Tips on Anime Portraits



Hello! This is Mana1057! I have a small tips-like-tutorial on drawing Anime Style Portraits. Anime Style is my most comfortable style , I use it for making fan arts and drawing other people's characters.

Let's talk about some POSES to COLORING then some RENDERING.
This seems so long but the topics will be short and precise! I hope you learn something from here! This is from the point of view of a self-taught artist and here’s some of the things that I’ve learned along the way.

→ What Are Portraits?

In the world of photography, the meaning of Portrait is pretty broad. Like, Portrait and Headshot are two different things.

But in drawing, regardless whether you are in Digital or Traditional, Portraits is basically a Headshot; cut around the lower neck area, or sometimes a Bust; cut around the chest area.

→ Types of portraits

- Realism
- Semi Realism
- Caricature
- Anime Style
- Chibi
- Cartoon

I encourage you to at least give each style a chance. Find the style that works best for you.

Realism is the more detailed and accurate art style. The more details the better.
- I can't draw realism.

Semi Realism is the middle ground of Realism and Anime style.
- I love doing this for my mature/old characters

Caricature is like a squished version Realism to Semi-realism
- Caricature still has that semi-realism vibe even if the form looks squished

Anime style is, well, anime. Big eyes and small details.

Chibi is like a squished version of Anime Style.
- The difference of Chibi and Caricature is that Caricature is more semi-realism, Chibi is Anime

Cartoon is cartoon. The simplest style. Almost little to no details needed.
- Cartoons are always in simple style so that it is easier to recreate/reproduce.

For this article, I will focus on Anime Portraits. I’ve been doing Anime Style for almost 8 years now. It was a hobby at first then I took it seriously!

• Just a reminder, this is NOT a full on tutorial on how to draw. This is just giving you guys some tips about Anime Style Portraits. I didn’t go to an art school and everything is basically just self-study, but these are what I learned, I hope these are helpful!

◊ Types of Anime Portraits

You can present anime portraits in a lot a ways. The most common way is a Bust cut,
But there are also other ways on how you can present/draw portraits.


These are the type of Headshots; Headshots are basically HEADS. You can draw them as cut around the neck area, clavicle, or some are just plain heads only/Icons.

My favorite Headshot is a “V-Cut” or sometimes a Clothes cut;
This is basically cutting around the opening on the clothes, usually collared clothes.


These are portraits that are cut around or under the breast area, basically this type of portraits shows the shoulders, sometimes even the hands and chest area.

You can draw them as a Above the Chest, Mid-Chest, Under the Chest; and the cut or like the tip at end can either be a V-cut or a normal straight cut.


Before we start drawing, let’s start with gathering information. Whether you are doing this for fun, gift art, or commission purposes, ALWAYS get as many reference about the character you’re drawing if possible.

When I do commissions, I usually ask the other end to give me 3-4 information. Example something like this below.

(1) First; Character name. This is OPTIONAL, but I’d love to know the name of the character I’m drawing because sometimes, their name holds more info about their personality.
(2) Second; Character image. This is the original drawing/reference.
(3) Third; Character personality. From the word itself, this is the personality of the character that you will draw.
(4) Fourth; Character expression. OPTIONAL, but helpful! This is the facial expression that the other party wants to see.

If you’re doing this for commission purposes, I recommend getting all these 4 information if possible.
If this is just for fun, like fan-art purposes, 2 and 3 will do.

◊ Drawing – POSE / ANGLE

Now that we have all of our information at hand, let’s go to the drawing!

How will you pose a character if it’s just a portrait? Simple pose or just facing the camera is okay, but it could get redundant if you always do that and so to avoid that I usually take the [Hair style for consideration], the [Personality/Emotion of the Character] and sometimes, the [Owner’s preference] when it comes to posing. We’ll also talk about the generic [Looking Straight/at Camera Pose] that everyone loves to do (me, included)

→ Hair Style Consideration

For example on HAIR STYLE CONSIDERATION, my OC (Original Character) that I bought online.

