How to Draw Chibis: Digital Drawing Process from Start to Finish | Emily Weiland | Skillshare

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How to Draw Chibis: Digital Drawing Process from Start to Finish

teacher avatar Emily Weiland, Artist for Chibitasm

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

10 Lessons (27m)
    • 1. How to Draw Digital Chibis: Intro

    • 2. Project Overview

    • 3. Lesson 1: Body Proportions

    • 4. Facial Proportions and Style

    • 5. Facial Expressions

    • 6. Posing

    • 7. Sketching

    • 8. Lining

    • 9. Coloring

    • 10. Putting it all Together: Final Overview

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About This Class

This class will show you how to draw characters in the chibi style. You will learn the essentials of the chibi style, as well as the step-by-step process to draw your own chibis!

Who is this class for?

This class is for any artist looking to make cute, professional illustrations. Learning to draw chibis will give you a polished shorthand style that takes less time to draw than many other illustrative techniques, making it perfect for concepts and commissions, and the lessons can be applied to any other style of digital cartooning! 

Experience with drawing is helpful but not mandatory before taking this class. The class is intended for digital artwork- there will be a separate class for traditional mediums. 

What materials do I need to take this class?

To take this class, you will need a device on which you can make digital art. The best devices would be a tablet with a pressure-sensitive stylus pen (such as an iPad with an Apple Pen or a Mircrosoft Surface with a Surface Pen) or a desktop computer with a drawing tablet (such as a Wacom or Huion drawing tablet). You can also draw on a smartphone with a stylus, or on a tablet or smartphone with touch, but drawing without pressure sensitivity is much more difficult. You will also need a program or application in which to draw (such as Photoshop, Procreate, or Painttool SAI).

What will the project be like?

The best way to build art skills is practice, so the project for this class will include sketchbook exercises for each lesson. These exercises are designed to help you understand and incorporate the concepts in each lesson into your own art. Upload your works in progress with each class, and build up to a completed chibi!

Meet Your Teacher

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Emily Weiland

Artist for Chibitasm


Hello, I'm Emily! I’m a professional convention artist, and I specialize in illustration, animation, and my distinct chibi style. I’ve got a lot of knowledge to share about developing a unique style and making it in the convention world!

