You have a keen interest in Anime.
And you really want to learn how to draw Anime.
But at the same time, you want to know how long it will take to learn to draw Anime realistically because you need to know how many hours you have to put in.
In this post, I’ll cover everything you need to know.
I’ve already covered how long it takes to learn to draw normally in this gigantic post here, so be sure to check it out.
Before I get into the specifics, a lot of people get really confused between Manga and Anime. So let’s clear the mixup first.
What is the difference between Manga and Anime?
Manga is Japanese comics – what you read and see in a book basically.
Japanese Manga is usually almost always published in black and white. And this art requires a lot of practice in inking.
Anime however is the animated version of the comics – what you see on a screen like your laptop or television. It is usually colored. And this is what people around the world watch.
Both Anime and Manga obviously require serious drawing skills.
I won’t go into too much detail about the differences but you can read the whole difference here between Manga and Anime here.
How long does it take to learn to draw Anime (with a reference)?
I am not going to provide you with a fluffy and unrealistic answer.
It’s going to get pretty technical and this answer will be long.
If you’ve never drawn a thing in your life before, there are a lot of things you will have to learn to draw before you can start drawing Anime without any references or from scratch.
Because ultimately that is the goal – to be able to draw what you picture in your mind and get a very beautiful result on paper or on screen.
Have you seen artists draw without any reference? They usually sketch out the characters pretty quickly and it almost looks like black magic.
It’s like they have a picture in their minds and they’re replicating it on paper.
Like… how are they doing that from memory?
How do the characters look so proportionate and look the same in every single drawing?
I hate to burst your bubble, but this isn’t talent or a skill that these Artists are born with.
It comes with loads and loads of practice.
They have dedicated hours, months, and years to developing this skill.
Now, if you were to copy a screenshot that you capture of your favorite Anime and simply draw it by looking at the reference, I’m sure you can learn to do that really well in a couple of months.
But this is not defined as drawing, you are merely copying what you are already seeing.
By replicating every line you are looking at, and making virtually no changes between the image you see and the image you are drawing – it is simply something that anyone can learn to do.
For instance, I never learned to draw anime from scratch.
I liked drawing characters from shows, so I’d just take a screenshot on my laptop and try to emulate that.
I was more interested in mastering different mediums, so most of my anime drawings were done with a ballpoint pen using the cross-hatching method.
I didn’t learn to conceptualize the characters or create them from scratch.
I was merely perfecting my shading techniques.
Since I have been drawing since a child, this drawing only took me 3 hours to do. Once I managed the outline, I was able to shade part by part till I finished the whole image.
This drawing doesn’t involve:
- Drawing without a reference
- Understanding human anatomy or proportions
- Understanding light theory
It’s just about replicating an image that someone else has already drawn.
So, in this case, you can do this in a couple of months if you have absolutely no drawing experience.
If you have basic shading experience and have your own technique for replicating stills, then this is easy peasy for you.
How long does it take to learn to draw Anime (without a reference)?
So, if you are learning how to draw anime characters of your own, then you will need a lot more time than that
Because if you want to be able to draw your own original characters and then draw them in multiple poses using multiple facial expressions, it will take anywhere between 3-5 years.
There is no fixed answer because learning to draw depends on multiple factors:
- Your ability to make quick strokes
- Your hand and wrist movements
- The power of your observation skills
- Your ability to comprehend color theory and draw emotions
- Your ability to translate what you imagine to your canvas/paper
- How fast you pick up drawing
- How many hours you put into drawing every day
- Whether you are learning by yourself or have somebody teaching you
So it could take anywhere between 3-5 years.
This answer depends on how consistent you are and how many hours you put in every day.
Now that you have a good understanding of the time, let’s dig in deeper.
How to learn to draw Anime? What do I need to study?
Remember, to draw anime correctly; you need to learn the following:
- Human Anatomy
- How to draw faces and expressions (crucial for studying manga/anime)
- Color theory
- Perspective drawing to be able to draw bodies and environments from different angles
- Figure drawing and Gesture drawing (to help you draw and capture the motion and movement of the character)
- Backgrounds (you will need perspective drawing for this as well)
Learning to draw manga and anime can be challenging if you haven’t studied any of these and are starting from scratch.
Lucky for you, there are courses and books you can pick up to help you speed up your progress.
This beginner course will help you draw Manga and Anime characters from scratch.