This is the original design:

And the right is how I did his pose'd him.
I choose that angle; ¾ angle, facing the left, because his hair is cut on the right side. I want people to know, especially the first timers who will lay eyes on him that it is his hair style and his hair is cut on that side.

OKAY, another example.
Here’s another beautiful character that I bought online.
This is the original design:

And the right is how I POSE’d her:
I choose facing on camera or straight angle for this one. Her hair is symmetrical, so it’s practically okay for me to draw her with whatever pose I want but, I want people to know that her hair is two-toned and that she has two braids. (And I’m not gonna lie, I want her assets to be one of the highlights)

→ Personality/Emotion of the Character

This part is the number three (3) on the [PREPARATION – INFO] tab; the personality and emotion of the character can and, if possible, should be seen on the pose.

→ Poses or Actions that goes UP can be identified as feeling of something extreme; like joy, anger, pride.

→ Poses or Actions that goes DOWN can be identified as feeling of something negative, it can be sadness, defeat, relaxation, serious.

→ Poses or Actions that are NEUTRAL is, well, neutral. Normal to Basic emotions.

→ Owner’s Preference

- This could either be, what the owner of the character wants you to do.
This is the number 4 on the [PREPARATION – INFO ] tab.

- Or this could be what you can do for the owner.
Sometimes, commissioners/customers send me the whole link of their character’s profile and there, I see the gallery of the OC, and sometimes, I draw based on what I DON’T SEE on the gallery – while making sure it’s within the preference of the customer.

Example is this one, my OC Jamil;

Everything is a frontal pose! I was very young back then.
And so for this article, let’s make something else for him, maybe a ¾ views

I’ve pose him in 3/4 that compliments his hair style, because if I draw him on the other side, his bangs will be on the way of his face

-- I want to make things clear, this is just a tip! You don’t have to follow these, but there’s no harm on keeping these info in mind. Simple poses / Looking on camera is still okay! I love doing those! Just remember that there’s no harm on leaving your comfort zone once in a while.

→ Looking Straight / At Camera Pose

But of course we have experiences on which we try new things, sometimes doesn’t work out well with us. If you really can’t help drawing characters that are looking straight / looking on camera, try tilting the head of the character by a small bit or even adjusting the angle of the drawing itself – rotate it by 10-15 degrees, just so it won’t look stiff.

● I always start with the head first > Then facial details/expressions > Then Hair > Then I draw the body
o This helps me check the proportions to match the hair size and length.
o The head is already angled/posed, so posing the body is easy – and I can try different poses for the body to match the facial expression.

● When you’re drawing/sketching a pose, always draw them NAKED. Yes, even at portraits, this would be helpful once you start adding the clothes.
o It will be easier to check if the body is proportionate to the head and details.

● SMALL TIP on drawing NECKS!
o Thin Necks; good for women, teens and children. For feminine and youthful
o Thick Necks; good for men. Usually defines masculinity, strength, muscle

◊ DRAWING – Face Shape

We have the pose, now let’s start drawing the shape of the face. The shape of the face can define the character’s personality and age, the smaller it is the younger and/or feminine side it will be; the sharper and broad it is the older and/or masculine the character will be.

The younger the character is the smaller the face and as the character age; the face gets longer.

●Children have more rounder, smoother, chubby face.
●Teens have rounder cheeks but with the chin and jaw being a little bit sharper/pointy – indicating start of maturity.
●Young Adults have sharper cheekbones and with a sharper chin for femininity and broad flat chin for masculinity.

● Always keep in mind; ROUNDER lines indicates youthfulness/cheerfulness, SHARPER lines indicates maturity/seriousness
This rule also works with drawing noses

◊ DRAWING – Facial Expressions and Facial Structure

Poses don’t tell facial expressions; Poses support facial expressions.
Example is this one:

But can also look like this

Okay! So again, Poses support facial expressions! It’s the tone or the feel, the amount of movement the pose has helps support the facial expressions.

Facial Expressions and Facial Structure is one of the main keys on drawing Portraits since we don’t have any other limbs in the drawing, the face should tell the story, the eyes should tell the emotions.

→ Facial Expressions

these are the emotions, the feels, the mood of the character. Almost everyone knows what emotions are and what they look like when drawn

Exaggeration is one of the things you could work on.