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1. How to Draw Digital Chibis: Intro: Hello and welcome. This is how to draw digital Chibis and I'm your teacher Emily Weiland. Some of you may have seen my work before. I'm the main artist over at Chibitasm and I've been doing anime and comic conventions professionalism since 2013 using a chibis style that I've developed during that time. Now, in my course of doing chibis professionally, I've drawn well over 1000 and I learned a lot of tips and tricks and really fine to this process. That is what I'm going to be teaching you today. My process from start to finish in drawing digital chibis. Now, why chibis? Well, first of all, chibis are fantastic shorthand style. They're much easier to draw than a lot of different art styles and are something very easy to get concepts out or do quick commissions. There also just adorable, I like looking at them. Yeah, now this class is going to be the process from start to finish to drawing chibis. Will go through proportions, lining, coloring, polish, all the good stuff. To get the most out of this class, there will be exercises along with each individual lesson to help you really solidify all of the concepts. The techniques in this class can also be applied to many different art styles outside of the chibis style. But as I said before, chibis are a fantastic place to get started. Let's get started. I'll see you guys in the first lesson. 2. Project Overview: So before we get into the lessons, we're going to quickly go over the class project. First of all, let's go over the materials you're going to need to complete your project. You're going to need a device on which you can draw and a program that you can draw in. My personal recommendations for drawing are Painttool Sai Photoshop or procreate, that's the program that I will be using. But obviously, whatever program you're most comfortable a drawing with work perfectly. As I mentioned before, this class project is a sketchbook with specific exercises to go along with each lesson. I'm going to go over those right now. Less than one is Body Proportions. For this lesson, you will be drawing the page of simple sketch bodies in different proportions. Lesson 2 is facial proportion and style. For this, you will be drawing a page of different Facial Styles in the proportions that you're taught. Lesson 3 is facial expressions, for this will be drawing [inaudible] faces of the seven basic emotions. Lesson 4 is posing. For this, you'll draw a page of simple sketch bodies in different poses. Lesson 5 is sketching. For this, you will be choosing poses from lesson 4 and making detailed sketches. Lesson 6 is lining. For this you will choose your favorite sketch from lesson 5 and line it. Finally, Lesson 7 colored. You'll be coloring the lines from lesson 6. By the end of this class you would have drawn one completed GB. I know you're an artist that probably means you're a bit of a procrastinator, but please do not procrastinate and just do everything at the end. It'll really be most beneficial for you to follow along and do each sketch book page along with its lesson. These exercises are designed specifically to help you understand and incorporate these concepts and to make you practice them. Don't worry if your sketches don't turn out perfectly, they probably won't, mine rarely do honestly. Art is a journey, just remember that you need to keep practicing to make perfect and let yourself have undertake the journey. Keep with it and it will eventually come naturally. Now that you're ready to get your project started, let's dive right into the first lesson. 3. Lesson 1: Body Proportions: We're going to start with proportions because proportions are what makes a chibi a chibi. By definition, a chibi is a figure with two to three heads of height in proportion to the body. For comparison's sake, a normal figure will be 7-8 heads in height. Anything greater than three heads in height will look like a mistakenly short adult rather than a purposeful stylization. Right now we're focusing just on the body proportions, faces will be next lesson. Keep your limbs in proportion with the body. Don't use exact adult proportions. It'll look weird, trust me. Start by drawing a head first and then set yourself up a grid using that head to see your height proportions. Or if you'd like, you can pause the video right here, take a screenshot and use this as your template. For this lesson we're going to draw one body and three heads height, one body at two heads height, and one body at two-and-a-half heads. You want your body shoulder width to be half to two-thirds the length of a head. Take the space you have to draw your body and split it in half. The top half is going to be your torso, the bottom half is going to be your legs. The top part is going to be your torso, you'll want to split that into a shoulder and chest area and a stomach and hip area. This will help you with posing later. You'll want your arm length to go down to that center line and the exact middle of your arm to be where your elbow is. Likewise, the halfway point on your leg is where your knees are going to be. Since this is just a simple body sketch, go ahead and just put in little triangles for your hands and feet. Now that you've got a little bit of practice drawing bodies in these proportions, go ahead and draw some bodies without the lines. If you'd like, you can put the lines on later to see where your proportions are. The point of this entire exercise is just to get yourself familiar with the proportions that you like best. Once you're feeling comfortable with chibi body proportions, go ahead and save your progress if you're working on a program that doesn't autosave and trust me, you want to save consistently so you don't lose your progress, and export your final page of body proportions and upload that onto your course project. Now that you've got chibi body proportion done, we're going to move on to the next lesson, which will be facial proportions. 