How to Draw Anime Characters: An Online Video Course from Craftsy

By Lisa Orgler in Art Tutorials > Drawing Tips

Recently, I had the pleasure of participating in Crafty’s Drawing Anime Style class and enjoyed learning not only the anime technique, but also the complexities of some of the subgenres within it.


If you’re not extremely familiar with anime (correctly pronounced ah-knee-may ), that’s all right—this class covers a LOT. For example, most of us know that anime is a style of Japanese animation featuring characters with large eyes, pointed chins, and brightly colored flowing hair, but did you also know that while technically a cartoon, anime is often created for both children and adults, around serious topics?

The instructor for this course, Cotty Kilbanks, has excellent credentials (she’s worked as an animator for Disney and Warner Brothers) and did a great job keeping the lessons simple and achievable, even though anime can sometimes be complex.


In this class she explained how to draw in the Chibi style; she covered Manga head design, eye design, hairstyles and expressions; she taught how to draw the anime figure, costume, hands and feet; and then delved into coloring techniques, action poses and drawing male characters. Overall, there are seven lessons that spanned about three hours.

I won’t try to cover it all, but here are a few of my favorites. . .

Learning the Chibi style of drawing

The entire course began with a lesson in Chibi style. Chibi style is drawing with a series of circles and ovals, and was a great way to step into the anime genre. I learned the following techniques in this section:

• Relax and simply draw a series of circles for the head, body, limbs and eyes
• Use a vertical guideline through the center of the figure to organize the body symmetrically
• Use a baseline under the figure to ground it
• Add volume to your characters by picking a light source, then adding the appropriate shadows


Manga head designs

This lesson focused on the special characteristics of the anime head from the front and side, and was a wonderful foundation for the rest of the class.

• The chin is typically pointed, so the original head shape is a heart
• Eyes should take up about 1/3 of the head
• Keep the nose and lips small


Anime eye design, hairstyles & expressions

This lesson focused on how to draw eyes and hairstyles, especially to accentuate character expression. My takeaway:

• There are many different types of eyes
• There is a difference between male and female eyes
• Draw hair above head slightly, rather than flat on top
• Use large and small pieces of hair to express a feeling

Cotty also recommended looking at your own face in the mirror to see how you express yourself, then trying to replicate that in your drawing.


Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this class, and although it focused on anime illustration, I felt it gave a great overview of drawing characters in general, not just drawing anime style characters, so that was a nice bonus.

Not to mention that Cotty does a fantastic job of showing the viewer how to break down body components into shapes (making them easier to draw) and then pairs those suggestions with guidelines to pull together an expressive, cohesive character.

Now for a bit more good news. . . Craftsy is currently giving this anime drawing class away for FREE to one lucky winner this weekend, so if you’re interested in trying your hand at a little anime, click the link above and throw your hat in the ring. No matter what your skill level or familiarity with anime is, this is a drawing course that can be enjoyed by any artist.

Good luck, and happy drawing!

Special thanks to Craftsy for sponsoring this post and offering a free class for one lucky reader. For full contest rules and additional class information, click here.


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