Like the word itself, you exaggerate a certain movement or part of the face to make the emotion stronger. This is when you make the other eye smaller, or the one eyebrow deeper.
This is also the part where you can add lines to the face to support the emotion

→ Facial Structure

Now that we have our Facial Expressions, let’s focus on HOW to draw those expressions. The main key on drawing portraits is always on the EYES. Eyes are window to the soul, are they not? Eyes should be able to tell you the personality and the emotion of the character.

To further explain what Facial Structure is let’s divide this topic into five (5) parts; [Eye Shape], [Iris Placement], [Eyebrows], [Nose], and [Mouth]


Changing the shape of the eyes can tell the personality and/or emotion of the character. For example, this smiling face

The right has a rounded eye shape – indicating that his character is cheerful, relax.
The left has a sharp eye shape – indicating that this character is more mature

● Try looking at your favorite anime and analyze their eye shapes (especially that Superhero Anime!) Rounded shaped eyes indicates soft – kind characters. While Sharp shaped eyes indicated serious – mature characters.


the iris of the eye, this is important. You could portray so much emotion by just placing the iris differently. For example, the same drawing from above. If we move the iris;

Depending on the position/height, you could increase the intensity of the emotion, even if it’s a bored expression.


Eyebrows are the strongest element that supports the eyes and further tells the audience the emotion of the character.

Here’s an example of the same eye but with different eyebrows;

Always remember that men have thicker eyebrows than women, but again, if this is for Commission purposes, always respect the Original design of the Owner.

o I just need to let that out. Okay! Moving on.

o Remember that you can exaggerate the eyes! Move the eyelids of the characters to further show their emotions.


This topic is very short. Always remember;

Rounder lines gives you a vibe of youthfulness, sometimes even femininity.
Sharper lines gives you a vibe of maturity, sometimes even masculinity.

Of course this could change, depending on the nationality and/or design of the character that you’re drawing. Always respect the original design!


Another small topic. Mouths are one of the support factors that could help define the personality, emotions and even the age of your character more.

Wider lips are more masculine, Smaller lips are feminine.

Less detailed lips are also better. If you made a simple lips detailed, it's going to look heavy.
*Still cute though!

● Remember!! You can exaggerate the mouth to heavily show the emotion of the character!!

◊ DRAWING – Hair

Drawing hair in Realism is very different when drawing it in Anime Style. Realism is heavily detailed, Anime Style is slightly detailed, while Cartoon is almost small to no detail.

You don’t mix Realistic hair with an Anime Style drawing, it’s going to look...different.

It’s not wrong per se, it’s more of the ‘Matching the details’.
Anime Style is only slightly detailed, while Realism is heavily detailed. A detailed hair on a very simple base of a head would look heavy. If the line is light, at least try to match everything with light lining.

→ Where to start drawing hair

Always analyze the hair first! Where is it coming from? Like, look at your own head – your hair is coming from a certain point on the top of your head.

Look at these characters for example:

The root of their hair is coming from:

Of course, when we do commissions, the characters that we’re drawing are not ours and so we have to really analyze how the character’s hair is being laid out. Try to imagine it on a different angle.

Once you got that settled, we’ll move to the next step

→ Hair ‘strands’

Now we draw the hair, this is my style when I draw and when I do 3D; Divide the hair per portions.

I divded the Left Bangs – Right Bangs – Back Hair

After that DIVIDE IT AGAIN! And Again! And Again! UNTIL YOU ARE SATISFIED – BUT! Make sure NOT to make too much! Simplicity is beauty! Match the level of detail with the rest of the facial features.

The whole process will come naturally as you get used to it. Analyzing and understanding the hair of the character is the main goal here.

● You can also exaggerate on the hair! But since there’s already a lot going on at the upper area (with all the facial features and the bangs), we can exaggerate on the lower area of the hair
● Adding a few tiny or even long hair strands at the side of the head and the face helps not to make the image to flat
● Always respect the original design!