The teachers will teach you how different perspectives and details so that you can draw any manga character. It is specifically aimed at beginners, so it’s perfect for anyone with zero knowledge of drawing.
Apart from this course, here are a few more online classes that you can check out:
- Digital Illustration with Manga Influence
- Creation of Manga Characters
- Manga Comics for Beginners: From Concept to Creation
There are also some great books you can check out to speed up your progress in learning how to draw anime.
Please note that it can take a few years to become an expert Anime Artist because you are mastering several skills.
How to learn to draw Anime as a beginner
If you are confused or extremely intimidated by what I’ve told you, please relax.
Know that almost every artist started somewhere from scratch.
They didn’t just become great at this skill within a week or a month.
Every Youtube video you see on this trade that says you can learn drawing within 30 days is not genuine.
If it was so, everybody would be doing it and the value of drawing Manga/Anime wouldn’t be so high.
So, I’m going to tell you what learning Anime entails when you are a beginner.
These steps are going to be practical in any field – whether you want to learn to draw cartoons Anime or video game characters.
1. Get a sketchbook
Don’t get a pretty sketchbook.
Get a super ordinary and plain one.
When you get a very good-looking sketchbook, you are going to feel intimidated and not want to “mess it up” or you’ll feel the pressure to draw extremely perfect drawings.
Please understand that in order to master any skill, you will need to produce 1000 pieces of garbage first.
We all have to start somewhere.
Nobody just becomes perfect – we all have those extremely shi*ty drawings that look horrible and it is slowly going to evolve to greatness.
A sketchbook with a pencil is such a low commitment that almost anyone can do this.
In the beginning, you need to take it easy.
Just start with the basics.
Learn to walk before you try flying.
2. Build a habit
In order for you to be consistent, start with 15 minutes every day.
You can draw whatever you want.
Start drawing body parts or learn to draw faces and heads from different angles.
Like I said earlier, you should get books or courses – these will help you draw so much faster and learn quicker.
They are also very motivational because the teacher will give out projects and you can see how others are participating and you can upload your project too.
For instance, I really loved this course on how to draw manga comics.
It’s so helpful and easy to follow.
Look at courses that you are genuinely interested in.
Yes, this does cost money but I’ve found that passion means investing in yourself and your skills.
It’s in Spanish but I turned the subtitles on and I really, really enjoyed how beautiful this course was. I don’t speak a word of Spanish and I loved this course.
As you start drawing, slowly increase the duration to 30 minutes, then to 45 minutes, then to an hour.
Build it up slowly.
If you start drawing for 3 hours on day 1, by day 5, you’ll feel burned out and quit.
You’ll feel it’s too hard and it’s better suited for people “with talent.”
I know, because I’ve done this before.
It is the case when you’re trying to build any habit.
You have to start small and slowly work your way up. Being consistent is all that matters when you are trying to build a skill.
3. Ditch perfectionism
You don’t need to show this sketchbook to anyone.
Stop trying to make it perfect.
This is for you to get better and for you to improve. If you want to learn how to draw Anime, you have to make it through 1000 pieces of garbage before that.
- Draw your favorite Anime characters.
- Draw them fighting.
- Draw them singing.
You do you.
Just sketch something every single day.
4. Get familiar with shapes
In the beginning, you are going to use a lot of references to draw.
For instance, if you’re drawing an anime face, then there are a lot of shapes that go into that drawing. You’ll use triangles, squares, cuboids, etc.
Break down the drawing into basic shapes first.
Watch courses and see how Anime artists draw – the face is always broken down into shapes.
Drawing books teach you this because these are the fundamentals of drawing.
This is a skill you will need to master with time.
Learn proportions and learn how to sketch the basic shapes and then fill them in with the details.
5. Learn human anatomy
Anime requires learning to draw a lot of characters.
Mastering the faces are a whole separate topic. But this depends on you and what style of facial features you prefer.
You can start practicing faces from your favorite Anime.
But learn to draw it from different angles.
Once you master heads and faces, move to the body – learn anatomy.
It’s a vital skill that you need to possess.
Mind you; you will have to practice several poses and have a good understanding of the human body in order to draw people.
Please note that if you’re merely tracing figures or just copying images and drawing them ditto, you’re not really improving your study of human anatomy.
You have to practice drawing the human body and understand how it works in order to be able to draw a character in any form.
