Is It Bad to Draw in the Anime and Manga Art Style?

You’ve been drawing in the Anime/Manga art style for a while or are maybe just getting started. You love Anime, but might’ve heard that it’s bad to draw in that style. Maybe an art teacher discouraged you from using it or other artists have told you it’s a bad idea.

But is it bad to draw Anime and Manga?

As a whole, drawing in the Anime art style is not bad. There are plenty of successful Anime artists. But it can be bad if an artist learns only from Anime. In doing that, they won’t learn any of the fundamentals needed to become a successful artist.

Others aren’t discouraging you from drawing Anime, but from learning how to draw only using Anime as a reference.

You can, but in doing so, you’ll eventually run into several problems that will prevent you from ever achieving great success.

But exactly why is it bad to learn how to draw using Anime and Manga?

Let’s take a closer look.

Why Do Other Artists and Teachers Tell You Not to Draw Anime?

I first taught myself to draw by copying my favorite illustrator’s art (Naru Nanao). But in my first art class in college, I was discouraged from drawing in the anime style until I mastered the basics of art. Image Source: Da Capo, Copyright: Circus

If you’re like most Otaku, you probably got into drawing because of Anime. So, it makes sense that you want to start drawing Anime as soon as possible.

And that’s fine. It’s great to want to learn a new skill because of your love for Anime or Manga. No one has any right to discourage you from drawing in the Anime art style.

It’s only when you decide to become a professional artist that it becomes a problem.

The most common story I come across is of a fledgling artist drawing Anime in his beginners art class. The teacher will discourage him from drawing it or outright ban him from doing so throughout the entire course.

This isn’t because she hates Anime or that she ‘just don’t understand it’, but because she, being a professional, knows that drawing just Anime can lead to problems down the road.

Ultimately, Anime art is an abstraction. Meaning, it’s an abstract form of something else. And that something else is ‘reality’. Anime can’t be based on nothing. It had to come from something else. You can’t draw an Anime character without knowing what a real person looks like.

So, your teacher isn’t saying Anime art is bad, but that you won’t learn anything from it by itself. Without a firm grasp of the fundamentals of art, you’ll never be able to draw at a expert level.

But why not? If Anime is based on reality, why wouldn’t learning from Anime be the same as learning from reality?

Should You Learn to Draw Using Anime and Manga?

Anime art is all about simplification. The only thing different about the girls of Shuffle! is their hairstyles and colors. Their outfits and faces are the exact same. If you only learn how to draw from anime, your skillset as an artist will be one-dimensional. Image Copyright: Lantis

Learning how to draw from only Anime is the same as learning how to write by studying only one author. You may be able to write a novel, but it will be nothing more than a copy of the original author’s works. It might not be an exact copy, but none of your own writing style will be present.

Learning how to draw from Anime is the same. Because Anime art is a simplified version of reality, anything you draw will reflect that.

You won’t be drawing your own abstraction of reality. You’ll be drawing an abstraction of someone else’s abstraction of reality.

For example, let’s say someone copies the Mona Lisa. And then someone else copies that copy. And then someone else copies that copy of the copy. And finally you copy the copy of the copy of the copy. How awful do you think your copy would be?

It depends on the artists skill, yes. But each copy lacks something from the last. Only the original artist understands the actual source material. And the further you get away from the original source, the less you understand how art works. And the less you understand, the worse your art will be.

This is what most artists critical of Anime art are bothered by the most. Those learning from only Anime never develop their own art style. They may be great at mimicking others’ art styles, but it’s ultimately just a copy.

That said, you can still profit being a copycat. Most consumers wouldn’t be able to tell ‘good’ art from ‘bad’ art. But you’ll always be everyone’s last choice. Being a copycat won’t get you any kind of famous.

So, to become a successful Anime artist, you have to develop your own art style and then adapt it into an Anime version of your style.

But how is this achieved?

To Draw Anime, You Must First Learn the Fundamentals of Art

Image by Victoria from Pixabay

The most successful Anime artists did not start out as Anime artists. They may have been inspired to draw by Anime like you, but did not learn to draw from Anime alone.

They first mastered the fundamentals of art and applied that knowledge to develop their own Anime art style. If you learn from Anime, you’ll be starting from the last step, not the first. And you can’t exactly secure your Ikea bookshelf to the wall if you haven’t even built it yet.

Teaching you the fundamentals is beyond the scope of this article, but it includes concepts like anatomy, perspective, lighting and shadow, composition, and many more. For now, it’s just good you understand how important they are on your path to becoming a successful Anime artist.

Without a firm foundation of the fundamentals, your Anime art will have nothing to stand on. The second you encounter a situation in which you need to draw something you haven’t seen in your Anime art studies, you won’t be able to draw anything.

Let’s look at it like this:

  • Yosuke: Goes through all of elementary, middle, and high school learning “useless” information, goes through trade school, apprentices with a company to become an electrician, and makes $70,000 a year by age 40.
  • Kaito: Receives no formal education, but starts apprenticing as an electrician from age 12 and makes $70,000 a year by age 25.

Obviously, Kaito is in the better position. Both have the same job, skillset, and pay, but Kaito reached $70,000 far faster. But, let’s say disaster strikes both of them and neither is able to work as an electrician ever again.

  • Yosuke: Has a general understanding of the world, knowledge on multiple subjects, and knows how to learn. So, he teaches himself how to code and starts working as a programmer.
  • Kaito: Having zero applicable knowledge, no clue ‘how to learn’, and no other skills besides being an electrician soon finds himself homeless.

Learning cell structure and trigonometry might not ever help you in real life, but they do teach you another skill: how to learn. And knowing how to learn can teach you how to live. Yosuke knows how to live, while Kaito only knows how to make a living.

