I want to get better at illustration!

This is an eternal theme for anyone who draws pictures.
What’s more, there is no right answer to this difficult question.
If there are 100 people, there are 100 different ways to practice.
This time, as an example, I’d like to show you how I practiced from a level where I was never very good!

Please take a look at this first.
I’m ashamed to reveal this, but the first one is a fanart I drew around 2015.
At that time, I just drew characters I liked and published doujinshi when I felt like it.
After that, I was so busy that I didn’t draw much for about three years, from 2016 to 2019, and I forgot how to draw illustrations and my intuition.

The second one is as of winter 2020.
At the beginning of 2020, I decided to start working as an advertising cartoonist (I draw cartoons and illustrations for corporate product PR and advertising), but since I would be “getting paid for my drawings” and not just drawing for fun, I couldn’t just draw random pictures like I had been doing.
I decided to relearn how to draw properly. So I started practicing illustration from the basics.

My method of practicing illustrations

1) Tracing pose books, etc.</strong
2) Copying pictures and photos that I like
3) Try drawing by yourself
4) Show the picture you drew to others

Repeat steps 1 to 4

“What! That’s it! It’s so simple! Isn’t there some trick that will help me improve quickly? But in my experience, anyway, tracing and copying is the only way. That’s it.
You may be disappointed, but this is the greatest shortcut.
The results will vary depending on whether you can do this well or not.
Why don’t you devote a little time to basic practice?
I want to practice illustration from now on! But I don’t know where to start… For beginners, I will tell you the specific method for each item.


1) Let’s try tracing materials such as pose books

I tend to draw profiles in a particular direction…
Hands and body are difficult to draw, so I tend to finish with a bust-up…

Are you drawing your illustrations out of habit?

In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the most common ways to draw a character that you like, from an angle that you’re good at, or just a face.
Many people who draw illustrations every day but feel that they are not getting any better at it tend to do so out of habit.

“But I want to draw pictures I like, and practicing drawing is painful!

I understand that feeling very well!
There are many ways to express yourself, such as a design that emphasizes the eyes, a stylish design with a long and straight body, or a cute design like a loose character. There are many ways to express yourself, and some people may have their own preferences.
However, fundamentals are the key to arranging expressions.
The more you understand the basics and then arrange them, the more convincing your picture will be.
Do your best to understand the structure of the human body first!

Prepare materials for tracing
・A collection of poses for illustration practice
・A collection of poses for illustration practice

Place a new layer of paper (or a new layer in the case of digital) on top of the original and trace it


First, we recommend tressing the human body.

* Tracing (Torres)…Tracing the original drawing or photo from above. A copy of a picture.
Recommended materials: Drawing books, pose books for illustration practice, photographs, etc.
Materials that are light on character colors and that clearly show the structure of the human body are good.

● Procedure for tracing with Mediban Paint

1) Load the original image you want to tress onto a new layer.

2) Create a new layer on top of the original layer.

3) Lower the opacity of the original layer to make the image lighter (15%~20%).

4) Trace the original image with the layer on top.

I bought a book of poses for illustration practice, and chose one or two poses a day to tress.
By the time I finished the whole book, I had shed a lot of my previous weird habits.
If you can’t afford to buy a book, there are sites on the Internet that offer free pose materials, so look for those.
At this time, don’t just trace the face, but slowly trace it while thinking about the structure of each part, such as how big the face is, or how the hands are connected from here.
When you start tracing, you will realize how much you have been drawing the human body based on your own habits and images.
In any case, let’s just do a few.


2) Copy your favorite picture or photo

When you have done a certain number of tresses (1), the structure and balance of the body will somehow become ingrained in your hands.
After that, let’s move on to “copying,” which is drawing while looking at a example instead of tracing.
Draw a picture of your favorite illustrator, a comic book, a picture of your favorite actor, anything will do.
Copy the pictures that you think you are good at.
It’s a good idea to choose material that gets you excited to motivate yourself.

● Points to remember when copying

The procedure for copying is as follows
Understand the overall shape -> draw the shape of each part -> draw in the details

If you start by drawing the eyes and other details, you will not be able to achieve the overall balance that is important, and you will never be able to complete your copy and practice.
Since the purpose of copying is to grasp the flow of movement of the whole body, there is no need to draw in every detail.

First, observe the overall shape of the original painting and draw a rough ” Atari”.
It is not advisable to start drawing by copying the details.

Observe the details of the face, neck, hands, etc., and draw the ” Atari” for each part.

Draw the details while looking at the original drawing.
Since the purpose of copying is to practice the shape of the body, the wrinkles on the clothes, hair, and other details can be approximated.

The more you repeat the process, the more you will be able to understand how good artists draw their lines.
It is a slow process, but you should repeat it anyway.

●About stray lines

Leave only the lines that are really necessary and make them neat!

The so-called stray line is a line that is not defined as a single line, but is drawn over and over again.
A picture with stray lines looks good.
The reason for this is that the brain automatically corrects for the best line among multiple lines and sees it.
It’s the same phenomenon as when a draft looks good, but when you put pen to paper, it instantly becomes subtle.

When copying, try to reduce the stray lines to a single line.
Decide on a single line.
It’s hard to do, but that one line is really the line you need to represent the part, and it’s a shortcut to getting the drawing into your hands.
It’s also a great way to get a handle on how to draw.


3) Try to draw it yourself

I have been training myself through tracing and copying.
By this time, the correct body structure and drawing method will have become ingrained in your mind and hands to a much greater extent than in the early stages.
Now that you’ve mastered the basics, it’s time to try drawing the illustration you want.
You can use the pose books and other materials that you used for tracing as inspiration for your composition.
If you only do steady tressing and copying all the time, you will start to lose interest.
It is very important to draw pictures that you like in this way in between practice sessions.
You can show the results of your practice and also maintain your motivation.


There are 100 different ways to paint colors for 100 different people.
You can refer to articles on the making of painting methods or the painting methods of people you admire.
I want to adopt this way of painting! Try out different ways of painting and solidify your own favorite way of painting.

4) Let’s publish your drawing

Use social networking sites, illustration submission sites, contests, professional correction services, etc.

You can share your illustrations with other people!
You may think, “What does this have to do with how to improve? But it is very important.
You may think, “What does this have to do with how to improve?
Recently, there are also services where you can have your drawings corrected by professionals for a fee.
If you can get concrete advice, it will directly help you improve your skills.



Practice the basics of tracing and copying → draw an original work → publish it

This is just the way I did it, but with this repetition, your illustrations will get better and better.
Practicing illustration is like muscle training! The more times you do it, the more you will see results!
It may seem tedious, but why don’t you stop for a moment and start practicing in earnest?

The tracing and copying described above are only methods for improving your own pictures.
Keep it to yourself.
Please do not publish tresses of other people’s illustrations as originals, or use them without permission.

(Text and pictures by Naoko Hara)
twitter: @nao_comic