So far, I have published a few dozen drawing tutorials on gvaat.com, and finally, we have arrived at how to draw a face of an Anime girl. A task that requires focus and knowledge of multiple disciplines: stylization, anatomy, perspective, and line work.
I am excited to share with you what I have learned about this subject in the past three years.
Drawing a pretty stylized face is difficult mainly because very small changes create large visual results. This means we must set our expectations wisely, and get ready for small adjustments and corrections as we try to perfect a drawing of an anime girl face.
So for those of you looking for a simple, two-sentence answer on how to draw an anime girl’s face, here it is below, for the rest of you – those of you who want to dive deep into Anime and Manga drawing, I wrote the rest of the tutorial.
To draw an Anime girl face, start with a strong construction method of the head, then simplify the features and keep only those identifiable lines necessary to deliver the Anime and Manga aesthetic, exaggerate the shape of the eyes, and simplify the nose, as well as shape the head to fit the type of Anime style you are interested in drawing.
That sounds great Gvaat, but also how do I do all that? Follow me in this tutorial, and I will do my best to make the process clear and have your drawing look like it was done by a true Mangaka in no time. Okay, maybe not that well without years of practice of drawing Manga. However, I do believe you will get better at drawing Anime girl faces after you finish this tutorial.
A quick note, before going further, I will use the term Anime to mean both Anime and Manga for simplicity. Although Anime usually refers to animated, and Manga usually refers to drawn (printed) art, the general style and approach to drawing is the same.
Table of contents:
- Method of construction
- Placement of facial features
- Step-by-step drawing of an Anime girl face with Gvaat
- Drawing of Anime Girl hair
- A word of advice on being frustrated with your drawings of Anime girl faces
1. Construction of Anime girl head
We need a solid method of construction of the human head before we can understand how to draw an Anime/Magna head or face.
Trust me when I tell you that all, yes all great Manga artists know how to draw a realistic human head. What’s more, they know how to draw it really, really well. Do not skip learning anatomy and construction of the face and try not to dive right into drawing in the Anime style, before understanding the basics of construction.
Luckily, there is an incredibly powerful method for the construction of the face that we can learn and practice developed by Andrew Loomis. I published a detailed tutorial on the Loomis method and you can find it at this link.
Basically, the method evolves drawing a sphere to represent the top portion of the head, then drawing in the jaw and other features based on predetermined landmarks and proportions. It is a great starting point for drawing the face. Check out the tutorial above.
Later on this page, I will walk you step-by-step through how I use the method to draw an Anime girl face.
2. Drawing Anime girl face – Proportions –
Now that we have the construction of the head covered, let’s talk about the proportions in Anime and Manga art.
Proportions of a girl’s face in Anime and Manga are grounded in reality, with some exaggerated features.
The most notable are the eyes. The eyes usually appear larger. Eyebrows appear smaller than their average counterparts in real life. (For a super detailed look at how to draw Anime eyes, check this tutorial). So do the noses, and mouths. (I have a tutorial on drawing lips and mouths in Anime style as well, you can find it here.)
Studying proportions in Anime and Manga:
The best way to study proportions is to look at Anime drawings you really like, then measure out the distances between the eye brows and the tip of the nose, the tip of the nose and the chin. As well as measure out the distance between the eyebrows and the hairline, and the hairline and the very top of the head.
You can also measure our the length verses the width of the head as well. Note that to do this properly you will need to find the head drawing that is at eye level. Various angles of a drawing of the head can foreshorten the drawing and make it hard to measure.
Once you have these measurements, you can compare them to the Loomis method, note the variation and adjust your Loomis head construction accordingly. (In the Loomis method of construction the length from the top of the head to the hairline, from the hairline to the eyebrows and from the eyes brows to the nose, and from the nose to the chin are all about the same.)
Compare this with your favorite Anime style, and see what adjustments should be made when you construct the next drawing.
3. Placement of features
One of the easiest ways to draw an anime girl’s face is to use the Loomis method of construction and adjust from there.
When placing features, keep in mind that although the eyes are exaggerated in Anime art, making eyes too big will make them look uncanny and often can make the face scary looking.
Pick a few of your favorite anime shows, or look at Manga, and compare the male and female characters. You will notice that the female characters are composed of lines that are less angular. Keep that in mind when drawing features. Female chins and noses are drawn with carefully rounded lines, while male counterparts are drawn with harsher more prominent angles. This is of course not always the case, but keep this in mind so that you can manipulate your drawing to whatever you see fit.
With time, through keen observation and practice, you should gain the ability to control your drawings to represent whatever character you want.
Start with the Loomis measurements for the placement of the facial features in your drawing by following this guide.
Then look at some screenshots of your favorite Anime, or look at your favorite Manga drawings, and identify how the Loomis proportions have been changed. In some Anime styles the face is much wider. In almost all Anime the size of the eyes is exaggerated. In other expressions of the face in Anime, the distance between the eyebrows and the tip of the nose, is greater than that between the tip of the nose and the end of the chin.
