You’ve decided you want to start drawing anime illustrations or maybe even create your own Manga. But you look at some anime-style illustrations and think to yourself: “I could never draw that well.”
Or could you? How hard is it to draw Anime and Manga?
Compared to other forms of art, Anime is easy to draw. Drawing Anime at the same level as a professional is hard, but because Anime is a simplified art style, it’s not hard to learn the basics.
Anime is just one of a million different art styles. And like with any of them, you first need to learn the fundamentals of drawing. Once you’ve got those down, you can easily transition to drawing Anime.
Rather, learning to draw Anime is a great option for beginners. Anime is an abstraction of reality and therefore doesn’t rely on hyper-accurate realism.
Realistic art might require you to draw individual face muscles. Conversely, Anime art very rarely portrays such fine details with its simplified forms and anatomy.
Sure, you say, but then why do all my Anime drawings suck?
Is It Easy to Draw Anime?
Despite what I said three seconds ago, no, it’s not easy to draw Anime. Not because the art style is particularly difficult itself, but because you have to know how to draw first.
All great Anime artists were decent artists first. They learned the fundamentals of art before dedicating themselves to Anime art. Not only will you have to learn the fundamentals, you’ll have to master all the nuances of Anime art as well. Both require tons of practice. And that’s just to get your foot in the door.
You may learn how to draw Anime, but you’ll only be a copyist at first. Once you’ve studied enough Anime art, you’ll have to develop your own unique art style. Which, needless to say, requires even more time and effort.
So, to draw anime, you must: learn art fundamentals, learn the Anime art style, and develop your own style. This is the bare minimum if you have any hopes of being a paid professional.
But those aren’t the only reasons Anime can prove difficult draw.
Anime is an abstraction of reality made entirely of simplified lines, forms, and anatomy. However, it’s simple nature does not make it simple to draw. The issue lies in it being an abstraction.
To draw an abstraction, you must have two things:
- A firm understanding of reality acquired by studying art fundamentals like anatomy and form.
- An imagination capable of imaging abstractions and putting them to paper.
The first is needed so that you know where each element of your illustration should go. An Anime character’s mouth might be no more than a single curved line, but you still need to know where it goes on her face.
The second is where most fledgling artists’ difficulties lie. When drawing a realistic painting, you need only set your model before you and draw what you see.
Conversely, Anime art must come entirely from your imagination. Not only must you imagine something, you must then draw an abstraction of it while maintaining some semblance of reality. It being an abstraction is no excuse for bad anatomy.
On the surface level, drawing Anime is easy. You need only draw simple lines and don’t have to worry about perfectly matching reality (few real women resemble the best waifus…).
However, if you want to go pro or create an illustration solely from your imagination, drawing Anime can prove rather difficult.
But not impossible. Let’s tackle each of the aforementioned issues so you can have a good idea of just how difficult it is to draw Anime.
Will Knowing Art Fundamentals Make It Easier to Draw Anime?
As said, if you wish to be good at drawing Anime, you need to learn the fundamentals of art. You don’t have to learn them first. You can learn them in tandem as you practice drawing Anime, but you still have to learn them.
Without them, you’ll only end up holding yourself back as an artist. It’s not ever bad to learn how to draw by studying Anime, but it is bad to study only Anime. I wrote a whole article exploring that issue which you can find here.
Anyway, let’s go over some of the fundamentals of art and how they apply to the Anime art style. Doing so will reveal that you don’t need to master the fundamentals because Anime art is ultimately simple and easy to draw.
When people think of Anime art, they’re likely thinking of the characters. The only element of an Anime illustration that’s explicitly ‘anime’ is the character. Any other elements (a building/tree in the background) are drawn in simplified forms, yes, but no one ever says they want to learn how to draw ‘anime trees’.
Anime art is all about the characters, so it stands you must master Anatomy over all the other fundamentals. Without a firm understanding of forms, shapes, and proportion, your characters are apt to come out looking ‘not quite right’ to the majority of observers.
That said, once you know how Anatomy works, using the knowledge to draw Anime characters is easy. Otaku are masters at suspending their disbelief. If you draw a girl with a size zero waist and an H-cup, no one will bat an eye so long as her anatomy is on point.
Plus, Anime characters are composed of simple forms without a lot of definition. While Anime eyes and hair can be complicated, the other parts of their head (mouth, nose, ears) are often little more than a dot or line.
Even better, you don’t have to draw complex facial expressions when you can use simple symbols (anger mark, teardrop) or make them blush.
Color theory, or knowing how to use colors in the most appealing way, will either be very important or sort-of important to you. As an illustrator, you’ll need a good understanding of it as you’ll likely be coloring your illustrations.
As a Manga Artist, most of art will be in black and white, so you don’t necessarily need to master color theory. You should still strive to understand it as you need to know how to shade your drawings based on what colors they would be if you actually colored them. But, for the most part, you’ll only be concerned with understanding monochrome color theory.
Anime art color theory follows the same rules as traditional art. Its unique aspect is it’s favoring of bold, dramatic color schemes using opposing colors. This helps to distract from the simplicity of the art and make it immediately eye-catching and appealing.
Furthermore, Anime art rarely employs hyper-realistic shading techniques or depth of color. Using a single shade for a character’s skin or clothing is standard practice. You can employ realistic shading, but few will notice if you don’t, making Anime art that much easier.
Light and Shadow
As an Anime artist, you’ll be relying a lot on shading to give your characters dimension. Especially as a Mangaka who can’t rely on color, it’s important to understand how different light sources reflect off of or create shadows on your drawings.
That said, because Anime art is simplified, your shading need not be hyper-realistic. You’ll find most anime art employing rather blunt representations of light and shadow.
A single-shade triangular shadow under a character’s chin, rectangular bands of light reflecting off a character’s hair, and bubble-shaped lights reflected in a character’s eyes are all examples of easy ways you can represent light and shadow in your Anime art.
Values, how light or dark a color is, are important to enhance the illusion of your drawings being 3D objects. Without a good understanding of values, your art will come off as flat and unconvincing.
However, Anime is ultimately a 2D art style. Meaning, it’s very flat and doesn’t need to be represented hyper-realistically to be appealing. So, most values are represented simplistically and don’t bother with complex color gradation. A single shift down in color shade is often enough to suggest an object is a 3D one.
That said, some objects like a character’s long hair or multi-layered Lolita dress might require a realistic representation of values.
Perspective, the representation of 3D objects or spaces in 2D art, is something you should study, but don’t have to worry about too much. Unless you want to draw your characters in intricate poses with realistic shading, you only need to learn the basics of perspective.
Again, anime places an emphasis on its 2D-ness, so you don’t have to worry about representing your art hyper-realistically. That said, if you want your illustrations to have backgrounds or you’re a Mangaka, you’ll need to study perspective a bit more. Any buildings or objects in the background must be represented realistically to be convincing.
Composition refers to the placement of your subject and any objects within the ‘frame’ of your drawing. If you ever hope to create an interesting drawing, you must have a good understanding of composition. Failing to study it will leave your drawings feeling cluttered, confusing, or downright boring.
Anime art follows the same rules for composition as any other form of art. It’s easy enough to learn, but can only be mastered through practice. Worry about it, but don’t stress yourself out over it either.
How Do I Start Learning How to Draw Anime?
Once you’ve got the fundamentals down, it’s time to study the Anime art style itself. And in doing so, you’ll slowly but surely be developing your own unique style.
The best place to start is by focusing on what you like. If you were inspired to draw Anime, you likely have several favorite artists whose work you enjoy. Feel free to copy their illustrations or outright trace over them. The more you do this, the better you’ll understand how each artist’s specific style works.
For this phase, it’s better to stick with pencil and paper. There’s no sense in shelling out tons of money for unique drawing tools or a top-of-the-line drawing tablet when you haven’t even developed your own style yet.
This first phase shouldn’t last long, however. Only copying is ultimately harmful to your growth as an artist. The end goal should be to develop your own Anime art style. This is achieved by:
- Studying anime-oriented drawing guidebooks
- Following along with anime-oriented drawing tutorials online
- Drawing your own original anime characters
- Studying artists you might not like, but can learn from
The further you expand your horizons, the better. Only studying one art style(s) will turn you into a copyist, not an artist. Once you’ve developed your own style through constant experimentation, you can return to your favorite artists and learn from them in a new light.
But doing all that is easier said than done. Developing your own Anime art style will both the most difficult part of learning to draw Anime. Mostly because there’s no correct answer. If your audience likes it, great, you did it right. If not, it might be better to go get in some more practice.
It’s Easier Than You Might Think to Draw Anime
There are plenty of avenues to start learning how to draw Anime, it’s just a matter of time and dedication. The more you practice, the better you’ll be. Those who think drawing Anime is hard likely just haven’t put in the time to get good at it.
You will be discouraged at the start, but no skill worth learning is easy to master. Thankfully, Anime art is on the lower end of the difficulty scale.
Anime is ultimately a simple, 2D-heavy art style. So, all the skills necessary to become good at realistic drawing aren’t really needed. Even a basic grasp of art fundamentals is enough for you start drawing Anime at a decent level.
Plus, because it’s Anime, you have much more leeway to do whatever you want. Not everything has to make perfect sense from an artistic perspective because it’s Anime. Few people will find issue no matter how far you push the bounds of believability.
Anime may be hard to master, but it’s easy to draw. Don’t ever think you’ll never be able to draw like all your favorite artists, they all thought the same and ultimately started from the same starting line as you.