4. Facial Proportions and Style: Now that we have body proportions down, next is facial proportions. Again, just like the body proportions, we're not going to be using average adult human proportions. It'll look weird if you tried, trust me. First thing you're going to do is split your face in half, vertically, and then split your bottom portion of that in half again. Then horizontally, you're going to split your face into thirds. If you'd like, you can pause your video right now, take a screenshot, and use that as a template. For placement, you're going to put your eyes right in the center of the intersection of that middle vertical line and your two horizontal lines. You're going to want to put your mouth in the middle of that bottom vertical line. Your ears are also going to be placed right on that center line. So now that you have the placement of your face down, we're going to talk a little bit about stylization. The facial style is very important because not only does the face display much of your character's emotions, the way you choose to stylize the face will often be a bit of a style marker for you as an artist. I'm not going to teach you how to come up with a facial style right now. That's its own course. For now, we're just going to go over three different facial styles you can choose one to use if you'd like, or if you have a facial style you prefer to use, go ahead and use that. First comes eyes. You can either do dot eyes, either complete circles or slight ovals. Simple eyes. For this, you're going to just draw your top eyelid and then your pupil, or complex eyes. For this you're going to do top and bottom eyelid, pupil, and a little bit of eyelash if you'd like. Next comes noses. You can either not have a nose, put your nose in while you're coloring your chibi. We're going to represent that with gray for right now or you can line your nose. You want to do a pretty simple shapes since this is a chibi. For ears the main thing you want to choose is your proportions. You can either do them small, about 1/5 of your head size, medium, about 1/4 of your head size, or large, about 1/3 of your head size. You should also choose how to represent your inner ear. You can either just not have anything, have a simple line, or have a simple shape such as a five or six. As far as mouth style goes, you can either have your mouth fully filled, you can have your mouth with a single flat color, or you can have detail to your mouth, a inner mouth, a tongue and teeth if you'd like. Last but not least, we have eyebrows. As far as eyebrows go, you can choose to either not have eyebrows, have a simple line eyebrow, or have a shaped eyebrow. I do recommend having some eyebrow for this class. It just makes it easier to show facial expressions. Now that you know, facial proportions and placement and a couple different styles, go ahead and try it on your own. Either go back and re-watch the class and draw along, or draw it on your own. Once you've found a facial style that you'd like, go ahead and submit your page of faces onto your course project, and we can move on to the next lesson, which will be facial expressions. 5. Facial Expressions: Now that you know the proportions and style you want to your face, it's time to talk about facial expressions. Getting your facial expressions down is very important because the face is the focal point of your drawing and is what's going to show the most emotion. I'm going to keep this face up here so you know what style I'll be using. You go ahead and use whichever style you're most comfortable with. For this lesson, we're going to go over the seven basic emotions proposed by Paul Ekman. You can go ahead and look up his entire scientific theory if you'd like. Essentially, these are the seven emotions that are scientifically proven to have specific corresponding facial movements. Regardless of whether your character's eyes or mouth are open or close, the amount of tension specifically in the eyes, the eyebrows, and the mouth is what's going to make these specific emotions. Let's go over the examples. We're going to start with just a neutral facial expression, so you have somewhere to base your faces off of. Go ahead and just draw your eyes with no tension in them, a completely and intense straight mouth and neutral eyebrows. First we have joy, a pretty simple one. In a happy or joyous expression, the corners of your mouth are going to be raised, your eyes are going to be tense, and your eyebrows are going to remain fairly neutral. Because the eyebrows are neutral and joyous expression, you can change your eyebrows to show a more complicated feeling such as a bitter, sweet happiness. Next up, we have sadness. For sadness, your mouth corners will be pulled downwards, your inner eyebrows will be pulled upwards, and your eyes will remain fairly neutral. Next, we have anger. When you are angry, your eyebrows will be pulled downward, your eyes will be tense and pulled upwards and your mouth will be tight. This tension can either create a scowl, or a grimace or just a frown. Next, we have disgust. In disgust, again, your eyebrows will be pulled down, but this time your nose will be wrinkled. This causes a raising in your inner eyes. Disgust also has a fairly loose mouth expression, but with tension in the upper lip, creating a bit of a grimace. Next, we have contempt which is a more hardy version of disgust. Your eyes and eyebrows will be fairly neutral, but you'd just get a bit of a smirk on one side of the mouth. Next, we have fear. In fear, your eyebrows are very tense pulled upwards and together. Your eyes are going to be very open especially in the upper eyelid, and your mouth will be tense and stretched out. Finally, we have surprise. In surprise, your eyebrows will be raised, your eyes will be very open, and your mouth will be very loose, a jaw dropping effect. Now you have an idea of the seven basic emotions, go ahead and draw these seven emotions for yourself. You can either draw them on your own or go back and draw along with the lesson. Once you finished with that, go ahead and upload to your emotion page to your course project. Be sure to save your progress if you're not on an auto saving program, and we can move on to the next lesson, which will be posing. 