◊ DRAWING – Ears

● Drawing hair in front and behind the ear helps create a more ‘natural feel'
- Cause if we look at our own ears, there’s hair strands in front of the ear and also at our back

◊ DRAWING – Clothes

Remember on the [DRAWING – Pose/Angle] section, the basic pose is drawn naked. This would make it easier for us to identify if the upper body needs adjustment, yes, even at portraits.

● A little tip that I always do to check; Resize the whole drawing; make it smaller – leaving you with a bigger canvas. This would help relax your eyes and easier to focus.
● Rotating the canvas Horizontally would help

Analyze how the clothes are being worn. I usually start at the outer clothes first – then I go inner.
With the exception for capes – CAPES ARE ALWAYS LAST.

● Always pay attention to the details!
● Thick clothes have thick and big folds. Thin clothes have thin and many folds

● RESPECT THE ORIGINAL DESIGN! Always! Unless you are getting paid/given permission to alter the clothing, then go all out


This is pretty self-explanatory.

It's the line art of the drawing, basically your final and polished lines. I'll use two types here.
A polished one and a sketchy one.

● A small tip that I do is that I do the main drawing and the facial expression on separate layers.
o This would be helpful once you started coloring and final rendering.

● Use a brush that you are comfortable with. I use a regular default pencil brush (Mechanical Pencil). It does not close any gaps, I don’t even close gaps. I just use it like a pencil. It’s messy and it’s what I like.

◊ COLORING – Base Colors

Now, we start adding the colors!
Make sure that your LINE ART LAYERS are lock so that we won’t touch them by accident.
* This is how I usually Color, feel free to use whatever coloring method you want.

● The amount of layers here would depend on how many times you want to divide per element of the character (i,e; Hair, Horns, Flowers. etc.)

● I divide some parts per layer so that when the commissioner have an update it would be easier for me to make changes
o I got this habit when I worked on an Animation Project with a group of people, this is so that whenever the team needs a fast update to present to the client/director, it’s easier – you just Click the Layer > CTRL + U (Hue and Saturation) > Change the color.
*especially when your meeting location is on a coffee shop.

● Naming your layers and folders are good practice
o This is so that when you start working with a group of people, it would be easier and much more convenient for you and them to identify the layering and such


My way of coloring is quite heavy, I use a lot of layers and I do not use NORMAL blend mode for shading.
I love MULTIPLY. I use that a lot.

I’ve shown my coloring process before, it’s right here:

Yes, that is a food video, but it's the same coloring technique is also used when I’m drawing humanoid characters.

Here’s the link of the speedpaint for those who don’t want to read the article:

● When coloring, always make a BACK-UP File. The moment you start coloring, Duplicate your main file or CTRL + Shift + S (Save As) and add a “_V01” at the end of your naming convention.
o Example; you’ve finished coloring the hair, save it on your main file, then save again on your “_V01” file. Then continue coloring, then save again – DO IT BACK AND FORTH.

● Try having a habit of saving every 5-10 minutes
o Yes, that’s outrageous, but it’s better to keep your progress than to lose your progress when you have a power shortage.
o I save every time I move my mouse.

● SMALL TIP on Tones!
o If your mood is warm; your highlights are also warm tones, while your shadows are cold tones
* WARM Tones: Yellow, Orange, Reds
o If your mood is cold; your highlights are also cold tones, while your shadows are warm tones.
* COLD Tones: Blues, Violets, sometimes Pinks

→ Simple Eye Coloring

Prepare your base color > Make a new layer above that (Set on MULTIPLY) > Basically draw the pupil and the edges of the iris.

Make a new layer above that (Set on MULTIPLY) > Draw a shadow above the iris > Get a Blending Brush and BLUR downwards > Change the hue if you want.

Make a new layer above that (Set on OVERLAY) > Draw a spot under the shadow you made > Blend it / Blur.

Make a new layer above that (Set either on ADD or ADD Glow) > Make a few highlights > Add shadow on the whole eye under the eyelid.

