How to Draw Realistic Anime People in GIMP

Written by darrin koltow
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How to Draw Realistic Anime People in GIMP
Anime characters such as this can be drawn with GIMP. (manga styled samurai girl image by Anastasia Serdyukova from

Anime is a type of animation originated by Japanese artists. The style is easily recognisable by the large, glistening eyes of its characters and by the comparatively "slower feel" of the animated movements. It features characters with idealised bodies, and stories that span a wide variety of themes and messages. Anime can be drawn in many types of media, including formats produced by digital paint programs such as GIMP, a free (open source) program that was first released in 1996. GIMP features vector graphics and tools for painting and correcting digital photos.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • GIMP image processing program

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  1. 1

    Find a digitised photo or drawing of a gymnast or other figure with an athletic body type.

  2. 2

    Open GIMP and select "File," then "New." This creates a new document for you to paint in.

  3. 3

    Copy the digitised photo into the new GIMP document. Select "Layer," "Dockable Dialogs," then "Layers" to display the Layer window.

  4. 4

    Click the Layer window's "New Layer" button twice, then press "Enter". The first click of the "New Layer" button makes a new layer for the pasted-in photo. The second makes a new layer for you to draw on. Tracing on this layer leaves the original photo intact.

  5. 5

    Click the toolbox's Zoom tool, then click and drag on any portion of the pasted-in photo to maximise its image.

  6. 6

    Click the toolbox's paintbrush, then select a small brush size ("Circle 03" or "Circle 05") in the "Tool Options" pane.

  7. 7

    Trace an outline around the image portion you zoomed in to.

  8. 8

    Color the portion you outlined by clicking the toolbox's colour swatch, then clicking the colour palette's eyedropper tool. Click the eyedropper pointer on any part of the image inside the outline you drew. This selects a colour from the original photo.

  9. 9

    Click the ">" button to add the selected colour to your document's colour palette. Then, close the palette window.

  10. 10

    Apply the paintbrush tool to completely fill the inside of the outline you drew. Notice that the paintbrush is now applying the colour you selected form the original photo.

  11. 11

    Repeat steps 5 through 10 to colour each portion of the character in the photo.

  12. 12

    Begin making the anime face by zooming into the character's head, then selecting a small paintbrush and the black colour.

  13. 13

    Make the eye outline: Draw, over the right eye, the outline of an oval that's about one quarter the face's height. Make another oval for the left eye.

  14. 14

    Form the iris: Draw another oval inside the eye outline, but fill this one with a dark grey or green colour. Make the oval's size slightly smaller than the eye outline.

  15. 15

    Make the pupil: Draw an oval inside the iris, size it slightly smaller than the iris, and fill it with black.

  16. 16

    Create a large highlight for the eye by erasing an oval-shaped region near the pupil. Make this region the same size as the pupil.

  17. 17

    Make the nose: Select a small brush size and the black colour. Then, draw a small "L" over the photo's original nose, if the character is facing to the left. Make a backward "L" if the character is facing right.

  18. 18

    Form the mouth: Draw a small "M" in place of the photo's original mouth.

    For more practice in drawing anime characters, see the links in Resources.

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