Anime” book at the local bookstore, such as Hikaru Hayashi’s How to Draw Manga (this one’s available in multiple volumes) or How to Draw Anime & Game Characters by Todashi Ozawa. Most decent size bookstores these days have a whole assortment of books that help, with step by step instructions.


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