Gvaat, wait! Do I really have to get into these details? Do I really need to measure things out, or study the Loomis head construction?
No, not really. It is probably possible to do all of this intuitively over time. However, if you want to expedite your learning curve somewhere between ten and a hundred times, (😉 I’m serious), then yes, it is absolutely necessary.
A bad drawing of an Anime face often can be separated from a good one by identifying minute details, it is the same between a good drawing and a great one.
We have to get into the details, and we also have to be mindful of the entire drawing at once. This is the essence of portrait drawing, and it definitely applies to drawing Anime girls, just like it applies to drawing any human head, stylized or not.
4. Step-by-step instruction, how to draw an Anime girl’s face
Next up, we will draw this Anime girl’s face below, step-by-step, together. Feel free to grab a sheet of paper and pencil and follow along.
Step 1: draw a circle
First, let’s start with a circle on our page, the circle will represent the main upper portion of the head (or the head, minus the jaw).
Step 2: make markers for the facial features
Next, let’s find the center of that circle and draw lines to represent the eyebrow line and the center where the length of the nose will fit.
If you are wondering what we are doing at this point in the process, I am here to tell you that we are, for now, simply following the Loomis construction of the human head. I recently published an entire tutorial devoted to this type of construction, feel free to refer to it if you need additional instruction. You can find it at this link.
We will mark down the nose and the eyebrow line. From there we will push down to the end of the nose, and take another leap (of the same length) to the chin. You will have to play with these distances to get the style you like most. In the image below, I am keeping the distance between the hairline and the eyebrows, the eyebrows and the tip fo the nose and the nose and the chin the same.
Step 3: Draw the first draft of facial features
Let’s also cut in from both sides of the circle, and create the area for where ears will go (largely to follow the length of the nose).
Okay, this next stage is super important, so keep your focus and energy to get through it. We will now begin to use the markers from Step 2, to carefully place features onto the face, in a very draft-like way.
If you are using a pencil, press lightly and focus more on the overall shape and placement of the feature rather than the details. Eyes can be styled to look like ovals, for now, the nose can be adjusted to just a simple extension of the face. The lips can be simplified as well. We are not looking to draw the final beautiful image – we are simply looking to help our minds in the next stage. That is to say, we are placing down a brief sketch for the eyes, the nose, the lips, and ears, to use as an underdrawing in the next stage of the drawing.
It is completely okay, if, at the end of this stage, your drawing looks like a sketchy mess (just look at mine right above), as long as you can easily identify where you can draw over it.
Keep adjusting your lines and your sketch, to fit the style and expression you are going for. Stop when you are happy with your progress. You should feel like what you have is a good summation of what is to come in the next step. More importantly, you should feel like you have a good base to draw over confidently.
In the next step, we will draw over this sketch. If you are using a pencil, grab a eraser (preferably one that erases well without destroying the paper surface), and lightly erase the sketch you made for the facial features, until it appears very lightly on the surface of the paper, just enough to guide you on drawing over it.
If you are drawing digitally, set the sketch layer to 10-30% transparency, base this on your comfort. And start a new layer for the line art drawing that will go on top in the next step.
Step 4: Draw final lineart over your sketch
In this final stage of our drawing, we will attempt to draw over our sketchy messy lines to complete our drawing of Anime girl’s face. Three things to focus on as you do this:
- This is the step where you must try to draw with swift, beautiful lines. To achieve this, try to put down confident pencil strokes that come from the shoulder and the elbow, and less so from the wrist.
- You must attempt to see not just the detail you are drawing but also the entire drawing of the face at once. Yes, focus on the detail, but try to draw it with the larger context of the face in mind.
- Finally, attempt to do away with sketchyness of the previous step. In certain areas of the drawing, you will have multiple sketchy lines, you will have to exercise your judgment to find the best path for the line and draw the new, fresh, crisp line only in that one path.
With the above three ideas in mind, let’s begin to draw over our sketch.
You should feel confident when drawing your lines. Anime and Manga art relies heavily on beautiful line art, and lines that don’t carry some confidence don’t appear beautiful to the eye.
If you are struggling with confident lines, try the follow techniques:
- Adjust your drawing area, so that if you are sitting, your elbow rests on the table, then try to draw with your elbow up in the air, see which effort produces more confident lines for you
- Grab a blank sheet of paper, and create an abstract drawing with swift, confident lines going across the page in every direction. The lines’ path and direction do not matter. However, make sure that each line is created with one quick movement of you entire arm, not just your wrist. Don’t stop until you have at least 100 lines drawn, then switch directly to your drawing of the Anime face.
Once you try the above, come back to our drawing of the Anime girl’s face, and try to focus on producing confident, clean lines, akin to the ones you see in your favorite Anime and Manga art.
