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This question is always being asked on DeviantART--mostly by young, aspiring artists who really think they want to become a great, professional anime/manga/cartoon artist when they get "good enough".

The matter of the fact is that, no matter how much you try to be good at a style, regardless of how much you practice and how often you draw it--it'll never look right.

UNLESS
you study realistic form and proportion first.
Learn how the human body really looks and really works before you try to stylize it.
The best way to do this is to find out if there are any Figure Study classes being held in your town or city. A lot of places will have these sessions where anyone can come in at a certain time and draw nude models that will sit and pose for any artist who attends. These are perfect for learning the realistic human form. As long as you draw them as you see them and try to figure out why things are the way they are.
In short, figure studies are how artists dissect a human being with a sketch book and a pencil ;]

If there are no figure study sessions being held within your area, or you think you are too young to look at nudes at all (you'll need to learn to get over the censorship at some point), then the solution is to go to a crowded public area (every town or city has at least one!) and do speedy sketches of the people you see around you! It's the second best option to figure study sessions.
At the same time, it does help to buy anatomy books.
Toss those "Learn how to draw Anime!" or "Anatomy for Anime Artists!" out the window! Most of those do more harm to budding anime/cartoon artists than good. I know from experience--it took me for EVER to unlearn all that garbage. Even the "how to draw" books that are decent explain right at the beginning that you still need to learn real human anatomy.
Now--what you want is a REAL anatomy book. Books titled "Atlas of Human Anatomy" are generally the most promising and can normally be found in any book store--online or in your local mall.

To be honest, your figure drawings, and anatomical studies might look awful at first--and may still look like your cartoon drawings. But don't be discouraged, pretty much everyone these days starts off like that ;]
As you observe, learn, and understand more, it'll start showing in your results.

While you embark on learning about the realistic human form, you can still go ahead and draw some anime or cartoons--I know it's boring not to. But try to balance it out--don't do an abundance of anime/cartoon drawing, and one or two figure studies or you probably won't see much of an improvement in either area.
The more figure studying you do, the better your figure drawings get, the better your anime/cartoon drawings get.

That's the key to doing great anime/cartoon art! That's what the professionals do. And even as professionals, they still do figure studies and life drawings. They'll never stop--and that's what's highly recommended for you to do as well.


if you want an example of how effective this advice is, let me show you a personal example of my own:

This is what I drew like before I began doing figure studies and drawing from life:
img.photobucket.com/albums/v10…
img.photobucket.com/albums/v10…
img.photobucket.com/albums/v10…

Then, after struggling with improving and not getting anywhere, I started studying the real human form, and drawing from life--and--well, perhaps you can see the improvement for your self:
manamaraya.deviantart.com/art/…
manamaraya.deviantart.com/art/…
manamaraya.deviantart.com/art/…

And I've still got a ton to learn yet! I still fill sketchbooks up with figure studies and life drawings, and I won't ever stop--since I know as soon as I stop, my improvement will slow down tremendously. As an artist, I want to improve as fast and as much as I can ;]


For those of you who are unsure of what figure studies are--and what it means to draw from life, here are a few examples:
City People by seandunkley
Daily sketch - on the train ag by seandunkley

Mature Content

Thoughtful Figure by appleworms

Figure paint by Manamaraya
Male Figure Study by valentinmelik
ANI5 Ed Long 1 by Chibizaki


Trying to stylize anything without first knowing how it realistically works--is like trying to do long division without knowing addition or subtraction. No matter how hard you try, without that fundamental knowledge, your final result will never look quite right.

Hope this helps some of you guys out! :]
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:icondogsrule88:
dogsrule88 Featured By Owner Jun 9, 2011
:thumbsup:
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:iconasharion-the-alien:
Asharion-the-alien Featured By Owner Jul 14, 2010
w-wow...
...i have the hardest time drawing in the realistic form of the human body,though i do well on horses. Anime has helped me learn a lot about proportions,but looking at the pictures you showed?
Forgive my language,but the first thing to pop into my head was:
Holy fracken shit.
And yeah...i almost cried,xDDD
This helps me out so much,and i thank you very much so x3
Reply
:iconmanamaraya:
Manamaraya Featured By Owner Jul 14, 2010
Ah, thank you--I am very glad it helps! :]
Reply
:iconasharion-the-alien:
Asharion-the-alien Featured By Owner Jul 14, 2010
I am trying now to find pictures online i can use for reference,and i fail miserably,something about being picky with poses renders my google search useless,xD
Reply
:iconmanamaraya:
Manamaraya Featured By Owner Jul 14, 2010
[link] has been my happy place when it comes to references. Also, DA's own stock image section is pretty marvelous too! :]
Reply
:iconasharion-the-alien:
Asharion-the-alien Featured By Owner Jul 15, 2010
...DA has a stock section?O.O
And thank-you x3
I tried to do a more realistic face on a girls body verses the anime,but no one will get me to undo the haaaair~ TwT
I failed at feet.So i gave her a cat tail with a fluffy end to cover them up,xD
Reply
:iconaurum-hwa:
Aurum-Hwa Featured By Owner Dec 31, 2009
Yes! I do find that even if you're doing cartooning, you *still* need some practise in realism, or at least using references when drawing people in poses/with gestures/emotion.
Even if it is cartooning, a stylistic sort of drawing, if your poses don't look right, if they look awkward, it won't work.
I guess it is hard to explain when cartooning can be very exaggerated, where proportions aren't exactly the same as the typical human body, but there still needs to be that natural movement, and I think figure drawing would help with this as you are working with a live h.b, or still photo, transferring that naturality from that to your own drawing.
It also separates the professionals from the unexperienced, too?
I have yet to find an amazing and well-established cartoonist that cannot draw realism, but there must be some out there.
You don't nessisarily need to excel in realism in order to draw comics well, but usually they come hand in hand.
Speaking of which, I would love to take figure drawing classes.
Maybe not with nude models yet (i don't feel comfortable..D:), but one where I could practise my realism.
Or try and take a sketch book around, drawing people on the bus and such.
One question though: isn't it awkward when you're drawing a stranger on a train or something, and they realise you are drawing them?
XD
Reply
:iconinumarusama:
InumaruSama Featured By Owner Dec 25, 2009
Thank you very much. I recently started working on java coding for the sake of creating a game much like Cave Story (look it up, it's worth it). And to do this the way I want and to make the characters look like more than a few pixels or however I show them in the game. I want my cut scenes to have some emotion, I want my characters to have expression and more life (which probably means I'd end up drawing it and I'm an awful artist) so you know what, since it's gona take a helluvah long time to get where I'm going in coding regardless of how quickly I learn in the mean time I can practice my art, and perfect the look of my characters. You have truly given me the advice I have been searching oh so long for. Have a Merry Christmas, or Happy Holidays, and the Best to you in 2010. And if I get my game on the road, I'll be sure you get honorable mentions and if I manage to sell it, you'd get a free copy. :)

Best of Wishes, and Many Thanks
-Josh
Reply
:iconmanamaraya:
Manamaraya Featured By Owner Dec 28, 2009
Cheers! And best of luck to you! :]
Reply
:iconmattokenzi:
Mattokenzi Featured By Owner Dec 2, 2009  Hobbyist Artist
Everyone has there own style of how they draw manga/cartoons I can draw so what if it's not realistic or my proportions of my characters are wrong, to me a good manga/cartoon to me is having a good story (with action, humour and romance) and having characters you can remember (or relate to). Sure I see and draw in 2D (not THAT isn't my fault) and that doesn't stop me from having fun as a DeviantArtist.

for me I'll keep my "Learn to Draw Anime" books thank you very much (I know where everything is (Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes) I like to draw the expressions.

I'm not trolling, burning or saying to you "Booooooooo!!!" but to me everyone has there own style.

yes we the artists created them... the characters, their friends/family/enermys, the characters world/home they belong to, the clothing they wear. every artist has their own style they put their own heart and soul into their work... and so do I

That is my philosophy, that is my Mangado (Way of Manga)
Reply
:iconmanamaraya:
Manamaraya Featured By Owner Dec 28, 2009
Everyone absolutely has their own style.
But--there is a difference between being informed and drawing stylistically, and being uninformed and drawing stylistically.

The uninformed make up beginner artists and 'hobby' artists.
The informed make up your admired professionals.

This is true not only for art, but also for music, for theatre, for maths and sciences--everything. People who really know their stuff--are in unarguably an entirely different league from the people who don't know their stuff, or refuse to put the effort into learning about and knowing their stuff.

I really don't know how to word it any better than I already have in my news article here--but when you draw anything in an uninformed manner, things will look off/misplaced/inconsistent/'wrong'.
And looking off, misplaced, and/or inconsistent is a detriment to any style which can be rectified by educating yourself on understanding how it really works and looks.

And such education is never a bad thing ;]

Anyways, as a professional myself, this is my advice. You can take it or leave it as it's no consequence on me either way--and I wish you luck on your endeavors :]
Reply
:iconmattokenzi:
Mattokenzi Featured By Owner Dec 29, 2009  Hobbyist Artist
I guess I'd be in the uninformed catagory. =D I do like drawing in a cartoony/mangary way as a hobby.

You know being raised by Pokemon, Digimon, Cardcaptor Sakura, Yu-Gi-Oh, (1 episode of Sailor Moon). I always say to myslef... "I want to do this... it's cool and it's fresh"

Like it's funny how you put the word 'Science' in the reply... Yes I do beilive when we draw our style/characters evolve too (it's never a bad thing and yet, it's scary in a way).
and Region too (hey if Science is in there... I'll bring up religion... *laughs*)

Well as a rookie, I guess I'll take some of the advice and some I can leave... artists follow those who inspired them and sometimes the artists want to find their own way letting there heart, mind and creativity lead the way.

Thanks for the talk. ^_^
Reply
:iconfeelingverylucky:
FeelingVeryLucky Featured By Owner Oct 17, 2009
Hey, thanks for sharing! It's cool to see how people have improved over time. And I have to unlearn all of the stuff I learned in the "How to Draw" books, too... I could've been an even better artist by now if I'd started off drawing from life, I think.
Reply
:iconsk-sammy-joe:
sk-sammy-joe Featured By Owner Oct 1, 2009
You know what i think ur right and that where i have been going wrong, by constantly drawing anime. I'm gonna take ur advice and get to work right away.
thanks by the way! ^^
Reply
:icondarkndangel9:
DarkndAngel9 Featured By Owner Sep 20, 2009  Hobbyist General Artist
thank you for this!! it's really inspiring to look at how other artists improved. it makes me happy :D
right now i'm really trying to learn basic anatomy before i go off towards the anime style but every time i go to the bookstore for an anatomy book i come out with a 'how to draw' book instead. ^^; do you recommend any good books?
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:iconwalkermonetart:
WalkerMonetArt Featured By Owner Aug 14, 2009   Digital Artist
Awesomeness. My artwork started to look a little bit better when I took Life drawing classes. Which I seriously need to start doing again
Reply
:iconbread-doh:
bread-doh Featured By Owner May 23, 2009
how about taking pictures and draw/sketch it at home? does it have any difference?(what i really meant is, the effect to ourselves/myself? actually i already had a guess, total different, what matters is how quick we catch about human figures really quick, isn't it?)

*of course i understand that doing quick sketches of people moving around or just standing still is different*
Reply
:iconhahamampus:
hahamampus Featured By Owner May 2, 2009
This article made me smile. Thanks =)
Reply
:iconsteamrider86:
Steamrider86 Featured By Owner Mar 20, 2009   Digital Artist
Awesome post, and I agreed about studying anatomy to know the fundamentals of the human body. I had compared my old drawings with the recent ones and see improvements, but they are minor. So, being a student who is going on the medical field (As a nurse, but draws a lot :) ), I mark the pages of my anatomy and physology book to study bone, muscle, and the entire body.

Thanks Manamaraya
*tips hat*
Reply
:iconkilala5162:
kilala5162 Featured By Owner Mar 1, 2009
I love this article...I draw manga and stuff but it is always hard for me to get everything right, ya know? Like the way all teh muscles connect and stuff (did that make sense?) But, now that i have seen this article i believe I'm going to go drive to a book store to pick up an antomy book LOL
Reply
:iconomegaloz:
OmegaLoz Featured By Owner Feb 19, 2009
thank you thank you thank you!
do we try and use the same technique for learning how to understand/use color though?
Reply
:iconmanamaraya:
Manamaraya Featured By Owner Feb 20, 2009
hmm color--is a little different/difficult for me to talk about. It's not particularly my area of 'expertise' if I can even say that haha!

For color and color theory though, I will suggest a book that might help you: Color by Betty Edwards. It's pretty straight forward and to the point--and it's a great place to start, in my opinion :]
Reply
:iconyellowpixel:
YellowPixel Featured By Owner Feb 10, 2009  Professional General Artist
This is an old post but just wanted to thank you for this great advice. I started off drawing from photo's but haven't done it in years and i need to go back to it to develop my new style better, this gave me the kick in the pants i needed. I know photo's aren't ideal (my art teachers HATED my photo drawings) but they are good enough for me, i don't intend to make a career out of this, only an improvement.

That posemanics site is EXACTLY what i've been looking for! Thanks!
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:iconmanamaraya:
Manamaraya Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2009
I'm glad this helps! <3
Reply
:iconthescholarlymoron:
TheScholarlyMoron Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2009
This is soooo true... I draw in the manga style myself, and I found that I draw better when I used a reference pic, lol. Nonetheless, they still need a lot of work.^^; I'm gonna give your advice a try! Thanks~:D
Reply
:iconlavenkitty:
Lavenkitty Featured By Owner Jan 12, 2009  Hobbyist General Artist
True. So true for many people.
Like you said drawing still like helps, in which for me it did actually.

In like a week I had a completly new drawing style, then in another week another drawing style, then it goes back to the other style, but much more better in anatomy, and it repeats over and over, I study and draw as much of anything anatomy wise and now I can say I have improved alot since septemeber to now, even to a month ago I've improved alot, and being in 9th grade with my talent really shocks alot of people since I draw so well, and I just keep drawing the same pose over and over to practice or the same hand, feet or whatever it is that I draw to try and learn new ways to draw.
I've gotten a anatomy book too recently and I've been studing other peoples art and photograpghs too since I am a learner and I learn it all on my own I can't learn by lessons but if I'm told what my errors are I can try and fix them and that is what I am trying to do now, while many people here ignore the fact that I ask for crititism, and I get easly annoyed of this fact so I just have to rely on myself half of the time now.

I used to suck at drawing humans realisticly but now I can do it just with few errors, but I never submitted them because they are portriats and I don't always have the permission of the person to post it.

But I do have one picture that is a human/animal that is not a portrait but, I don't feel like anyone will bother to look at it so it is just sitting in my sketchbook until I deside in which now I want to show it to show my true talent instead of drawing the same old Sonic style stuff I draw to show I don't stricly draw it only.
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:icongo-angel:
Go-Angel Featured By Owner Jan 4, 2009
I think the most important reason for serious anime artists to learn this is not just so your skill will improve, but so you will have something to add to the style. If you just copy a style, you will always just be copying and adding nothing to it. But if you look at other things and gain the basic fundamentals of drawing you can add to it.

And a few years I would have said well, why would I want to add to this? It will be different from real anime, I want my anime to look just like the real anime artists. But those anime artists would have also learnt things with proportion and basic art skills, and looked at other styles before they developed theirs. This is why it's important!

And no one know is stuck on one style and is stubborn (aka: me) likes to hear this but it's good to look at realism and other styles, not just the style you're focusing on. You might find something else you're interested in! And if you go back to anime then you'll have that new thing to bring into it...that will inspire others.

Anyways good topic! :D
Reply
:iconspyrofan55:
spyrofan55 Featured By Owner Nov 26, 2008
Wow! That's amazing! Imma have to start trying to draw like that.
Reply
:icontabikat:
Tabikat Featured By Owner Nov 11, 2008  Professional General Artist
I'm glad someone wrote an article like this, this is my exact point when i try to explain this to kids who ask me how to draw or how I learned to draw, I still practice realism on the side in order to improve my cartoon work.
Reply
:iconashurasonic:
Ashurasonic Featured By Owner Nov 1, 2008
Augh, not another one of these "lol lrn realism" articles. =/

I never learned anything from drawing real life/anatomy. I used to draw realistic people/animals every day when I was in 4th grade, and kept going at it until 7-8th grade. I drew REAL humans (not animeized), fyi. I did not improve much.

I *only* started to improve dramatically when I began observing artwork that I liked, and trying to emulate what I liked about them.

but whatever, this is just a news article, nothing special.
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:iconmanamaraya:
Manamaraya Featured By Owner Nov 5, 2008
What people do or do not take from this article has no consequence to me what so ever :9 Take in or ignore the points as you please.

However, I would like to mention that this is educated advice and that I'm not some amateur spurting out random, misinformed information for the sake of feeling self importance. It's common knowledge in the professional industry of commercial art.

