The anime style was created to make animated characters both expressive and easy to animate. This means that many elements of the face have been extremely simplified—and this means they are easy to draw, too. However, if you want to draw anime characters from imagination, you must know certain rules.
In this tutorial, I will show you how to draw an anime head in various views, step by step. I’ll also show you how to draw manga eyes, nose, lips, and ears, explaining their “anatomy” and styles. You’ll learn how to draw deformed faces as well, and how to create a distinction between males and females. After this tutorial, you’ll be able to draw your own anime heads from scratch!
This is the second tutorial in our series, How to Draw Anime. You may also want to take a look at the first one, to learn how to draw anime bodies:
1. Anime Head Anatomy
Although manga drawings are flat, they illustrate something that is definitely 3D. Because of this, it’s very useful to understand the 3D structure of an anime head instead of memorizing a few 2D templates for various views. It also makes it easier to keep the proportions correct in every perspective.
The most distinctive part of the head is an elongated sphere that represents the cranium. It looks like a circle in the front view and an oval in the side view.
The basic proportions of an anime head are very simple: the whole head should have a middle line…
… which marks the point for attaching the lower part of the face.
This middle line also marks the area of the eyes. They can go right through it or be placed under it, depending on the style you’re going for.
The area under the line can be cut in half too—this middle line marks the location of the nose.
The lower half can be divided into thirds. The mouth is usually placed on the first of these lines.
The ear is usually located between the big middle line and the nose line.
The hairline is usually located on the line marking the halfway point of the upper half of the face.
The neck should be thin, attached to the original sphere at the bottom.
Once you have your proportions set like that, you can easily draw the details!
2. How to Draw an Anime Head in Profile, Front, and 3/4 Views
But this was a very general overview of how an anime head is constructed. Let’s draw a manga head step by step in all the popular views to better understand the process. Just keep in mind that manga is not one style, so the way I’m showing you is not the only correct one. Feel free to experiment!
As I mentioned before, the original sphere is not really a sphere—it’s elongated, and it looks slightly different in various views. If you have problems with it, you can always start with a sphere and add some space in the back if needed.
Draw a line towards the bottom, defining the length of the face. Mark the middle of the head once you’re done.
Outline the lower part of the face. Notice how it changes depending on the view.
Add the eyes in your chosen area—on the middle line or under it. A classic proportion tells us to leave a one-eye-wide space between the eyes, but this rule is often broken for a stylized effect.
Draw the nose on the halfway line of the lower half. Create a subtle indentation between the eyes (or not—some styles don’t need it!).
Divide the part under the nose into thirds.
Draw the mouth in this area.
Draw the eyebrows over the eyes. Their location should depend on the expression you’re going for.
Draw the ears between the middle line and the nose line.
Draw the hairline at the halfway point of the upper half.
Add the neck. It should merge gently with the jawline.
With all the guide lines in place, you can safely finish your manga face.
3. How to Draw Anime Eyes
Now you know how to draw proportions of a manga face, but you still need to learn about the details to draw it convincingly. Let’s see how to draw eyes in manga style step by step.
Anime eyes come in many shapes and sizes. Start your drawing with a general outline of the eye.
Draw the curve of the upper eyelid, along with the eyelashes in the outer corner.
Add some thickness to the eyelashes, if you need it.
In manga style, the eyes usually don’t really have an outline. Instead, it’s suggested by the shape of the eyelids. Turn the eyelashes in the outer corner down, accentuating the side of the eye.
Draw the lower eyelashes. They’re usually much subtler. Notice how they accentuate the shape of the eye.
Add the iris. It should be big, circular, or vertically oval.
Add the pupil. It should mimic the shape of the iris and be placed exactly in the middle.
Cross the eye with a shadow. Its direction should be identical in both eyes (the symmetry is broken here).
Draw the shine dots. They shouldn’t be symmetrical either.
Darken the eyes: fill the eyelashes, the pupil, and the shadow, leaving the iris and shine dots untouched.
Add the eyebrow. There are many shapes to choose from!
To make an eye look bigger, add the crease of the eyelid over it.
Anime eyes can be stylized in various ways to make the character unique. It’s especially important in a classic, black-and-white manga, where you can’t distinguish the eyes with a color.
To draw the anime eyes closed, just imagine the upper eyelid going down and rotating.
If you want to learn more about how to draw anime eyes, especially how to rotate them, you can learn a lot from this tutorial dissecting Disney style. After all, anime has borrowed a lot from Disney!
4. How to Draw Anime Lips
Eyes are certainly the most developed feature in a manga face. The other features are heavily stylized and as simple as possible. Let me show you how to achieve this effect.
Anatomy of Anime Lips
To simplify anything, first you need to know the original form. Take a look at this tutorial to learn how the real lips are constructed and how to draw them.
Manga lips still work like the realistic ones—they’re just reduced to as few lines as possible. Even the line between the lips may not be continuous to keep the effect very subtle. However, the invisible lower lip still casts a shadow, and in the side view both lips reveal their shape.
Styles of Anime Lips
But again, anime doesn’t have one style, and many variants are present. You can experiment with many styles of the lips, as long as you keep them consistent with the other elements of the face.
5. How to Draw an Anime Nose
An anime nose is even more simplified than the lips. Sometimes, it’s simply not present at all! Let’s take a look at how it’s achieved.
Anatomy of an Anime Nose
In this tutorial, you can learn how a real nose works and how to draw it:
If you place a classic anime nose over a realistic one, you’ll notice that it borrows just the crucial elements: the curve of the nose and its bottom part.
Styles of Anime Noses
This basic recipe can, of course, be modified across various styles.
6. How to Draw Anime Ears
Rotation of Anime Ears
Anime ears are very simple to draw, with one exception: if you see them from behind, their base becomes visible. It’s like a conch, and you must imagine it this way—you can’t simply draw the ears the same way in every view, or they’ll look flat!
You can learn more about the structure of the ears and how to draw them here:
Styles of Anime Ears
Ears are complicated, and they can be simplified in many ways:
7. How to Draw Anime Faces in Various Styles
Manga borrows from reality, but sometimes it goes pretty far away from it. To create a style that will look good and not monstrous, always keep these basic proportions: half of the head as a line marking the eyes, the nose halfway down the lower half, and the mouth around one-third of the distance under the nose. The rest you can freely experiment with! Just remember to keep the features consistent: the more deformed the style, the less realistic the facial features should be to make it all look intentional.
Male and Female Anime Faces
Although manga style faces are pretty feminine to begin with, there are certain ways to make the face look more masculine:
- The eyebrows are placed low above the eyes.
- The eyebrows may be thicker and less curved.
- The eyes are narrower.
- The eyelashes are minimal and less prominent.
- The pupil is small and circular.
- The lips are even less pronounced.
- The jawline is more pronounced.
- The neck is thicker.
- The nose is more pronounced.
Of course, not all of these methods must be applied. Sometimes, the sex difference is shown only by the clothes and the hairstyle!
In anime, the facial expressions are as simple as the facial features. They resemble simple emoticons to a large extent, and you can use them as inspiration. Less is more here—if your character doesn’t have detailed lips on their neutral face, don’t show the teeth and tongue in any expressions. Keep these features exaggerated, but minimal in details.
Now you know how to draw anime heads and faces, and how to draw those characteristic eyes, noses, lips, and ears. If you want to continue learning about drawing in simple styles like this, you may like our series on cartoon drawing…
… and our series on how to draw in Disney style: