How to Shade Anime Characters

Written by carl hose
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How to Shade Anime Characters
Anime shading is often subtle and sparse. (Angry one image by Airman from

Anime drawing is a form of art that grew from Japanese animation. Anime drawings typically feature characters with wide eyes and soft facial features set off by sharp hair with hard edges. Although anime typically features very little detail work, shading plays an important role in giving anime characters their distinctive look. Learning to apply shading to your anime characters allows you to give them depth and bring them to life on your sketch pad.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Pencils
  • Paper
  • Eraser

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  1. 1

    Shade the hair first. Hair is an important element of any anime drawing. Adding shade lines around the edges of the hair brings depth to your character and will help lift it away from the page by adding dimension. Don't make the shading too thick, but shade dark and around the entire hair line, inside and out.

  2. 2

    Shade one side of the nose. Anime noses are sometimes little more than a curved line to indicate a nose. Rarely is there any detail. By adding a small, light angle of shading to one side, you give the nose a slight rise and depth.

  3. 3

    Shade the bottom lid of the eye. Anime eyes are wide, either a circle or half circle. Add a medium dark pencil line beneath the eye and then use your finger or the corner of an eraser to blend and smudge the shading. This will give the eyes depth and help bring out the large irises present in anime drawings. Keep the pencil shading horizontal, along the lid of the eye, and blend and smudge at a slight angle.

  4. 4

    Shade main features like weapons or clothing lightly, as if you are colouring the objects. Don't colour the objects fully, though. Allow plenty of white to show through the pencil. For best results, angle your pencil slightly and shade with the side more than the tip. This gives you a smooth application.

Tips and warnings

  • Keep all of your shading anchored to a single light source for realism. If you want light coming from the left, keep your shading on the right. The exception is for the shading you do around features to give them depth.

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