This tutorial shows how to draw a female anime or manga style elf character with several variations of the ears, face and colors.
The main thing that sets anime/manga elves apart from human characters are of course the ears. The pointy ears may also be drawn on other fantasy or sci-fi type character types.
This tutorial provides the following:
- A step by step breakdown of drawing an anime elf’s face
- Four different ways of drawing elf ears
- Two variations of drawing the face
- Two different color combinations (for regular or dark elf character)
If you are going to be drawing using pencil and paper be sure to start with light lines that you can easily erase. You will need to do so in between some of the steps. You can trace over your line with a darker stroke after you finish placing the various parts of the head/face.
Step 1 – Draw the Center Guide Line & Top of the Head
Begin by making a vertical line through the center of your drawing area. This line can help you see if both halves of the head are equal in width.
Next draw a circle that will represent the top part of the head.
Step 2 – Draw the Bottom of the Head
Going down from the circle draw the bottom part of the head. As shown in the above example the bottom portion should start with a pair of lines that then curve into another pair that finally joins with a small curve to form the chin.
Step 3 – Draw the Neck & Shoulders
From the bottom portion of the face draw the lines for the neck going down into the shoulders. Adding a bit of the shoulders will make the drawing look more like an actual portrait instead of just a “floating” head.
For more on drawing necks and shoulders see:
Step 4 – Position & Draw the Eyes
Vertical Eye Positioning
To place the eyes first divide the face in half with a straight horizontal line. This line can also help you make sure that both eyes are on the same level.
In this case the eyes will be fairly narrow so draw them slightly below the line.
For this first example draw the eyes with their inner ends angled slightly downwards (towards the nose).
For now leave out the smaller details such as the eyelashes, pupils and reflections. These will be added in a later step.
Horizontal Eye Spacing
Space the eyes about far enough apart that you can fit another eye between them.
Different Eye Types
Depending on the type of character you want to have you can draw another variation of the eyes as shown above. This particular one can be for a more “mild” personality.
For this set of eyes draw them with their outer ends (towards the sides of the face) angled downwards.
For drawing different eye expressions see:
Step 5 – Position & Draw the Eyebrows
A slight distance above the eyes draw the eyebrows. For this set of eyes draw the eyebrows angled downwards towards the nose (same as the eyes).
For drawing different types of eyebrows also see:
Different Eyebrow Types
If you chose the second style of eyes in the previous step you can draw the eyebrows slightly raised and angled the other way.
Step 6 – Position & Draw the Nose
Draw the nose as pretty much just a dot or tiny vertical dash. For this particular face position the nose slightly above the halfway point between the line used for placing the eyes and the bottom of the chin.
For more ways to draw noses see:
Step 7 – Position & Draw the Mouth
The bottom lip of the mouth (not actually drawn) will be roughly halfway between the bottom of the nose and the bottom of the chin. You can draw the actual mouth just a tiny bit above that point.
In this case the character will have a bit of a smile so you can draw the mouth slightly loner and more curved than in it’s natural state.
For more on mouth expressions see:
Step 8 – Position & Draw the Elf Ears
The way elf ears are drawn can sometimes just be a style decision but other times they can also help emphasize a character’s personality. For example more upwards pointing ears can mean a more “upbeat” personality. Downwards pointed ears on the other hand can be attributed to characters with a more a more mild or shy personality.
One explanation for this can be that animals tend to raise their ears when alert/on guard and lower them when scared. This is something that pretty much everyone knows and is used to. Therefore drawing pointy anime/manga ears in a particular ways can help send a visual message about the character they are attributed to.
You can use the first two pairs in the example for the regular/upbeat face and the last set for the mild/shy one.
For drawing normal ears see:
Drawing Raised Ears
While quite often the base of the the ears is hidden behind hair its a good idea to know how to place them on the head for times when you do want to show them fully and to help avoid mistakes.
For this first set of ears you can draw them with their tips raised fairly high up (past the eyebrows).
Generally you can either place the base of the ears with the bottom at the same level as the bottom of the nose or slightly below it. The top can be around the top of the eyes.
