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How to Create a Slick Anime Character in Photoshop

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In this tutorial, we'll learn how to draw an Anime Style character. To start, we'll rely on basic shapes and the Brush Tool. Also, you'll learn one of my personal techniques I call "The Front Mirror" which I use for almost any of my animation projects. This technique will save you lots of time, and will help you to draw many characters for your projects in a very fast way.

I will show you how to draw everything using the "Line-by-Line" system and I'll do my best to describe what every line will present.
I hope you'll enjoy this tutorial and make use of some of Anime industry secrets I'm about to reveal!

Tutorial Details

  • Program: Adobe Photoshop CS4 v11.0
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Estimated Completion Time: 30 minutes or less

Preparations

Lets make some basic tweaks before we start drawing the head. Make sure the following options are Enabled under the View menu:

  • Show > Guides
  • Snap
  • Snap to > Guides, Layers, Document Bounds.

Step 1

Use the ruler to create two guides in the center of the document, a horizontal and vertical one. Use the center of the document to create a circle (it will snap to the guides). Make sure that the circle's stroke size is 1px with 0% Fill Opacity.

The size of the circle shown below is 300px by 300px. After creating the circle you can use the Transform tool (Command+T) and manually enter 300px by 300px, and then apply.

Step 2

The next line will present the side of our character's head. Select the Line Tool, make sure the Weight is set at 1px. From the middle left side of the circle, draw a line from 1 point to the the 2nd point, as shown below:

Step 3

Now we are going to make a "freehand" line. (This will be the lower jaw / chin) don't be afraid to use the brush tool. It's always good practice to get used to drawing your own shapes and lines without depending on photoshop shape tools. Select the Brush Tool, Make sure it's on 1px, and follow the points from the end of the last straight line, to the right. Do it smoothly and pass the center guide by a bit.

You can do the exact same thing using the Pen Tool, but the reason I made this tutorial is to teach you how to train yourself. I highly recommend you use the Brush Tool when you draw your characters, but you can choose whatever you feel more comfortable with. There are no rules for being creative! :)

Tip: Zoom in 200% to draw the 1px lines, I do it all the time because it's easier to draw and control thin lines.

Step 4

Drawing the Ear is very simple, just follow the points shown bellow:

Tip: Use the straight line we created in Step 2 as a base for the start of the ear, Use 200% Zoom for best control.

Step 5

Continue with the Ear, closing the basic shape. Follow the the points shown bellow. It's easier to see what we are drawing by disabling the guides (Command + ;)

Step 6

Draw a parallel line to the upper line, Then add a smaller line from the end of it in about 35 or 40 degrees. Follow the points shown below.

Step 7

The last step in finishing the ear is very cool because it reminds of two letters: L and C.

From the last line we drew, start to draw the L shape until it touches the side of the head (that line from step #2 again). The same goes for the C shape, it looks like a wide letter C.

Step 8

Let's draw the neck now. Before you start drawing though, enable guides again (Command + ;).
From the middle of the lower jaw line (Step 3), draw a line that goes down and curve it a bit to the left. Similar to what we did in Step 3, draw another line from the end of this line to the right and pass the center guide a bit.

Tip: It's always a good thing to remember shapes as letters or other symbols. It will make your brain memorize how to draw specific shapes in the future.

Step 9

Drawing the shoulder is just a simple curved free line from the middle point of the neck, that goes down to the left.

Step 10

So far we've created the basic shape of our half-character. Cool :). In the next step, we are about to continue the technique I call The Front Mirror, and believe it or not, I use it a lot in my projects. Why Front Mirror? Simply because it works best for front (and back) view of characters, as well as other designs, not only heads but almost anything you'll create. I got started on this technique when some of my clients needed a reference to create 3D Models, and even before that to develop character sheets for 2D animated projects. (I may teach this in a future tutorial).

Step 11

Welcome to the clean up phase! While creating the very first shape in Step 1, we created a full circle but all we need is a specific part of it. Zoom in to 200% then select the layer with the circle and convert it to raster:

  • Right Click on the layer > Convert to Smart Object
  • Right Click on the layer > Rasterize Layer

Pan the view where the circle and the line that creates the side of the head clash (Step 2). You can either use the Eraser or the Lasso Tool to get rid of the bottom part of the circle. Take your time to do it slowly until the line and the rest of the circle looks like they are united as one shape.