6. Posing: Now it's time to talk about posing your character. While doing your posing, be sure you keep using these simple sketches, we'll be adding the details later. Right now, you just want to be sure you have placement correct. It'll be much easier to change these things now than it will later. That being said, don't worry if when you start sketching out your details you decide to change a few things. This drawing is yours to control, you can change any aspect of it at any time, so don't feel locked into anything that you've already done. There are three points you're going to want to keep in mind while you're posing, the emotion of your pose, the movement of your pose, and the silhouette of your pose. Let's go over those in a little bit more detail. With the emotion, you really need to think about the body language, what emotion your character is trying to convey. For example, we're going to start out by drawing one negative emotion pose and one positive emotion pose. In general, when a character is feeling a negative emotion, they tend to cover or guard their heart. Likewise, when they're feeling a positive emotion, they're more open, and this covering isn't just with the arms, it's with the position of their torso, whether it's leaned forward or outward. Next, we're going to talk about movement. Imagine your character as a real character that is doing something right now, they're in the middle of some action, what led to them being in this particular pose? In which direction are they moving? That's the way that your energy is going to flow. For example, let's draw a character who has just landed. Since this character is coming from above and landing, their energy is going to be faced downward, it's going to be a bit wider of a stance, your limbs are going to be curved downward and the head's going to be a little bit lower on the torso than it would be if this character were on their way up. Another really important thing to remember in your posing is your tension. You want to avoid stiff limbs unless you are specifically showing tension. For example, the arm on this character that isn't bearing any weight is going to be curved, it's not going to be stiff, whereas this arm that is bearing the weight is going to be stiff. This is also the reason you want to do your torso in those two separate parts, you never want to have a completely stiff torso unless you're showing an incredible amount of tension. Lastly, let's talk about silhouette. You want to break your silhouette whenever you can. One, to make your character more interesting and two, to make the different components of your character more immediately recognizable. For example, look at the happy pose we drew earlier, if we had the arms up higher, the silhouette would be a little too blurred. The arms would be overlapping of the head and it would just be a little harder to interpret, especially from afar. If you're worried about your silhouette, zoom out and see if you can still tell what your pose is from afar. One final tip for you, don't be afraid to use references, look up a pose if you don't know how to draw it, once you've studied it, you'll be able to draw it a bit better on your own next time but there's absolutely no shame in using a reference. Now that you've got some tips on posing, go head and try some on your own. You can draw the ones that I've drawn here, you can draw some of your own, draw at least three, and upload those to your course project and then we can move on to the next lesson, sketching. 7. Sketching: In this lesson, we're going to learn how to do detailed sketching. The next step after this is going to be lining. So what we're doing in this sketch step is getting all of our details and positioning correctly, so we can just worry about line quality afterwards. Essentially, you're making a low-quality full picture right now that you will be tracing when you line. Again, be sure that you get the positioning of everything, how you want it in this step. This is also the last step in which you can do any real big digital transformation. That's when you use one of these tools, move things around, resize, stretch. If you do any of this type of transformation while lining, it's going to ruin your line quality. So use it all you want here, but don't get too dependent on it. Be sure you keep your movement in mind while you're sketching, especially things that are loose, such as loose clothing, hair or anything that is dangling off of your character, like jewelry. Again, we're setting up for our lines right now, so don't worry about anything that you won't be lining, such as patterns on your clothing, but do line up finer details like cuffs. Also, be sure you detail out your hands, it'll make it much easier to line them later. I'm not going to teach you how to draw hands right now. That's its own class. If like, you can just do simple knob or mitten hands right now. But, the only way you're going to learn how to draw hands is by drawing them. I recommend drawing, every time you get the chance, if you'd like to look up a reference, go for it. Just be sure that you use baby proportions. Now that you see your details coming in, you may decide that you didn't like something that you did in your posing sketch. For example, this one, the body was a little bigger than I liked it. Again, use the transformation tool all you want in this one, don't be afraid to vary a little bit from your pose. Just make sure that when you're done with your sketch, you have something that you are excited to line, and practice's what's going to make perfect on this. Make detailed sketches of at least three of the poses from the last lesson. If you like, you can draw the character that I'm drawing here, or you can draw one of your own or a character from one of them honestly, whoever you want to draw, that's up to you. Once you're done with that, upload your sketch page onto your course project. Save your file if you haven't already, really, you need to get in the habit of doing that. We'll see you in the next lesson, lining. 8. Lining: Now, that you've got your detailed sketching done, it is time to line. Choose your favorite sketch from the last lesson, and turn down the opacity on it. That's going to make it, so that we can still see this drawing, and now we're going to trace it. Like everything else, and drawing, lining is going to take a lot of practice. But I've got a couple of tips to help you get started. First of all, make your corners sharp. A lot of times when you're doing digital drawing there will be stabilization on your pen. This means that it won't follow the exact line that you're doing because doing that would make it a little too jittery. It's just the way the technology is. When you're trying to do a pointed line with a stabilized pen, it's not going to be pointed, it's going to be a little bit rounded, and that's no good. You really want your corners to be pointed. If your pen is stabilizing like this, draw the two edges of the corner, and erase the overlap to make a sharp point. Trust me, it'll look better, it's worth the extra time. If you're using a pen with pressure sensitivity, there will be some natural variants in your line thickness, but you still need to decide on the overall line thickness that you are going for. The way you do this is looking at how many details you have, and deciding what line thickness is going to allow you to show those details properly. You're not going to want your picture to suddenly have very thin lines when it comes to the details, it's going to look off. If your lines were too thick when you started, you'll have to reline the entire thing, and it's no good, just to test your details before you start, be sure your line thickness is good. Next tip, pay attention to your line quality. Keeping your line thickness consistent is one of those things, but also be sure that your lines aren't jittery. You may need to mess with your pen [inaudible] settings to get back right. Even you use your distortion tools a little bit low on your lining, but if you use it too much, it will change the thickness of your lines, and make them pixilate, don't go overboard with it, be sure your line stay consistent, and crisp. Since you're doing digital artwork, you have layers to work with, be sure you utilize them. Use different layers for different shapes. If you have lines that overlap, you can put them on separate layers, and draw your lines uninterrupted, then erase the parts that overlap. You can also use a separate layer to draw lines that require more follow through, and then erase the extra later. Also, if you're not sure exactly how you want certain detail, you can try different things on different layers to see which looks best with the overall picture. Pay attention to your leading lines, your implied lines, and the places where your lines meet. A lot of times when you're drawing, you'll have two shapes that do not connect in your figure, but the lines will meet up exactly. You're in charge of this drawing, move those lines. If your lines seem to follow through on a shape that they're not supposed to, you will create an unintentional leading line, and it will make your figure harder to read. As a general rule, just try to make sure that no shapes that shouldn't be intersecting, are intersecting. Also don't be afraid to move around details to make your shapes more completed or add in extra detail in order to avoid confusion. For example, look at this picture, the edge of the head is covered by the hair; therefore, the arm coming out here looks like it is connected to the head. That is because we have an implied line going from the arm into the face. In this version, we've added an extra detail, an ear. This completes the shape of the head, and separates the arm. Finally, don't be afraid to make changes. Work on your line, work as long as you need to, to make it legible. Colors will not save confusing line work. Now, go ahead, and do it on your own. Finish lining one of the sketches from your last lesson, and upload it to your course project. Now it's time for the final lesson coloring. 9. Coloring: Now that we've got the limestone, we are onto the final step, coloring the chibi. You're going to have four steps for coloring, filling in your flat colors, adding detail, shading, and then adding highlights and visual effects. It's important to get all of your flat colors in first so that you can compare your palette to make sure all of your colors are harmonious. If you decide one of your colors is off later, it's much harder to adjust it after you've already got details and shading in. When you're filling in your flat colors, go ahead and use a paint bucket or a fill tool, or drag the coloring if you're using appropriate, not my favorite tool set, but that's how it is. But never use the eyedropper tool. If every time you're about to use the eyedropper tool you instead finds the color yourself, it will teach you how to find colors, which is a very important skill to have when you don't have a reference or you're developing a pellet. Pulling your colors directly from irreverence also robs you of the chance to make your own palette for a character. Everyone's color style is going to be a little bit