5. How to draw Anime Girl hair for your anime girl drawing
Drawing hair is difficult. Here are some tips on drawing hair for your Anime girl face drawing:
- The first step is give yourself a break even if it does not come out great the first few times around. A lot can be learned from observing hair in real life. Learn from how the light hits the hair, and how the form is defined, not by individual strands, but by the masses of the hair and their interaction with light.
- Realize that although volume differs from haircut to haircut, all hair has some volume. This means that as hair sits on the scalp, it will produce some extra space that you have to draw. Given that we defined the head in the Loomis construction (see above), it should be fairly easy to add some volume to that line of the skull, and make sure placement of the hair on the head looks realistic.
- When the face is turned in angles you are not familiar with, use reference to understand how hair will sit on the head.
Finally, I wrote an entire tutorial on how to draw Anime girl hair, you can view it by clicking here.
6. On frustration with drawing an Anime face of a girl
As I mentioned in the beginning of this tutorial, we should be ready for minute changes and adjustments. Sometimes, this can turn into hours of tinkering to try to develop a drawing of a face you like best, these hours of tinkering can end up feeling very frustrating. Then the whole practice of drawing can end up frustrating, and then… well you don’t want to do it anymore or you want to do it less often.
How do we battle that frustration? Well, first, if you really want to get better, you won’t let that discourage you. However, there are some things we can do to help.
First, go into the drawing expecting some level of tinkering. As I mentioned at the outset, drawing a beautiful face is not just a difficult task, it is a task where very small changes produce extremely visible results. Therefore, moving or redrawing the left eye 1 – 2 millimeters to the left (as an example), can be the difference between a drawing you are proud of, and a drawing that feels off in some way.
That is okay, the minute details are just what it takes, get comfortable with it. Over time, you will learn systems that will help you with placement of features, you will get better at approximating where the eyes should be placed to get the result you want subconsciously (yes, to the nearest millimeter), so just stick with it.
Second, go for quantity over quality, keep drawing faces and set a “tinkering alarm clock”. As an example in drawing a face over a course of an hour, give yourself 10 minutes to make adjustments, regardless of the result after the 10 minute mark, move on. In this way, after drawing a 100 faces you will improve in your skills much more, than drawing just 10 faces that take 10 times as long to draw.
Third, look at reference, or look at artwork you love for inspiration, but also for direction and guidance. How did someone else solve this problem before you? Can you learn from that? If yes, what can you learn from it? What makes you like certain drawings but not others in Anime or whichever style you aspire to learn? Spend some time thinking about this before dismissing your current drawing as just another “bad try”.
A wise mentor told me once that every artist has a few thousand poor drawings, but once they draw through them, these “bad” drawings are gone forever, and what remains is of much higher value, and is something that can only exist given the existence of those “bad” drawings that came before. So in this sense, every “bad” drawing you create, can potentially give life to beautiful drawings in the future. I hope you see where I am going with this: on a long enough timeline, there are no bad drawings. Only drawings that help you create better ones in the future.
Conclusion – How to Draw the Face of an Anime Girl
Gvaat, you wrote a lot about how Anime and Manga drawing is similar to realistic drawing of anatomy, okay thanks, but how is it different? Okay, yes, Anime art is grounded in reality, this is why it is so easy to recognize even to someone who has never seen Anime or Manga art before. It is different in two significant ways
- First, it follows its historically set aesthetic as precedent. Although Anime and Manga art has evolved over time (like any other artistic tradition), there are pretty major rules in place, such as larger and more expressive eyes, proportions that are often exaggerated, repeated facial expressions. There are also, of course, narrative elements that evolve slowly and stay within a certain sphere of storytelling
- Secondly, there is drastic simplification of realism, Anime and Manga don’t just stylize reality to fit an aesthetic, they simplify reality in very definite terms. Often, a complicated feature of anatomy is simplified to just one or two lines in an Anime drawing. This simplification can be difficult, as it leaves little room for interpretation. To get better at it, I highly recommend looking at Anime examples you love, and practice from them for a while, until elements of simplification begin to jump out at you and resonate in your memory. You then can apply these elements when drawing from life.
At this point, I hope that two ideas are becoming clear, first, yes it is difficult to draw a pretty face. It could be a stylized face of a character from Manga or Anime, it is still not easy to draw really well. A lot depends on small changes in the drawing, as well as on a solid foundation in perspective, understanding of anatomy, and line quality.
Second, it is entirely possible to learn all of the skills necessary to draw the beautifully rendered face of an Anime girl. Skills like understanding the use of perspective and thorough knowledge of anatomy can be gained with diligent study and practice. If you know what Gvaat’s Workshop is about, you know I believe anyone can do it. What will help? Daily practice of drawing goes a long way. Studying perspective and anatomy will help as well.
Practice a lot, and be consistent. Try to string together as many days as you can of consistent practice. Try to correct mistakes but go for quantity and not quality at first. Then slowly try to increase the quality of your drawings. You will be surprised to see how much progress you will be making and how fast you can actually get to drawing Anime girls, or whatever else you desire.