Look at art the same way. Learning the fundamentals and how to draw a basket of fruit might seem like a waste of time for an Anime artist. But while you may not be learning how to draw Anime specifically, you are learning how to draw. And you cannot master Anime art without first learning how to draw.

Once you do, you can then develop your own style and transform it into an Anime art style.

But what does that even mean? How am I supposed to go from fruit to twintailed Tsundere?

How to Develop Your Own Anime Art Style

Sayori didn’t have this distinct art style from the beginning. A look at her early work shows how it evolved over time. It takes years of honing your style before you can truly call it your own. Image Source: Nekopara Vol. 01, Copyright: NEKO WORKs

You can become an Anime artist by only studying Anime, but your work would be a mere copy of someone else’s style, so you must learn the fundamentals. You can’t draw an Anime face if you can’t draw a real face.

Sure, but how do you learn how to draw an Anime face at all?

While researching this article, I kept seeing other say ‘once you learn the fundamentals, then you can turn it into Anime art’. But what in the world does that mean? Am I just supposed to magically know how to draw Anime once I’ve got the fundamentals down?

No. If you want to develop an Anime art style, you must study Anime art. But again, not only Anime art. The fundamentals are required, but so is learning from Anime art. You must do both in tandem.

For example, you want to draw a fantasy-style tree. Ok, well, you need to know what a tree looks like in real life. And then you need to know how other artists have represented fantasy trees.

You might be able to come up with a few designs while only using real trees as a reference, but why bother? In doing so, you risk being too far separated from what viewers expect to see from a fantasy tree.

It’s the same with Anime art. While it’s important to develop your own art style via the fundamentals, you have to then shape it into an Anime art style. And the only way to do that is by studying other Anime art. In doing so, you’ll get plenty of ideas of what consumers expect from Anime art and use them to develop your own unique style.

While you should never learn from only Anime, it’d be silly to abandon it altogether. Successful Anime artists studied other successful Anime artists to get to where they are. And so should you.

However, the fundamentals and Anime art isn’t the only thing you should study.

Will Drawing Anime Hold You Back as an Artist?

Another potential issue teachers fear and warn against is an artist never moving past just drawing Anime.

If you start drawing in and stick with an Anime art style, it can be difficult to let go of because of how familiar you are with it. And even if you’ve learned the fundamentals, drawing nothing but Anime can be detrimental to your overall growth as an artist.

This solution to this is simple: experiment with other art forms.

But why bother? If you’re aiming to become an Anime artist, shouldn’t you put all your effort into mastering it?

Indeed, one shouldn’t work hard to become average in every art form. They should master just one.

But how does one become a Anime art master? You might assume that he studies only anime art. Yet doing so is no different than first learning how to draw using only Anime art.

Again, the issue lies in your work ultimately becoming derivative—a copy.

Hayao Miyazaki himself lamented this same phenomenon in regards to the Anime industry. His comments were not well-received and resulted in the ‘anime was a mistake’ meme, but he’s not wrong and time has only proven his point. Here’s some of what he said:

“You see, whether you can draw like this or not, being able to think up this kind of design, it depends on whether or not you can say to yourself, ‘Oh, yeah, girls like this exist in real life.’

If you don’t spend time watching real people, you can’t do this, because you’ve never seen itAlmost all Japanese animation is produced with hardly any basis taken from observing real peopleIt’s produced by humans who can’t stand looking at other humans

Hayao Miyazaki in an Interview with Golden Times

His logic was that Anime as an art form will suffer because the people creating Anime are only interested in Anime. They refuse to expand their interests beyond that very niche art form that’s lacking in scope.

And in doing so, everything they create is nothing more than a derivative of other Anime. It’s the same phenomenon as copying the Mona Lisa. One Anime copies another who copied another who copied another. The end product is a shallow caricature of its original source: reality.

If you study only Anime art, you’re effectively locking yourself in an echo chamber where you’ll only ever be able to produce works that are derivatives of derivatives of derivatives.

So, yes—drawing Anime can hold you back as an artist if that’s all you draw.

Dabble in other art styles, study ancient tribal art, go to museums, whatever, it doesn’t matter so long as you’re willing to learn from non-Anime sources. You don’t have to dive deep. Just go far enough to learn how you can apply it to the Anime art style you want to master.

Can You Make Money Drawing Anime?

You now know that’s there’s nothing wrong with drawing Anime so long as you’re willing to learn the fundamentals and learn from other art style. But is it worth it? If so many people are dismissive of Anime art, is there any chance of you becoming a professional Anime artist?

Generally speaking, there are plenty of avenues to make money as an Anime artist. Unlike in the past, Anime is wildly popular all around the world. Plenty of companies are capitalizing on this by creating all sorts of products that need Anime and Manga style artwork.

And even if you’re not at a professional level, there are plenty of ways to make money online. YouTube, Patreon, and personal commissions by fans to name a few. Detailing them all is outside the scope of this article, but compared to a decade ago, it’s truly amazing to see how mainstream Otaku culture has become.

It’s Fine to Draw Anime If You Do It the Right Way

It’s not bad to draw Anime in any form or fashion. If it was, you wouldn’t see bookstores full of Manga and Light Novels, Anime movies in theaters, or people lined up to go to Anime conventions.

You might have a long road ahead of you in terms of getting popular as an Anime artist, but there’s no reason to hesitate. So long as you learn the fundamentals of art and are willing to learn from anything and everything, you can become a successful Anime artist.


Hey, my name's Azuma. I first dove deep into Otaku culture in 2010 and never quite grew out of it. After a million different anime, light novels, manga, and visual novels, I learned a lot about each art form. Knowledge I want to share with you from writing advice to drawing tips. I'm also the Author of two light novels series, Garden of PSI and On Creating the Ultimate Weapon. Happy creating!

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