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How Long Does It Take to Learn to Draw Anime? (Tips and Quick Guide Inside)

Maybe you’re interested in anime and manga and wondering exactly how long does it take to learn to draw anime…

On average, it can take about 2-3 years of consistent practice to learn to draw anime.

However, drawing anime can definitely be challenging and some even struggle with it when compared to other drawing styles.

Anime characters often have exaggerated eyes, distinct features, detailed designs, and sometimes very unique* proportions…(we’re looking at you Baki and Code Geass).

*All anime drawings in this post are by our Content Creator: Ren*

Ren’s anime drawing at ~1.5 years
Ren’s drawing at ~3.5 years

Link: Here is our full guide on how to draw anime for beginners

So in this post we breakdown other related questions as well as some top tips on how to learn to draw anime plus where exactly to start.

Key Takeaways

  • It can take about 2-3 years of consistent practice to learn to draw anime
    • (this timeline can obviously be sped up with more practice – if you can dedicate 3+ hours to practice a day, you can easily become a very skilled anime artist by the one year mark)
  • First, focus on a specific anime style you want to draw (there are vastly different anime styles – consider One Punch Man vs Gyakkyo Burai Kaiji)

General Tips for Drawing Anime:

  • Buy some drawing essentials
  • Focus on learning basics (anatomy, shading, lighting, color)
  • Use reference images from your favorite anime or manga
    • Initially, you can even opt to trace your favorite characters to get a feel for their design and proportions
  • Develop a daily practice routine with a set time
    • For example, everyday at 6 PM, I will listen to music and practice drawing for 30 minutes
  • Draw and practice with intention (by purposefully identify and practicing your weaker areas)
  • Lastly, a good place to start is with gesture drawing or simple anime faces.

Top Tips for Learning to Draw Anime

The most common tip you’ll probably hear is to learn the basics. You can’t just jump straight into drawing anime without first learning the fundamentals.

Learning to draw anime won’t take you a day. If you want to improve, it’ll take you months, sometimes even years, of consistent practice, and even then, you won’t be entirely satisfied with it.

1.Your biggest enemy will be imposter syndrome. No matter how much you’ve improved, a small yet powerful voice in the back of your mind will be dragging you to a hellish hole of self-doubt. You’re gonna wanna overcome this as it will only slow you down.

2.Your second biggest enemy will be anatomy. Although anime characters have exaggerated features, they still follow basic anatomy. When you first start out drawing anime, you will be inclined to eyeball it and draw off vibes but that’s not how it works. Save yourself the years and LEARN ANATOMY.

Once you’ve mastered anatomy, then you’re free to pick a specific anime style and experiment with your art. I suggest starting with a simple anime style first, especially if this is your first time.

After that, all you need is to draw and practice consistently.

Here are a couple of things:

1. Learn Anatomy

I cannot stress enough how important learning anatomy is when it comes to anime. It may not seem important at first and you may brush it off on the account that learning it is kind of boring, but learning it will save you so much time in the future.

The thing about anatomy is that when you’re eyeballing it, you can’t really tell what’s wrong. Unfortunately, others can and they will point it out to you. Learning anatomy will also make drawing dynamic poses easier. Once you’ve figured out what each part of the body is supposed to look like, drawing them in a way that’s more fluid will come naturally.  

2. Use Reference Images

There seems to be an unspoken and incorrect rule in the art community that using reference images is “cheating”. It’s not.

Using reference images will make the learning process go a lot faster. Think of it as a guide. Without it, you will have no idea how your drawing is supposed to look. But with it, not only will you know but if you do it enough, you’ll remember to the point where you will no longer need it.

That said, using a reference image does not mean copying an image and claiming it as your own. That’s plagiarism. A reference image should only be there to show you how something like a pose is supposed to look like.

It’s up to you as the artist to interpret that reference in your art.  

3. Experiment with Different Art Styles

The cool thing about anime is that there are many different art styles to choose from. There are animes with simple and basic styles and animes with complicated looks. There are even some that stray from the typical anime look and are more experimental.

If you wanna draw anime, you’re gonna have to experiment with different art styles to see which one works best for you. Even if you’ve already decided on an art style, it won’t hurt to explore and practice other art styles.   

