Chibi is Japanese slang for "small" or "short." It's usually applied to objects, animals, or people (ie. a short person or a small child). In this topic, chibi's term is positively used to draw cute character with small anatomy proportion, chubby cheeks, big head, and big eyes; as usually used in anime.


In this tutorial, I will teach how to draw chibi and I hope I can encourage you to explore more to find your own style.


I usually use this size and anatomy indicators to determine art style, as shown below, the left is chubbier and shorter with very little detail.


The middle is taller than the left one, so I am able to make a bit details like curves in her legs and hands.


Lastly, the tallest one, I don't draw curves to make different art style and I can add more details for it. This size what I usually use because it's simpler and cuter (my own opinion). You can also draw curves in the body and legs.


You can also use this size to indicate ages, such as baby, kid, and adult (from left to right).


Different shapes of head for chibi is determined by the cheeks or jaws, but if you would like to explore something different than general chibis, you can try to use geometric shape for your chibis. I am really sure it will be fun to find something new in your chibi's art style.


There are different anime's eyes style that you can use here. I will draw few of them from the front view so you can see the differences.

Just like how we draw normal human face, the eyes should be considered as well when the head is seen in 3/4 view, side view, etc.

There are also another style to draw chibi's eyes and it is really really fun to explore, and I encourage you to try different shape of head as well. The key on drawing chibi is big head with ratio is approximately 1:1 between upper and lower body (so it doesn't say that you have to use general head shape all the time, try geometric shape as well just to see how creative and original you can be), short neck, less detail on body shape (you don't have to draw curve), female and male body has the same body type.


I don't draw nose in my chibis because I think it doesn't look cute with nose, but if you prefer to have nose you can also see the examples below.


At least for me, I find it easier to create expressions in chibis because I can add exaggerations to express their emotions. Don't be too stiff since chibis are suppose to be fun (not only cute all the time since it's quite closer to cartoon style) and more expressive. As you can see below, there's always a better way to tell story in character's expression.


The only differences between normal drawing and chibi is you don't have to worry about details when drawing chibi's hands.


Understand the figure. Using reference isn't bad, the reason why you probably see the artist not using a reference is due to them possibly drawing the subject matter hundreds of times trying to get right so they automatically know what they want as they put the lines down. You need references even if you're doing fantasy art. You're imprinting your mind with organic reality. At some point you will become experienced enough to draw from your imagination.


You can start by looking at yourself at the mirror and lift you arm, when you are moving your arm it's not only the arm that moves, your shoulder also lifts, and many other parts of your body adapt to the movement. Without references, there are bunch of possibilities that you will make unrealistic posture boring and stiff pose.

Give energy to your drawing by using line of action in your dynamic poses. An imaginary line extending thru the main action of the figure is the "Line of Action". Plan your figure and it's details to accentuate the line, by doing so you strengthen the dramatic effect. The first thing to draw when constructing a figure is the line of action, then build over that.


the more liquid and flawless your line art is, your art will look more dynamic.


Now, everything is covered, you have your head, eyes, nose, expression, and poses; the last thing we have to do is coloring. Before we start coloring our drawing, let's understand the color theory a little bit.


The color wheel consists of three primary colors (red, yellow, blue), three secondary colors (colors created when primary colors are mixed: green, orange, purple) and six tertiary colors (colors made from primary and secondary colors, such as blue-green or red-violet).


Warm & Cool Colors


Warm colors — such as red, yellow, and orange; evoke warmth because they remind us of things like the sun or fire.


Cool colors — such as blue, green, and purple (violet); evoke a cool feeling because they remind us of things like water or grass.

Let's practice of how you choose a nice gradient.


Set your color slider as HSV (Hue Saturation Value) and pick the color as shown below as our base color. As you can see in the picture, I can't slide more to the left, but when you move the indicator to the right corner (Hue: 360), the color remain the same, in doing so it will helps us to make darker color for our base (I will later slide the indicator to the left towards purple), but when you want to lighten the color let the indicator stay in Hue: 0 (as we later will slide it to the right a little bit to yellow and make bright color).

Okay first, we will make darker color first so we will put Hue in the right corner H: 360


As we make darker color, we will slide Hue, Saturation, and Value to the left and remove the value a bit.

On the other hand, if we want to make brighter color we will move the Hue Saturation Value to the right or increasing the value a bit.

That's it for color, I hope it can helps you to understand on how to pick a nicer color, instead of only depending on removing or adding brightness value to make darken and lighten color.


You understand the basic thing to draw chibi now, let's practice!


First, think of a concept like what do you wanna draw? Since it's May when I made this tutorial post, let's draw mermaid (#mermay2021)! Don't forget to use LOA (Line of Art), and then draw the figure based on the line.

Sketch is done (I know mine is really messy and rough), but you will see of how it turns out after I make line art (use small brush, I don't really like to use thick line art because it gives off vibe on chibi).

For the skin, I use air brush for eye lid, cheek, shoulder, elbow and the edge of fingers. Shadows that are seen in the ear, under the hair, and neck, I use the blending skin shading brush (download it down below).

I changed my mind on the line layer, when I decided to set it multiply, it ruins my workflow; thus I make new layer and clip mask it to the line layer and add the new color.

Hair and Fins shading step by step.


I don't really shade the hair too detail since it's chibi that we are talking about.

We did it!! We draw a cute chibi. It won't be perfect at first try, but you must practice every time you have the chance and don't forget to always finish your art. It's better to have one finish art rather than a thousands of unfinished one.



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