→ Hair Highlights

I do these in a lot of ways, I have no names for them so let’s just put a number on them

1. Single Brush Line; then erase the edges and erase on a U pattern.
2. Heart Beat Lines; literally. This usually favors the hair portions
3. Dots; Literally - I do this when I'm in a rush
4. Brush strokes; from outside going in

● Just remember that the human head is circular, NOT FLAT! So make the highlights in a circular way.

Also! This Hair on Face Glow!

I've been doing this since forever but I don't know what this called, basically it makes the hair on the face shine the same as the skin tone.

Make sure your layer is ABOVE the Hair layers (set on NORMAL) > Get a brush with the same tone as the skin > Brush along the hairs that's near the face > and Just Blend!!
*if you add too many, just grab an erase and edit. Lower the opacity too if it's too bright.


Okay! We’re almost done!
After you finished coloring, Save on your Main File, then Save it again on your “_V01” file; if you didn’t make that Back-up file, it’s okay, just Save As > And add a “_V01” at the end of your naming convention.

At your Duplicated file > MERGE EVERYTHING TOGETHER, except for the BG


Now that everything is on One Layer > Duplicate that Layer > Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur
* Blur it to the point that it’s Blurred but you can still identified the outlines

When Satisfied > CLICK OK
*If you can't see the image; Right Click > Open in New Tab

Click the Blurred Duplicated Layer > Blending Mode > Soft Light
* Lower the Opacity according to your preference

When Satisfied > Merge it to the Layer Below (Original Drawing Layer) or CTRL + E

→ *SMART SMOOTHING / Remove Noise

This is Optional, but I love doing these.
Make sure you are on your Final Drawing Layer

Go to EDIT > Smart Smoothing > Choose STRONG > and your HARDWARE

* I choose my Video Card because that’s the strongest hardware I’ve got, my Motherboard is pretty old and I don’t want to risk it.
* Smart Smoothing removes Noise and makes everything looks smooth

* Smart Smoothing is hardware expensive and heavy tool. Depending on your hardware, you might experience a little LAG while using it.

→ *Backgrounds

This is Optional. Depending on what you are offering to the client or what you want to do is up to you. But when it comes to portraits, simple backgrounds works fine since our main goal here is to showcase the beauty and face of the character. But if you really want to make some Backgrounds, here are my Go-tos.

● A Simple grey BG – this adds simplicity to the drawing
● White BG with random shapes – for the sake of colors so that the character doesn’t look to Bland, sometimes, I add textures on them
● Transparent BG with random shape – I do this when I’m out of ideas
● An opposite Color – literally the opposite color of the main color.
● The same color – choosing the same color as the character
● Flowers – you can never go wrong with flowers. Even men needs flowers
● Using pre-made BGs – Clip Studio’s pre-made BGs are so good!

Plain Grey BG on the Detailed drawing and I used the pre-made background on the Sketchy Drawing from Clip Studio's Assets

This is the BG that I used. I zoomed it so much! The BG is so High Quality, it doesn't get pixelated!


Now we go to my favourite! I use these everytime, whatever my drawings are, even at sketches.
Correction Layers are Tone Adjustment Layers; example is Hue and Saturation, that you can edit however you pleased. You can edit the Opacity and Blending Modes, even masked them so that it only affects certain areas.

Go to Layer > New Correction Layer > Pick what you fancy!
* My usual Go to are Reverse Gradient and Tone Curves
* I use Gradient Map when the whole drawing ended up looking like one tone.

● Make sure the Correction Layer is above the of the Final Drawing

For this example, I just used a Tone Curve to match the Character and the Background tones together.

● The Correction Layer will only affect everything that is UNDER it. All the Layers above it will not get affected.

Here’s how I use every single one of the Correction Layers

● Correction Layers are OPTIONAL – we use them to color correct on our final piece. It’s not technically needed, but when we’re drawing for so long – our eyes will fail to recognize the vibrancy and compatibility of colors; using Correction Layers for color correcting helps us fix that.


We’re done! I know this looks so long and too much for ‘just a portrait’ but it’s more or less the details that are being tackled here. When you start getting used to it, things would come naturally~ Understanding the perspective and designs, and also dividing things per portion is key!

You can check out my deviantART page where I draw a lot of portraits

I hope this helps~!

Thanks for reading!


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