Beginner Guide to Picking Colors When Drawing Anime & Manga

This is an extensive beginning guide to colors with a focus on manga and anime. If you’re not familiar with much (or even nothing) concerning the concept of the color wheel or various color combinations, then this is an essential book to study. The same principles are employed by professional designers, artists, and animators.

Beginner Guide to Picking Colors When Drawing Anime & Manga
Color combinations

The colors used in manga and anime characters or whole scenes aren’t picked by chance. Certain colors are better and others don’t. 10 Step Anime Man’s Face Drawing Tutorial

show the colors according to their relationship to each other.

Note that the color wheel in this tutorial is likely the most popular the color wheel can contain many more divisions than this or even a smooth change from one color to the next.

Primary Colors

Primary colors

The three main colors are: blue, red, as well as yellow. The main defining characteristic of primary colors is that they can’t be produced by mixing other colors.

You can, for instance, mix yellow and red to make blue or orange and yellow to make green.

consist of the main color as well as an additional color. In other words, if you mix green and yellow you’ll get the color yellow-green.

Applying Colors to Anime Characters

In the examples below, you can see how different colors and combinations of colors can be used to create anime-style characters in various ways.

It is important to note that in these instances, the colors are only altered on hair, eyes, and clothing. The shaded half of the color circles represent the colors used on the shades on the persona.


Color Intensity

Color intensity examples

The intensity of a color is the amount of brightness in color. It is affected by shades, tints, and tones.

  • Tint – the addition of white to a color
  • Shade – adding black to an existing color
  • The tone is the process of adding grey to an existing color (a mixture of white and black)

In the above image, you can clearly discern the difference between colors without and with tone.

Being able to achieve the correct color intensity is vital when coloring characters.

Colors that are more intense may be ideal for a joyful character, while less intense colors may be more suitable for a more serious look.

In general, you should not use colors that do not have any tone whatsoever to color your entire persona. You may however prefer to utilize stronger colors for instance you want certain elements of their attire to appear glowing.


Achromatic color drawings

Pure Achromatic “colors” are black, grey, and white. However, the term “achromatic” can also refer to browns and Tans (light eyebrows) and extremely dark or pale shades.

Achromatic clothing is quite frequent among anime heroes (black suit and white shirt, for instance).

In this case, the color is a mixture of blue and red with black and white (tone) to create distinct color intensities of pink.

A monochromatic design could be ideal if you wish to make a character stand out. If, for instance, you saw someone strolling down the street dressed in bright yellow or bright red, they would likely grab your attention much more than other people.

Complimentary Colors

Drawing with complementary colors

Complementary colors are located in the opposite direction from each other on the wheel of color.


Again, this is a great color combination to create a character you need to make a statement.

Split Complementary Colors

Drawing with complementary colors that are split

The Split complementary colors can be described as a lighter variant (less in contrast) of complementary colors. They basically form a “Y” shape on the color wheel.

Color schemes that are split and complementary are very popular for anime characters.

Analogous Colors

Analog color drawing

Analogous colors are a common color scheme used by characters from anime. These are colors that sit close to one another in the wheel of color.

Analogous colors produce a subtle, low-contrast appearance.

These colors create a triangle on the wheel of color. You can choose the three hues you wish so long as you maintain exactly the same amount of distance (in this case, three divisions between them).

Square Colors

Square color drawing

The colors of squares are a mixture that includes four hues. They will form one square on the wheel of color.

Tetradic Colors Combination

Tetradic color drawing 2.

Similar to a square, Tetradics are a mix that includes four hues. The colors form an elongated shape on the wheel of color.

These are colors you’d normally be able to associate with warmer things such as fire or the sun.

This color scheme can work for characters from sci-fi or fantasy (a person with fire magic for instance).


These are colors you typically think of as cold, such as snow and ice.

Similar to the warm-colored combination, a cool color combo can be ideal for sci-fi and character from fantasy (ice magic with characters for instance).


There’s a lot you need to learn about color, but we hope that this article will help you gain an understanding of the various colors. Try applying these colors when coloring your drawings. You could find certain colors in your most beloved anime characters.

For more details on color, go to:

How to Color an Anime Character Step by Step

For drawing tips for beginners, see:

Beginner Guide to Drawing Anime & Manga


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