Since this is both a stylized and a fantasy character the ear placement is not that important but if you are way off then your drawing can end up looking weird.
For some common drawing mistakes and tips on avoiding them see:
Drawing Medium Raised Ears
As an alternative to the previous example you can draw the ears with their ends slightly lower down.
Position the base of these ears the same way as the previous example. You can do this for the next two sets as well.
Drawing Medium Lowered Ears
You can draw the ears with their ends even lower down and combine them with the second set of eyes from step four for the “mild personality” look.
Drawing Lowered Ears
Finally you can draw the “reversed” ears where they curve in the opposite direction and hang fairly far down.
Step 9 – Draw the Hair
When drawing hair you can think of it as being split into the front, sides and back sections as shown below.
For a more detailed explanation of this as well as examples of other hairstyles see:
Draw the Front Section of the Hair
For this particular hairstyle start with the front section as shown above. There will be a bit of a clump in the middle with the rest of the hair swept to each side.
Draw the Side Sections of the Hair
Onto the “front hair” add the sides. Generally hair of this length will tend to “hug” the head/face so draw each side with a light curve.
Draw the Back Section of the Hair
Finally add the back/top section section as shown above.
Step 10 – Add the Small Details of the Facial Features
To finish the line drawing add all of the smaller details.
These include the following:
- Hints of the eyelids (between the eyebrows and eyes)
- Inner details of the eyes
- Inner Details of the Ears
- Hair folds
- Hints of neck muscles/collar bones
Eye Details Drawing
You can see a close up step by step breakdown of drawing the eyes above.
If you want to stop at a line drawing it’s recommended that you still add bit of shading to the eyes (as shown in the example). If you are going to move onto the coloring part then you can add color instead of the grey.
For a detailed explanation of drawing anime eyes see:
For more variations of eyelashes see:
Once done adding the small details (if you were drawing in pencil and made light lines as was suggested at the start of the tutorial) you can now trace over your drawing with a darker stroke. Alternatively you can also use a black pen or marker, just be careful not to make a mistake.
Alternative Face Details
Above you can also see what the alternative version of this character with the slightly different set of ears/facial features can look like.
Step 11 – Apply Color
This particular character will use just two main colors. One for the skin and the other for the hair, eyebrows and eyes.
Green is a fairly common anime hair color. It can also be a good choice for an elf as they are often associated with forests and nature.
Please note that if you are coloring on paper you may want to leave the hair highlights white (see last step of tutorial) and color around them. If you are coloring digitally you can add them in over top of the hair color. You can also add them with a white correction pen or white paints.
Dark Elf Color Variation
Alternatively you can also make the character a dark elf by changing up the colors similar to the example above.
Step 12 – Finish the Elf Character Drawing
To finish the elf drawing add some basic shading. In this particular case the character will have very generalized shadows that tend to occur in most common lighting conditions.
Add the shadows as follows:
- On the head/face cast by the hair
- Around the eyelids (really small)
- At the top of the eyes (from the eyelashes)
- Inner parts of the ears
- To one side of the nose
- Below the bottom lip (lip itself not actually drawn)
- On the neck from the head/hair
For examples of shading a face in different types of lighting see:
You can add the shadow in exactly the same places for the dark elf.
After you finish the shadows you can also add some highlights to the hair. In this case they will be done as a series of lines/zigzags but you can also do other simpler types of highlights.
There is no need to add highlights for the dark elf as the hair is pure white and they wont be visible.
For examples of other types of hair highlights see:
Normal Elf Character
You can see a large finished drawing of the first version of the elf girl above.
Alternative Elf Character
An alternative version for the “mild personality” look.
Dark Elf Character
The dark elf version is pretty much the same but with a different color template.
Shy Dark Elf Character
And finally for the last example the dark elf version of the “mild personality”.
For more on picking colors for an anime character also see:
Drawing an anime/manga style elf character is pretty much the same as drawing a human. However with an elf you can use the ears to give them a bit of added personality as shown with the four different ear types.
For more on showing personality and drawing different types of characters see: