Improve Anime/Manga Design: 9 Practical Tips
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 9 min read


  1. Study real life for better character design
  2. Use line weight to emphasize motion
  3. Learn from manga paneling techniques
  4. Keep backgrounds simple but effective
  5. Use toning effectively
  6. Pay attention to character expressions
  7. Practice drawing clothing and folds
  8. Create interesting and diverse characters
  9. Constantly improve your drawing skills

If you've ever wondered how to improve character design in anime/manga, you're in luck. We've put together nine practical tips to help boost your creative process. These tips, tested and perfected by seasoned professionals, provide a roadmap to better your design skills. So, whether you're a novice or an experienced artist looking to up your game, these tips are your secret sauce to creating compelling anime/manga characters.

Study real life for better character design

Art, in many ways, mirrors life. That's why the first tip on how to improve character design in anime/manga is to study real life. Observing people, their expressions, movements, and even their clothing can help you create more realistic and relatable characters. Here's how you can do that:

  • Observe people: Go to a park, cafe or any public place. Watch how people interact, move, and express their emotions. The way someone squints their eyes when they laugh, or the way they fold their arms when they're upset—these small details can add a lot of depth to your characters.
  • Study anatomy: You don't need to become a doctor for this, but having a basic understanding of human anatomy can greatly improve your character designs. Know where the elbow bends, how the knees align with the rest of the body, or how the neck supports the head. This knowledge will help you create characters that move and look natural.
  • Look at clothing: The way clothes fit, fold, and move can tell a lot about a character. Baggy clothes might suggest a laid-back character, while neatly pressed outfits might hint at a more organized personality. Paying attention to these details can help your characters tell their own stories.
  • Embrace diversity: We live in a diverse world with people of different shapes, sizes, and colors. Reflecting this diversity in your anime/manga characters can make them more relatable to a wider audience.

So, the next time you're out and about, remember to take a moment to observe. You never know where you might find the inspiration for your next character design!

Use line weight to emphasize motion

Now that we've tapped into the real world for inspiration, let's move into the realm of lines. If you're wondering how to improve character design in anime/manga with lines, you're asking the right question. Line weight plays a pivotal role in conveying motion and depth in your drawings. But how does it work? Let's dive in.

  • Thick vs thin lines: Generally, thicker lines indicate areas of shadow or parts of the character that are closer to the viewer, while thinner lines denote lighter areas or parts further away. This contrast can give your character a sense of depth and three-dimensionality.
  • Emphasizing motion: Have you ever noticed how speed lines can make a character seem like they're running at lightning speed? That's the magic of line weight. Lines that are closer together can give the illusion of a faster movement, while lines spaced further apart can convey slower motion.
  • Expressing emotions: Line weight can also help express a character's emotions. For instance, heavy, jagged lines can express intense emotions like anger or distress, while soft, curved lines might convey calmness or happiness.

So, the next time you pick up your pen, remember that lines are not just lines. They're powerful tools that can breathe life and emotion into your anime/manga characters. Don't be afraid to experiment with different line weights to see what works best for your style!

Learn from manga paneling techniques

Now that we've explored how line weight can enhance your character designs, let's move on to another essential aspect of how to improve character design in anime/manga: manga paneling techniques. Manga isn't just about the characters; it's about telling a story, and paneling plays a key role in this narrative process. Below are some tips you can use right away:

  • Varying panel sizes: In manga, the size of the panel matters! Larger panels can be used to highlight key moments in your story, while smaller panels can be used for quick, subtle actions or details. This technique can help guide your reader's attention and control the pace of your story.
  • Playing with panel shapes: Who said panels have to be rectangular? Breaking away from traditional shapes can add a unique touch to your story. For example, circular panels can draw attention to a specific detail, and jagged panels can convey tension or excitement.
  • Using gutters effectively: The space between panels, known as the gutter, is not just an empty space. It represents the unseen time and actions between panels. By adjusting the width of the gutters, you can suggest the passage of time in your story.

Remember, manga paneling is more than just fitting your drawings into boxes. It's about using those boxes creatively to tell your story. So, don't be afraid to play around with panel sizes, shapes, and gutters to create a manga that's uniquely yours!

Keep backgrounds simple but effective

Alright, we've covered characters and paneling, but what about the backdrop? The background, though often overlooked, plays a significant role in how to improve character design in anime/manga. It sets the stage for your characters and helps to immerse your readers in the world you've created. Here's how you can make your backgrounds simple yet effective:

  • Focus on the essentials: You don't need to draw every leaf on a tree or every brick in a wall. Focus on the key elements that establish the setting and let the reader's imagination fill in the rest.
  • Use perspective: Perspective helps to create a sense of depth and three-dimensionality in your drawings. It can make your characters feel like they're part of a larger, realistic world. So, brush up on your one-point, two-point, and three-point perspective drawing skills.
  • Design with character interaction in mind: Think about how your characters will interact with their environment. Will they lean against a wall, sit on a bench, or climb a tree? Design your backgrounds with these interactions in mind to make your scenes more dynamic and engaging.

Remember, backgrounds should enhance, not distract from, your characters and story. So, keep things simple, use perspective, and always consider character-environment interaction. With these tips, you'll be well on your way to creating immersive and compelling manga backgrounds in no time!