I found this great video on how Josh from Ego studied Anatomy all by himself, and he even explains how he went about it:
Here are a couple of things you need to get good at to study drawing human anatomy:
1. Drawing gestures
You need to study movement and understand the gesture you need to draw before you draw a person anatomically correctly.
Gestures are meaningful because they convey the mood and emotions of the character at a given point.
So, your foundation in human anatomy should be strong, but you will also need to study different gestures.
2. Understand the human body
You will have to have a basic understanding of the human skeleton, the muscular and vascular systems, and an understanding of our joints and how they bend.
This will help you draw human beings pretty accurately.
If you understand human anatomy, you can bend the rules.
3. Practicing different body parts
Besides the overall body, you will also have to practice drawing hands, arms, and legs.
This is where your drawing skills will really be tested.
One of the best books I can advise you to get is this one. This book includes multiple exercises, so if you go through it and practice every day, you will become a pro in some time!
There is a lot to remember when you are learning human anatomy, but you can get there with regular practice!
Every artist studies human anatomy if they aim to draw characters.
So whether your aim is to draw Manga/Anime or eventually draw Original characters of your own – learn to draw Anatomy.
6. Learn to draw clothes
Learning to draw clothes is not easy.
Not only do you have to practice drawing several types of outfits, but you also need to understand how to render them and make them look believable.
You have to master the art of drawing folds, creases, and wrinkles.
Anime characters have volume and learning how to drape clothes on their bodies does take a bit of practice.
7. Start shading
You will have to learn to understand light and dark and the whole concept of drawing 3d objects – this will help you shade.
You can practice with a pen or a pencil – I recommend a pencil because you can erase and correct mistakes easily.
Start with basic shapes first and slowly move to more complex objects.
As you feel more comfortable drawing, you can start using Procreate or Clip Paint studio to play with colors.
Learning how lights and shadows work will transform your Anime drawings heavily and give them a more professional look.
This is what you want to aim for as you start getting better and moving to a more professional level.
8. Practice weak areas
The more you practice, the better you will get.
But as you start getting better, you will need to show your work to art teachers or professionals to get a better understanding of where you need to improve.
For instance, if your expressions are weak, they may ask you to practice facial expressions more.
Or if your gestures and movements are unconvincing, they’ll ask you to practice more gesture drawing and ask you to draw more poses.
If you are unable to draw characters from different angles, then you need to practice more perspective drawing.
You get the drift.
This stage of drawing will come much later so you don’t need to worry about it now.
But it is something that you can keep in mind for the future.
9. Be patient
Please understand that this is a serious skill that you need to master.
This has nothing to do with talent but more to do with how many hours you can put in and how observant you really are.
It takes a lot of consistent drawing to start seeing results.
And once you start getting better, you can look at your previous drawings from 3-6 months ago and note how far you’ve come.
This will motivate you to keep drawing Anime and to keep moving forward!
Why is it so hard to draw Anime?
Anime is hard because there are a lot of components to getting it right.
Unlike drawing a still image, you’re learning to create a character from scratch.
You have to get all the facial features right and capture the movement and emotion of the character with lines.
Added to that, there is the coloring and detailing that adds more finesse to an Anime drawing.
All of these components put together make a good Anime drawing.
And learning to master all these individual components take time.
Learning to draw Anime faces and heads alone might take a few months to a year.
Learning to draw Anatomy will easily take 2 years if you’re drawing 1-2 hours every day. This can be sped up if you put in more hours but I wouldn’t recommend if it you don’t have daily drawing practice.
Build the habit slowly and focus on just getting in those hours and being consistent.
Fall in love with the journey of drawing Anime and you’ll certainly find it easier to draw and master.
You have to be patient and realize that this is a skill that is going to take a lot of time to learn. It’s just like playing the piano or learning to play basketball.
Nothing is achieved in a day unless you practice for months and years.
Do it because you love drawing and you love Anime, not because it’s something you want to prove to the world.
When you start doing it for yourself and because you love this art, then you’ll start making progress more quickly.
I hope this helps.
Here are a few more posts you will find useful:
- How long does it take to learn to draw? From Newbie to Pro
- How to color digital art step by step for beginners
- How to draw without a reference
- How to gain 100K followers on Instagram
- How to start digital art for beginners
- 7 ways to get back into drawing after a long break
- Why do Artists use Blue pencils?
- 13 reasons to draw when you don’t feel like it
- 13 easy ways to be confident as an artist