Step 12

Now we will merge all the current layers we already have into a single outline. Now that we have only one outline, we will select the right side of the document. Zoom out to 100%, select the Rectangular Marquee tool (M) and use the guides to make a selection. Delete the extra portions. You should have something similar to the screenshot below.

Step 13

Select the layer with the cleaned up half character, and duplicate it (Command + J). Flip it horizontally. The flipped layer may appear on the wrong place and it looks weird, but that's easy to fix so just drag it to the right side until it snaps exactly to the center of the document (thanks to the guides).

Step 14

It's time to make the face. Let's start with the eyes. In Anime (and Manga) style, There are so many different kinds of eyes and hair styles, so we won't get stuck on this. We will focus on a specific eye style that I made for this specific style of drawing. Zoom in at 200% and choose the Brush Tool (B) with a 4px diameter. Draw the bottom eyelash. Start to draw a line from the right to left, but finish the line with a gentle thin line as the tip (look carefully on point 2).

Step 15

Start to draw a gentle line from the left to right. While drawing the line, remember to start with low pressure. The same applies to ending the tip. Try to draw the tips thinner than the middle line.

Step 16

Finish the upper eyelash, Add the final tiny tip.

Step 17

There are many ways to creating the iris. I used to draw it with the brush, but you can just do it using the Circle Tool with 4px. In the example below, I used the circle tool in red so you can see where to place it. You should make it in the same color of the eyelashes which is black.

Step 18

Delete the upper part of the circle that overlaps as shown below.

Step 19

Select the brush tool (B) and draw a straight line in the middle of the circle.

Step 20

While drawing the eyebrow, it doesn't matter where you start. The important thing is to make it start and end with thin lines for a nice and gentle tip.

Step 21

Flatten all the parts of the eye, including the eyebrow and duplicate it. Flip it horizontally and move it to the right place in case it's a bit offside.

Step 22

So far, everything we've done is perfectly symmetrical. This is nice if we want to create a robot or machine-type character. But in our case, we need to break the symmetry to give our character a more organic feel. The easiest way to do it is to start with the mouth, then add more parts to complete our job.

Draw the upper lip of the mouth using the Brush tool (B) at 4px. First, disable the Guides (Command + ;). Then start to draw a wavy shape and try to make an upper curve at the middle of this line. It doesn't need to be perfect because we want it to be twisted just a bit.

Step 23

Draw and connect the lower lip with the upper lip. Start from the left, try to make the character's mouth smile in a sick, twisted way. This is not going to be a "mama's little boy" ;)

Step 24

Drawing the teeth may look complicated but if you'll follow this you'll get the idea. Change the brush size to 1px. Start to draw the letter L. From the upper lip down to the right a bit, make sure it's not exactly straight.

Step 25

Draw 2 tiny lines to what we've done already, follow the screenshot below.

Step 26

Draw 2 tiny lines to what we've done already to complete the left side. For the right side, draw a tiny squashed M letter like in the screenshot below. Remember: the teeth or mouth shape doesn't have to be exactly like I showed you. My goal is to show you the order and the way I'm used to drawing it.

Step 27

To complete the smile, we want to add a few more lines that will add some expression to our character. Draw something like two keyboard arrows similar to: >>. If you'll look carefully, they look like rotated L's. Make the first one bigger then the second one. Those lines will add "Smile Wrinkles" to our character. Add a small line under the lower lip and make sure it's in the middle of the lip and the chin.

Step 28

Now that we're done with the mouth, we need to add a nose. Guess what...? Yeah... L is coming to town and we're going to use it again.

  • Draw the letter L - this time make it really straight like 90 degrees.
  • Draw a parallel straight line under the L.
  • Draw a < shape (like a triangle arrow pointing to the left, or 45 degrees rotated L)
  • Draw the final straight line to close the nose shape.

Step 29

Paint the inside shape of the nose with black. It should look like in the screenshot below.

Step 30

Draw a curved line on the middle of the neck to make it more interesting.

