How to Draw Anime & Manga Arms Tutorial

This tutorial explains how to draw anime and manga style arms with a breakdown of the proportions and examples of drawing arms in different positions.

Anime arms drawing examples
Anime arms drawing examples

For this tutorial we will focus on the more common, more realistic style of anime arms. The examples are those of the arms of a young female character but you can draw the arms of young male characters in pretty much the same way (simply change the body).

Please note that this tutorial mainly shows how to draw arms. For more on drawing the hands check:

You may also want to see the tutorial on drawing the neck and collar bones:

How to Draw Anime Neck & Shoulders

Anime Arm Proportions & Step by Step Drawing

Anime arms proportions drawing
Anime arm proportions

Before you draw arms it’s a good idea to first analyze their basic proportions.

Though these can vary slightly from person to person (and style to style) generally you can use the above example.

The the distance from below the shoulder down to the elbow and from the elbow down to the wrist is generally the same (fingers and palm are usually the same length for the hand).

When drawing just about anything (arms included) start with a light sketch and go over it with darker lines after you are sure you have the correct proportions.

Though it can get a little tricky it’s also important to try and maintain these proportions when drawing arms in different positions.

How to Draw Anime Arms With Different Bends

Anime arms bending drawing
Anime arms bending drawing

When the arms bend the main change that takes place is the elbow sticking out more and more the sharper the bend. There will also be a sort of “fold” between the bottom and top portion of the arm as they move closer together.

How to Draw Anime Arms in Different Twists

Anime arms with different twists drawing
Anime arms with different twists drawing

When looking at the arm from the same view but with different twists of the wrist it will appear narrower or wider in different places.

Anime stretched out arm open palm drawing
Anime stretched out arm open palm drawing

Using an outstretched arm with the palm facing directly towards the viewer as a basis you can see the slight variations below as the arm twists.

Anime stretched out arm open palm up drawing
Anime stretched out arm open palm up drawing

When drawing the arm with the palm up draw the entire portions of the arm past the elbow narrower.

Anime stretched out arm palm down drawing
Anime stretched out arm palm down drawing

When drawing the arm with the palm facing down draw the wrist “thinner” as the viewer will be looking at it from the side.

Anime stretched out arm open drawing
Anime stretched out arm open drawing

Drawing the arm with the palm facing away form the viewer the “below elbow” area should be narrower but draw the wrist will the same as the base example.

How to Draw Anime Arms in Different Positions

When drawing anime arms in different positions such as the examples below again be sure to maintain the proportions mentioned earlier.

Drawing Flexed Anime Arms

Anime arms flexed drawing
Anime arms flexed drawing

As this particular set of flexed arms is not very muscular draw the biceps popping up very slightly. You can even leave the drawing at just that. If you want to ad a little more detail you can also give a hint of the bottom portion of the biceps with just a few lines.

Drawing Raised Anime Arms

Raised anime arms drawing
Raised anime arms drawing

For raised arms you can pretty much draw them the same as the outstretched arms in the earlier examples. The main difference will be more stretched out shoulder muscles.

Drawing Anime Arms to Sides of the Body

Anime arms to sides drawing
Anime arms to sides drawing

When drawing the arms held to sides of the body sort of like the character is standing at attention the arms will not be perfectly straight. Draw them bent slightly away from the body past the elbows.

Drawing Anime Arms Where Parts of the Arm Are Hidden

When drawing anime arms where parts of one or both arms are hidden you can use the technique below to help you out.

Drawing Crossed Anime Arms

Anime crossed arms drawing
Anime crossed arms drawing

To draw crossed anime arms like in the example above it’s a good idea to think of the drawing as “see through”.

Anime crossed arms see through drawing
Anime crossed arms see through drawing

Being able to look at the arms as “see through” allows you to know if the visible parts of the arms are correctly placed. For example the fingers on the left arm.

Anime crossed arms see through sketch
Anime crossed arms see through sketch

You don’t need to draw every hidden detail like the individual fingers in the previous example. Instead do sketch like the above example to help you estimate their general size and position.

Anime crossed arms sketch
Anime crossed arms sketch

After confirm that it all looks right simply erase the parts that are supposed to be hidden, add the smaller details and go over your sketch with darker more solid lines.

Drawing Anime Arms Behind Head

Anime arms behind head drawing
Anime arms behind head drawing

To draw the arms behind the head you can again use the previous example. Since this is a simpler pose to draw you can even just estimate where the hidden parts of the arms will be positioned without doing a see through drawing (though you still can if you are not sure).

Simply make sure that there is enough room left for the hands that are hidden behind the head.

Drawing Anime Arms Behind Back

Anime arms behind back drawing
Anime arms behind back drawing

To draw the arms held behind the back you can yet again sketch out or estimate the position of the parts that are hidden.

In this case simply make sure that the arms are angled in a way that they have enough room to meet behind the back.

Also keep in mind that the arms will usually be slightly bent when they are in this position.

Conclusion

Arms can be a very challenging area of the body to draw due to their ability to do so many combinations of twists and bends. To avoid mistakes when drawing always try and keep proportions in mind and compare the size of one part of the arm to another.

For more general drawing tips see:

Beginner Guide to Drawing Anime & Manga

For more on drawing anime bodies check out:

How to Draw an Anime Boy Full Body Step by Step