Though, I certainly won't rule out the chance that you might know something I don't. If you know of any artist who have made a name for themselves and a professional living in the industry--who did/does not study from life, I'd be genuinely interested to know about them! :]
Reply
:iconjaala:
Jaala Featured By Owner Oct 27, 2008
:love: i keep telling this to every new artist i meet.
Reply
:iconmartinacecilia:
martinacecilia Featured By Owner Oct 18, 2008  Professional General Artist
golden words.
when I went to art school the first time and I had to face really though teacher who absolutely hate any manga looking style it was a shock... I just couldn't figure out how to do anything (And I'm still trying) but they helped me soo much.
Anathomy AND perpsective are absolute basis.
Reply
:iconoffthechain2:
OffTheChain2 Featured By Owner Oct 8, 2008  Hobbyist Digital Artist
you have just solved my question.
i'll try this from now on. btw, if i use site like "posemanics" could that help me?
:heart::heart::heart:
Reply
:iconmanamaraya:
Manamaraya Featured By Owner Oct 12, 2008
absolutely! : > I swear by that site when I have no real modles available <3
Reply
:iconoffthechain2:
OffTheChain2 Featured By Owner Oct 12, 2008  Hobbyist Digital Artist
thank you once again x
Reply
:iconjulianoo:
julianoo Featured By Owner Sep 13, 2008
awesome, awesome inspiration.... did you struggle by yourself, though? o.o no help..?
Reply
:iconmanamaraya:
Manamaraya Featured By Owner Sep 24, 2008
I had the help of online art communities/forums such as [link] and a few other forums that unfortunately no longer exist

Just before this journal was posted, I began attending art school--but the examples of work I posted had been completed before I started attending classes.
:]
Reply
:iconlynnielemon13:
LynnieLemon13 Featured By Owner Aug 22, 2008  Student Traditional Artist
Heh you got a really good point there!^^ *Goes to study some anatomy.*:P
Reply
:iconwhytdragon:
whytdragon Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2008
So very true, I was showered in those how to books, and now I'm beating myself for not learning anatomy :x

I always hated the models in my college corses though, or at least where I sat, I'd never see anything but hair (the one girl wouldn't wear her hair up :( ).

I really enjoy magazines since I don't live in a populated area, real people of all sizes. :)
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:iconzukos-stalker:
zukos-stalker Featured By Owner Jul 22, 2008  Student Traditional Artist
Completely true! I'm not good at either quite yet, but I know exactly what you mean. The only reason I learned how to shade was because I was awed at the shading in Realism paintings, and wanted it try it out myself. Now I can do realism, soft cell, or cell shading. It took practice and a lot of references, and I still need work, but studying how shadows look in real life made a huge difference. Same with anatomy. I've spent hours in my room looking at the giant mirror, just looking at myself cross-legged, trying to figure out how they would look if I drew it. I, again, need a lot more practice though.

This is a really great article. I want to try some of those figure studies now! I don't know if there are any in my area, or even if my mom would let me (Still young, and though I don't care about artistic nude, my mom does. DX), but I'll research it.

I have a question... About how long do those "Speed sketches" take? And since it's from real life, what do you do if the figure changes positions?
Reply
:iconwolfspartner123:
Wolfspartner123 Featured By Owner Jul 21, 2008  Student
This is true.
Try to learn the human body from observational art.
From drawing for real life and photographs I notcied my art has improved.


You can't learn human ananomy by Chibis.
Reply
:icongoatpox:
goatpox Featured By Owner Jul 9, 2008  Professional Digital Artist
From my experience, every little bit of studying human anatomy helps.. Whenever I practice drawing people from photographs or life, I find I get just that much better at drawing them as cartoons. c:
Reply
:iconnickyvendetta:
NickyVendetta Featured By Owner Jul 9, 2008
I agree, it's the passion of being an artist, not pride. Nobody's perfect. That's my saying. :D
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:iconrosiana:
Rosiana Featured By Owner Jul 4, 2008
o: Figure drawing classes to help a lot. I tried a class when we had a trip to the art center in my town with my portfolio class for figure drawing and it really did help me out a LOT. I got to better understand anatomy. Even if it was just one time it reflected off from me.

8 ) That's really good advice and help you're giving out to people.
Reply
:iconcielolei:
Cielolei Featured By Owner Jul 1, 2008  Student Digital Artist
I actually experienced this myself^^ I started to sketch my classmates during the physics classes and it helped quite a lot. Inspiring Article.
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:iconsojubyeong:
Sojubyeong Featured By Owner Jun 11, 2008
So that means studying human anatomy will also help on colouring in pieces? Or do you have to look up different things for colour?
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:iconpsychoglitch:
PsychoGlitch Featured By Owner Jun 12, 2008  Professional Digital Artist
Ehh, you have to study the color wheel and whatnot to understand color. Studying human anatomy will help you place your shadows, though.
Reply
:iconsojubyeong:
Sojubyeong Featured By Owner Jun 12, 2008
Okay. Thanks for the information! :D Your article was very informative too. :thumbsup:
Reply
:iconpsychoglitch:
PsychoGlitch Featured By Owner Jun 13, 2008  Professional Digital Artist
Heh, you're welcome and thanks!
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