different. Go ahead and let yourself find one. Don't pull directly from your references with an eyedropper tool. That being said, if you're worried about getting close to a specific colors such as a skin zone, feel free to use the eyedropper tool to check the color you've come up with. Speaking of checking colors, another way you can check your colors is by checking the values. The way you do this, is creating a black saturation layer on top of your image. This will give you just the values, not the color, so you can check and make sure that everything looks harmonious. Since you are drawing digitally right now, take advantage of your programs color adjustment tools to get your colors just where you want them. When adding in patterns, you can either alpha lock your color layer and drugs directly onto it. Or you can create a separate layer, make it a clipping mask, and then draw your patterns on that. Now you've got your colors where you like it's time to start shading. Rule number one, do not shade in black or gray. It makes your colors look muddy, it doesn't look good, do not shade in black and gray. If you need a color to start with when you're shading, do a multiply layer of the color that your shading with, that you'll want to adjust it later, afterwards because it's almost never the exact shade you want. Utilize your layers when you're shading, create a separate layer for your shades and make it a clipping mask. This means it will only show up on your colors, but you can erase and change the shape of your shading without worrying about the underlying colors underneath. This is especially useful when you have a pattern on whatever you're shading. For these chibis, we're just going to be doing two tone cell shading. This means that there will be just the flat colors and then one shape for the shadows. When placing your shadows, always consider where your light sources. In this picture our light is coming from above so all of our shadows will be going directly downwards. There will be on the bottom of all of our shapes. Also be sure to consider your cast shadows, the shadows that are created by the shapes of your character. For example, the shadow of the head or of the loops shirt. In the shadow shape is where I like adding characters, big ramp chibi, cheeks. If you'd like to add this to stylistic choice, go for it. If you don't like it, you can do your cheeks in other way or not add shading on your cheeks, however you like it. For me, I like doing it and it's kind of become a bit of a style market. Once you've got your shadow placement where you like it, go ahead and adjust your colors until everything's harmonious. Now moving onto highlights, you don't want to highlight everything in your picture, just the things that would naturally have highlights. For example, we're not going to be highlighting any of the clothing on this character because they're not wearing anything shiny. We're just going to be adding highlights onto the hair when shaping your highlights, considered the texture of what you're highlighting. Do bubble highlights for things that are smooth and rougher highlights for things that are not. Also much like you don't want to shade in black or gray, you do not want to highlight in white. let's touch real quick on coloring and shading your eyes. Again, a lot of your personal art style is going to come from how you stylize your character's facial features, so have fun with your eyes. I personally don't have a specific style guide for my eyes, I'll trend it up depending on how I'm feeling about that character. One of the things you can do for your eyes stylistically is change the highlight shape to be something that matches your character thematically. Try some things out, have fun with it. Feel free to use one of these styles if you'd like, or come up with one on your own. Finally add any final effects such as metal sheen, smaller lights, if your character has glowing eyes, anything like that add it now. With that, you've done it. You've finished drawing your first chibi. Congratulations, pat yourself on the back give yourself a bit of applause. I can't wait to see what you've made. Sure you save your file if you haven't already, and save your final chibi. Go ahead and upload it onto the project. Stick around for the last video, we're going to do a quick overview of what you've learned. 10. Putting it all Together: Final Overview: Now that you know all of the steps to draw a digital chibi, we're going to go through and put it all together. Before you get started, have in mind the proportions, the emotion, and the general pose you want for your drawing. Start by sketching out a simple body pose to be sure that you have the positioning of all of your limbs and body correct. If it helps you with getting your general emotion correct in this phase, you can draw the face during this sketch. Once you have the pose or you like it, sketch out the details of your character. Be sure that the position and size of everything in this sketch is where you want it and that your figure is easy to read. Lower the opacity of your sketch, and trace over it with clean and crisp lines. Then add in your flat colors, your patterns and details, your shading and then highlights and final visual effects. There you have it. The start-to-finish process for drawing digital chibis. If you've been following along the lessons, you should have seven pages uploaded into your project, and if you like for extra credit, try drawing another chibi on your own from start to finish using this process. Thank you so much for tuning in I'm really excited to see what you've made. If you liked this class and would like to be updated when I upload new classes, go ahead and follow me on Skillshare, and if you like to follow any of my personal work, my links are over on I look forward to seeing you guys in the next class, happy drawing!