4. Learn About Composition

Learning about composition will not only help you to improve on drawing anime but will improve your overall art in general.

Composition refers to the way all the elements of your artwork are arranged. The goal is to make sure each element complements the other and makes the main subject stand out. If you’re bad at composition, it doesn’t matter how well you draw each element, if they’re arranged in a way that’s jarring to the eyes, your art is gonna be bad.   

5. Take Criticism

When it comes to criticism, the art community can be harsh, sometimes downright cruel. You don’t have to accept every criticism that comes your way, in fact, it’s probably best if you ignore them. But if the criticism comes from your art teacher, mentor, or even your friends and family, it’s important to keep an open mind.

The criticism is there for a reason. It’s to help you improve. Remind yourself that it’s not a personal attack but simply a comment on how you can do better next time.

Understanding Anime Drawing Fundamentals

Grasping Basic Anatomy

To draw convincing anime characters, an understanding of human anatomy is essential. Anime artists must know how the human body is structured and how it moves and then figure out ways to alter or bend reality in terms of realistic anatomy and proportion.

This includes familiarity with:

  • Gesture Drawing: practicing and how the body moves will be extremely helpful when drawing anime
  • Proportions: Commonly, an anime character’s height is measured in heads. While a real human might be 7.5 heads tall, an anime character might range from 6 to 8 heads tall, depending on the style.
  • Musculature: Although stylized, knowing where muscles are and how they appear in different poses is crucial for creating dynamic characters.
  • Skeletal Structure: A basic knowledge of the skeleton helps in getting the posture right.

Mastering Facial Expressions

Facial expressions in anime are vital for conveying emotion and character personality. Artists focus on:

  • Eyes: Often oversized compared to real human eyes, they are expressive and can indicate a wide range of emotions.
ShapeWhat They Usually Mean
Large, round Optimistic, innocent, young, playful
Square, rectangularSerious, mature, aloof
Small, sharp, triangularUninterested, been through hardships, emotionless
Anime eyes often add to the portrayal of the character’s personality.

  • Mouth and Eyebrows: Small changes in the shape and position of the mouth and eyebrows can signify different feelings.

Using a simple emotions chart can assist artists in practicing various expressions.

Learning Clothing and Accessories

The right clothing and accessories bring an anime character to life, reflecting their personality and story. Artists must consider:

  • Clothing Folds: Understanding how fabric drapes and folds according to body movement and wind is important.
  • Accessories Detailing: Items like jewelry, weapons, or tools add depth to a character’s backstory and need to be drawn with careful attention to detail.

These attributes, when mastered, serve as the stepping stones to developing one’s unique anime drawing style.

Exploring Drawing Tools and Materials

Choosing the Right Pencils

For anime sketches, artists typically use a range of pencils from hard graphite (H grades) for light, rough sketches to soft graphite (B grades) for deep shading and bold lines. 

We recommend using an HB pencil for lighter lines and lighter shading and a 4B pencil for darker lines and darker areas of shading.

HB pencils are a pretty balanced choice for general work. A typical set might include H, HB, 2B, and 4B pencils to accommodate various shading techniques and line work.

Selecting Paper Quality

The paper quality is crucial as it interacts with the pencil to define the line work and texture of the drawing. Heavier paper weights, such as 80 lb or 100 lb, are ideal as they handle erasing well and don’t crumple easily. Smooth to medium textures work best, providing a uniform surface that allows for fine lines and avoids the grainy appearance.

For some decent beginner sketching paper, a good starting sketchbook is the Strathmore 300 Series Sketch Pad.

Utilizing Digital Tools

Digital tools make drawing anime easier. If you don’t know where to start, here are some common tools and software that a lot of digital artists use.


  • Photoshop (Paid) – Although Photoshop is mostly known to be used for editing and manipulating photos, it can also be used for digital art. It is limited though in terms of what you can do with it but it’s good enough for beginners.
  • Clip Studio Paint (Paid) – Clip Studio Paint is perfect if you’re learning to draw anime or manga. This software is designed for artists who make comics but it also works with simple digital art. The great thing about this is that it has assets that help you with dynamic poses as well as brushes to help make shading or adding details easier.
  • Krita (Free) – Krita is a great tool for beginners. If you can’t afford Photoshop or Clip Studio Paint then Krita is here for you. Unlike Photoshop, it’s not designed to edit photos. It’s an open-source program made exclusively for artists.
  • PureRef (Free) – PureRef is not exactly for digital drawing but it is useful for digital artists. It allows you to store references and move them around while you’re drawing. This is perfect if you find having to go online for a reference every time to be a hassle.

Drawing Tablets

  • Wacom – Wacom is a popular brand of drawing tablets. Many digital artists flock to this brand. If you’re starting out and you don’t know what brand to get, Wacom is always a safe bet. I suggest going for Wacom Intuos if this is your first time getting a tablet.
  • Veikk – Although Veikk is not as well known as Wacom, it’s a good tablet for a beginner and a lot cheaper than Wacom. Veikk was my first drawing tablet and it has allowed me to draw many digital artworks.
  • Huion – Huion is also a well-known brand of drawing tablets. It’s cheaper than Wacom but more expensive than Veikk. You can create the same quality of art on a Huion tablet as you can with a Wacom, however, some have argued that the pen sensitivity of Huion is a lot less accurate than that of Wacom.


  • Ibis Paint X (Free/Paid) – Every digital artist has had their start on Ibis Paint X. It’s a free mobile app on Android that lets you draw and paint. It has an impressive selection of brushes however, most of them are locked unless you pay for premium.
  • Infinite Painter (Free/Paid)Some have said that it’s the best drawing application on Android as it is somewhat similar to art software on a PC. It is a bit buggy though, especially if your phone isn’t Samsung, but the developer is known to be responsive to queries and issues.
  • Procreate (Paid/For iPads only)Procreate is a great digital art app especially if you’re into animating. It allows for an easy way to fill in colors and smoothen shaky lines. Unfortunately, there’s no free version and it’s only available on iPads so if you have an Android, I suggest using Ibis Paint X instead of Infinite Painter.  

Setting Realistic Goals and Expectations

When learning to draw anime, setting realistic goals and expectations is crucial for a learner’s progress and motivation. Individuals often vary in the time it takes to master anime drawing, with typical timeframes ranging from one to three years.

Obviously, factors influencing this timeline include the daily practice duration and the learner’s dedication. In my own art journey after ~2.5 years I felt pretty good about my drawings with practice ranging from 1-3 hours each day.

A beginner should consider the following aspects to set achievable goals:

  • Daily Practice: Consistent practice is key. For an hour of daily practice, acquiring proficiency might take approximately three years. Increasing practice to three hours a day can significantly shorten this time.
  • Skill Level Goals: Beginners should aim to grasp basic anime drawing elements before progressing to more complex techniques.
  • Training Approaches: A structured approach with step-by-step guides and classes can facilitate quicker learning.
  • Patience with Progress: One may face plateaus in skill advancement. Maintaining steady effort during these periods is important.

In summary, learners should:

  • Identify their available time for practice.
  • Set specific, measurable goals based on skill level.
  • Choose a suitable training method.
  • Remain patient and persistent, acknowledging that skill development is not linear.

Practicing Key Drawing Skills

Developing Line Work and Shading

Line work forms the foundation of anime art, necessitating a steady hand and the ability to convey form through contour lines. An artist should practice:

  • Straight lines: Ensure they are smooth and vary in thickness.
  • Curves: Work on smooth and consistent curved lines.

Shading adds depth to the art, and one should focus on two aspects:

  • Gradients: Create smooth transitions from light to dark.
  • Cross-hatching: Learn this technique for depicting shadows and tones.

Enhancing Observation Skills

Observation is crucial for translating real-world inspiration into anime art. To enhance this skill, you should:

  • Spend time studying their subject matter closely by watching anime or studying manga.

Experimenting with Styles

Anime comes in various styles, and artists should:

  • Explore different character designs and motifs.
  • Experiment with both traditional and unconventional anime styles to discover a personal niche.

By mastering these practices, artists will improve their craft and move closer to creating compelling anime drawings.

Engaging with the Anime Community

Engaging with the anime community can be an essential step for artists seeking to improve their anime drawing skills. It provides opportunities for feedback, inspiration, and growth.

Participating in Online Forums

Online forums serve as hubs for anime enthusiasts and artists to share their work and discuss techniques.

While you are likely already aware of these platforms site’s like Reddit’s r/anime or DeviantArt offer sections where one can post drawings and solicit critiques from peers. Constructive feedback from these communities can be invaluable for artists at any skill level.

  • Some Key Forums:
    • AnimeArt – A subreddit focused on sharing and discussing anime art.
    • DeviantArt – An online community showcasing various art forms with a dedicated anime section.
    • MyAnimeList – Known for anime reviews, it also includes forums for fan art.

Time Management and Practice Routines

Establishing a consistent practice schedule is pivotal for those learning to draw anime.

We recommend dedicating at least one hour daily to practice if possible. Remember consistency is key – even if you can only draw for 15 or 30 minutes its worth it.

For those aiming to accelerate their learning curve, increasing the daily practice time can be beneficial. Practitioners drawing for about three hours a day can improve very rapidly in as little as one year.

We also suggest focusing on a practice routine such as the one below:

MondayBasic Shapes & Lines1 hour
TuesdayCharacter Anatomy1 hour
WednesdayFacial Expressions1 hour
ThursdayClothing and Drapery1 hour
FridayHair and Accessories1 hour
SaturdayApplying Color and Shadows1 hour
SundayReview and Free Drawing1 hour

A structured approach allows learners to cover various aspects of anime drawing systematically. It’s also highly beneficial to use references for practice, as this helps in understanding proportions and style specifics of anime characters.

Self-assessment is a critical part of the learning process; students should regularly look back on their old work to not only identify areas of improvement but look back at how far they’ve come.

Progress Tracking and Milestones

When learning to draw anime, it’s crucial to set clear progress tracking mechanisms and identify milestones to gauge one’s development effectively.

Here is a sample timeline that you can help guide your own practice and learning:

Initial Months (1-3 Months):

  • Basic shapes and lines: Mastery of circle, square, and triangle forms.
  • Facial features: Simplistic eyes, noses, and mouths.

Checkpoints (3-6 Months):

  • Character sketches: Full rough anime character outlines.
  • Consistent practice: 1 hour daily drawing habit established.

Improvement Phase (6-12 Months):

  • Facial expressions: Capturing different emotions.
  • Anatomy basics: Proportional body sketches.

Refinement Period (1-2 Years):

  • Advanced anatomy: Detailed hands, feet, and clothing wrinkles.
  • Dynamic poses: Characters in various action stances.

Proficiency Goals (2+ Years):

  • Complex scenes: Full compositions with backgrounds and multiple characters.
  • Unique style: Developing a personal anime drawing style.

Finally we also recommend keeping a log or portfolio. You will be blown away at how quickly your drawings improve with consistent practice.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the first steps to take when learning to draw anime?

An aspiring artist should start with the basics of drawing, such as understanding anatomy and proportions, before moving on to the distinctive features of anime characters like large expressive eyes and stylized hair.

Can self-taught artists become proficient in anime illustration, and how?

Yes, self-taught artists can become proficient in anime illustration. They can do so by consistently practicing, studying from existing anime art, and using online resources and tutorials to refine their skills and style.

What is a realistic timeline to become competent at drawing anime for a beginner?

A beginner can expect to become competent in drawing anime within two to three years with regular practice, such as one to three hours daily. However, the timeline varies with individuals’ dedication and learning pace.

What are the key skills to focus on for improving anime drawing quickly?

Artists should focus on anatomy, especially facial features and expressions, as well as mastering dynamic poses and creating clean, confident lines to improve anime drawing more rapidly.

How much practice is typically needed to create a professional anime character?

Creating a professional anime character typically requires hundreds of hours of practice. Artists need to refine their grasp on proportions, character design, coloring, and shading to reach a professional level.

What are effective strategies for reducing the time it takes to complete a manga chapter?

Effective strategies include planning the chapter layout in advance, streamlining the drawing process with templates or digital tools, and focusing on consistency rather than perfection to efficiently progress the storytelling.

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