Step 31

In the next few steps, we will make our character more "awesome". For now we're going to add some piercings. We'll start with the eyebrow piercing. Draw three circles, large, medium and small. Make sure that they are aligned to the right eyebrow and equally spaced

Step 32

Lets add a nice earring on the right ear. Draw some kind of long square from the lower part of the ear. Make the corners a bit curved. I didn't use the Square Tool because I wanted to make it a bit twisted and not symmetrical, but you can use the square tool if you like.

Step 33

Erase the line of the ear that appears inside the earring. Erase a bit of it and it will look much better, like in the screenshot below. When you're done, merge all the layers of the face together into one layer. It will be easier to add the hair, which is our next step.

Step 34

Hair... there are so many kinds of Anime/Manga hair styles, but let's make something simple and nice looking to fit our character. Since I'm here to teach you techniques that you'll memorize and help you draw your own characters, I won't just draw it with no reason because I want you to understand what are you doing, and that's why you'll have to remember a few simple rules in order to draw and understand the specific hairstyle we're aiming to. Remember these rules and you'll be able to draw the hair faster without thinking much.

  • Every group of hair is made of two lines only.
  • Every group of hair is built from one curved, open triangle.
  • When a group of hair ends, another starts, which results in two connected triangles.
  • The formula: two lines create one curved triangle = group of hair.

Let's begin. Make a new layer for the hair. We will need to delete parts of the character to combine them together seamlessly. Draw the first curved triangle, starting from the middle of the left ear.

Step 35

From the end of the last group of hair, start another group. Make this one a bit longer.

Step 36

Again, from the end of the latest group of hair, start another group, and another line until it touches the neck's outline.

Step 37

Now make the other side, but time start from the tip of the earring. If you're looking for a shortcut, there is one in this specific hairstyle. All you need to do is duplicate, flip horizontally, and complete or cut the parts that are needed or not. I highly recommend on drawing it from scratch because it's the best practice for Anime/Manga Hair though.

Step 38

Drawing the top part of the hair is simple. When we made the bottom style, if you'll count how many groups we've created you'll get: 3.5 groups of hair in each side. Now that you're understanding the meaning of groups even better, it will be easier for you to work because I'm about to tell you that we're going to draw 5.5 Group of hairs in total for the top part. Draw the first group of hair from the middle of the top left ear.

Step 39

The next group of hair will end with an imaginary line that will intersect with the tips of the eyebrows and the eyelashes.

Step 40

The middle (the tip) of the next group of hair will intersect with the right ear.

Step 41

The fourth group of hair ends with an imaginary line that intersects with one the of the first groups of hair.

Step 42

Finishing the last hair group (and a half). The last line should touch near the middle of the top right ear.

Step 43

The front part of the hair (pony tail) will be also built from 5.5 groups of hairs. By now you should have already gotten the idea of how the hair works, so I won't show it to you again. In case you still don't feel comfortable with the formula, keep practicing from Step 34 until you'll get it right. Start drawing the first group of hair from the left top side of the forehead.

Step 44

For the last step, we need to clean up the lines that we don't need anymore so the hair will cover the forehead.

Step 45

Congratulations! You've created your first Anime Head! :D

What Now? Basically the next step is to paint the character. And luckily for you, I already have a tutorial that covers exactly that. You are more then welcome to check out the tutorial, entitled "How to Get that Anime Look in Photoshop Using a Flexible Workflow".

Conclusion

After you've learned one of my personal techniques that I've been using for many years for both stills and animation, you are ready to create your very own characters with amazing quality that any producer would love to work with.

Try make different eyes, eyebrows, mouth, ears and hair and you'll get your own original character. For those who had some problems, or hard times with specific parts on this tutorial I highly recommend you to download the PSD file to explore every single part, it may help you understand parts I didn't discuss on this particular lesson, such as the hierarchy.

I hope that you enjoyed and learned something new. I would love to read your comments and opinions, and if you want me to make more tutorials related to animation (not only Anime) industry, I would love to do it :) Have a wonderful, creative day Y'all!

Just an Example of what you can get if you'll follow my earlier tutorial at Psdtuts+ :)