Use toning effectively

Let's move to the next step in our journey to master how to improve character design in anime/manga — mastering the use of toning. Toning is the use of patterns, textures, and shades of gray to represent colors and add depth to your drawings. Here's how to get the most out of it:

  • Understand the basics: Before you start toning, it's important to understand the basics of light and shadow. Where is the light source in your scene? How does it affect the shadows and highlights on your characters and objects? This knowledge will guide your toning efforts.
  • Choose the right tones: Just as in real life, different materials and surfaces in your manga should have different tones. For example, the shiny surface of a sword will have a different tone than the soft fabric of a cloak. So, choose your tones carefully to convey your characters and their surroundings accurately.
  • Use toning to enhance emotions: Did you know that toning can also enhance the mood of a scene? Dark, heavy tones can create a sense of danger or sadness, while light, soft tones can convey happiness or calmness. So, use toning not just to add depth to your drawings, but also to tell your story more effectively.

Remember, toning is more than just making your drawings look pretty. It's a powerful storytelling tool that can add depth to your characters and enhance the mood of your scenes. So, don't overlook it in your quest to improve your anime/manga character design!

Pay attention to character expressions

When it comes to learning how to improve character design in anime/manga, the devil is often in the details. One such detail that can make or break your character design is their expressions. Let's see why expressions matter and how you can improve them:

  • Expressions tell a story: The face is the mirror of the mind, and in anime/manga, it's an essential storytelling tool. A well-drawn expression can convey a character's thoughts and feelings more effectively than words. So, when designing your characters, don't just focus on their physical features. Pay equal attention to their expressions.
  • Practice makes perfect: Drawing expressive faces isn't easy, but it becomes easier with practice. Try this: take a mirror, make different facial expressions, and draw what you see. This will not only help you understand the structure of the face better but also teach you how different emotions affect it.
  • Keep it consistent: Consistency is key when it comes to character expressions. Your character's expressions should match their personality and mood. For example, a shy character would not suddenly make bold, exaggerated expressions. So, keep your characters' personalities in mind when drawing their expressions.

Understanding the importance of character expressions and how to draw them effectively is an essential step in your journey to improve your anime/manga character design. So, don't underestimate it. Practice, be consistent, and most of all, have fun with it! After all, isn't that why we love anime/manga in the first place?

Practice drawing clothing and folds

Yes, you read it right. Even the clothes your characters wear can play a big role in improving your anime/manga character design. Here's how:

  • Adding Realism: Clothes don't just hang on a body, they interact with it. They fold, they crease, they flutter. Learning to draw these aspects can add a touch of realism to your characters. And, it can be a game-changer when you're figuring out how to improve character design in anime/manga.
  • Reflecting Personalities: The clothes a character wears can often reflect their personality, status, or role in the story. A simple school uniform can instantly tell us that the character is a student. A meticulously detailed kimono can indicate a character's cultural background or their social standing. So, use clothing as an additional tool to develop your characters.
  • Creating Visual Interest: Well-drawn clothing can add visual interest to your drawings. And, let's be honest, it's fun to draw different outfits! So, don't just stick with the same old school uniforms or generic t-shirts. Experiment with different styles, patterns, and accessories.

But how do you get better at drawing clothes? The key is practice. Start by observing real clothes—how they fit, how they move, how they fold. Then, try to replicate these details in your drawings. And don't be disheartened if you don't get it right the first time. Keep practicing, and soon, you'll see a noticeable improvement in your anime/manga character design.

Create interesting and diverse characters

When it comes to creating a captivating anime/manga, it's the characters that make all the difference. The more diverse and interesting your characters are, the more engaging your story will be. So, wondering how to improve character design in anime/manga? Here's how:

  • Design Unique Features: Each character should have something that sets them apart. It could be a striking hair color, a unique accessory, or a distinctive style of clothing. These unique features can make your characters more memorable and appealing to your audience.
  • Think Beyond Looks: Character design isn't just about how a character looks. It's also about their personality, their background, their motivations. These aspects can add depth to your characters, making them more relatable and intriguing. So, spend some time thinking about your characters' backstories, their interests, their fears. You'll be surprised at how much this can enhance your character design.
  • Create a Diverse Cast: No two people are the same, and this should be reflected in your characters. Diversity can come in many forms — age, race, gender, abilities, and more. By including a wide range of characters, you can make your anime/manga more inclusive and interesting. Plus, it gives you an opportunity to explore different perspectives and stories, keeping your audience hooked.

Remember, creating interesting and diverse characters takes time and thought. But it's worth the effort. After all, it's the characters that drive the story and connect with the audience. So, take the time to craft characters that your audience will love and remember. You'll soon find that improving your character design can significantly enhance your anime/manga's appeal.

Constantly improve your drawing skills

Creating compelling anime/manga hinges on a multitude of factors, and one of them is definitely your drawing skills. But fear not, because like anything else, this too can be improved—with consistent practice and the right resources. So, if you're wondering how to improve character design in anime/manga, refining your drawing skills should be on your to-do list.

  • Draw Regularly: Drawing regularly is the key to improvement. Whether it's a quick sketch during your coffee break or a detailed drawing session over the weekend—you should make it a habit to draw every day. It might seem tedious at times, but remember, even the greatest manga artists started with simple strokes.
  • Use Reference Images: Take advantage of the plethora of reference images available online. These can be a great source of inspiration and learning. Whether it's a complex action pose or a detailed facial expression, reference images can help you understand and replicate various elements of character design.
  • Learn From Feedback: Don't shy away from criticism. In fact, seek it out. Show your work to others and ask for their feedback. It can be an invaluable tool for identifying areas where you can improve.

Improving your drawing skills is a journey, not a destination. It's about striving to get better each day, learning from your mistakes, and never giving up. So, keep drawing, keep learning, and keep improving. Your anime/manga characters will thank you for it!

If you're eager to further improve your anime/manga design skills, we highly recommend checking out the workshop 'Creating Characters: The Design Process' by Kit Buss. This workshop will provide you with invaluable insights into character design and help you bring your unique anime/manga creations to life.