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How to Draw Anime Heads and Faces

Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

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.

how to start drawing head

The basic proportions of an anime head are very simple: the whole head should have a middle line...

manga basic head proportions

... which marks the point for attaching the lower part of the face.

manga lower half of 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.

manga eyes location

The area under the line can be cut in half too—this middle line marks the location of the nose.

manga eyes proportion
manga nose proportion

The lower half can be divided into thirds. The mouth is usually placed on the first of these lines.

manga mouth proportion
manga lips proportion

The ear is usually located between the big middle line and the nose line.

manga ear proportion

The hairline is usually located on the line marking the halfway point of the upper half of the face.

manga hairline proportion
where hair starts in manga

The neck should be thin, attached to the original sphere at the bottom.

manga neck proportion

Once you have your proportions set like that, you can easily draw the details!

how to draw manga head tutorial

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!

Step 1

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.

manga head profile front 34

Step 2

Draw a line towards the bottom, defining the length of the face. Mark the middle of the head once you're done.

manga proportions in profile front

Step 3

Outline the lower part of the face. Notice how it changes depending on the view.

manga proportions head side view

Step 4

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.

proportions of eyes in manga

Step 5

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!).

manga nose side view

Step 6

Divide the part under the nose into thirds.

manga lips side view

Step 7

Draw the mouth in this area.

manga mouth side view

Step 8

Draw the eyebrows over the eyes. Their location should depend on the expression you're going for.

manga eyebrows proportion

Step 9

Draw the ears between the middle line and the nose line.

manga ears side view

Step 10

Draw the hairline at the halfway point of the upper half.

manga hairline side view

Step 11

Add the neck. It should merge gently with the jawline.

manga neck side view

Step 12

With all the guide lines in place, you can safely finish your manga face.

how to draw manga face turnaround

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.

Step 1

Anime eyes come in many shapes and sizes. Start your drawing with a general outline of the eye. 

how to start manga eyes

Step 2

Draw the curve of the upper eyelid, along with the eyelashes in the outer corner.

manga eyes upper eyelid

Step 3

Add some thickness to the eyelashes, if you need it.

manga eyes upper eyelahes

Step 4

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.

manga eyes shape definiton

Step 5

Draw the lower eyelashes. They're usually much subtler. Notice how they accentuate the shape of the eye.

manga eyes lower eyelashes

Step 6

Add the iris. It should be big, circular, or vertically oval.

manga eyes iris shape

Step 7

Add the pupil. It should mimic the shape of the iris and be placed exactly in the middle.

manga eyes pupil shape

Step 8

Cross the eye with a shadow. Its direction should be identical in both eyes (the symmetry is broken here).

manga eyes shadow

Step 9

Draw the shine dots. They shouldn't be symmetrical either.

manga eyes shine dot

Step 10

Darken the eyes: fill the eyelashes, the pupil, and the shadow, leaving the iris and shine dots untouched.

manga eyes inking

Step 11

Add the eyebrow. There are many shapes to choose from!

manga eyes eyebrows drawing

Step 12

To make an eye look bigger, add the crease of the eyelid over it.

manga eyes eyelid crease

Step 13

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.

manga eyes styles

Step 14

To draw the anime eyes closed, just imagine the upper eyelid going down and rotating.

manga eyes closed blinking wink

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.

manga lips turnaround

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.

manga lips styles

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.

manga nose turnaround

Styles of Anime Noses

This basic recipe can, of course, be modified across various styles.

manga nose 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:

manga ears turnaround

Styles of Anime Ears

Ears are complicated, and they can be simplified in many ways:

manga ears styles

7. How to Draw Anime Faces in Various Styles

Manga Deformation

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.

manga face styles

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!

manga face sex male female difference

Anime Expressions

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.

manga facial expressions how to draw

Good Job!

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:

how to draw manga head step by step beginner

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