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How to Draw Anime Mecha – Full Step-by-Step Tutorial

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Key Takeaways

  • When you have a clear vision of what kind of mecha you are about to draw, the easier it is to draw.
  • When you bend metal into liquid-looking objects, the mecha design will be even more interesting.
  • Mechas are all about details, so adding more details only benefits the design and rarely takes away from it.

What Is A Mecha

Mechas resemble humans but have strong robot-like features. It even feels like they have their own spirit. Robots are kind of block-like shaped things, as cyborgs/androids are more fluid-like things with strong human-like features, but mechs are something between robots and cyborgs/androids.

Mecha are usually piloted by humans, whereas cyborgs and robots are self-functioning entities. Mechs can range from humanoid robots to armored tanks, aircraft, and other forms of futuristic machinery. These machines are typically used for combat, exploration, or construction.

Gather a Lot of Reference Images

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Search Pinterest for mecha inspiration

Mechs are hard to draw just from your mind and imagination, so I suggest you find some references. An excellent place to start is Pinterest and using the keyword Mecha. Don’t forget to check Pinterest boards for mecha designs.

When you are looking for reference images and you see some cool designs, search more from the same artist or the same IP (intellectual property). The Gundam series is probably one of the most well-known mech franchises there is.

Just gather a lot of references and possibly even create your own Pinterest board if you don’t want to save the images to your computer.

Patlabor 2 movie was a huge inspiration for this mecha design, and some nice bolts and pipes were used in this piece.

Composition And Layout

I knew from the start that I wanted to draw a portrait and make it look straight into the viewer’s eyes. Demanding attention creates that sense of threat, but it also offers an opportunity to help or protect the viewer.

Clip Studio Paint has a super awesome feature called a symmetrical ruler. You place a straight line in the middle of the canvas and start to draw. Anything you draw on the right side of the canvas copies to the left side of the canvas.

This makes the image come together double fast. One of my major goals was to make the drawing dynamic and kind of in-your-face type. To accomplish that, I draw the left and right sides to come towards the viewer to create depth and movement.

While I didn’t break the symmetry that much in this drawing, one way to break symmetry is to draw a few objects differently on either side.

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Composition check is done using the rule of thirds.

Sketch With Your Mind Free For Opportunities

The sketching phase is possibly one of the most critical stages in the beginning. In this phase, you should free your mind and draw whatever comes to your mind. Just draw on the canvas and have fun with your mind and drawing.

This is also the best phase to experiment with different approaches and ways to go with your mech. Look at the references you have if your mind is blank and no ideas are surfacing. Just draw what you see in the reference images. Combine ideas from several references, and soon you have some or plenty of ideas on the canvas.

Refine The Idea And Make The Lines Live

After the initial sketch is done and the drawing is either one big mess of lines, or it might even have a clear idea behind the lines, comes the phase where you refine the lines and pick the ones you like and ditch the ones you don’t.

The refining phase should not yet be the decisive phase where you finalize anything. You make sure to draw the lines you want to keep and make the drawing more cohesive. At this stage, you can also try to modify the line width and see if it works with the drawing or not.

Finalize The Line Art For Your Mecha

After you have an awesome refined sketch that looks just the way you want it, there is nothing to be added or erased; then you are ready to start drawing the line art.

Before you pick a specific brush or pencil for the line art, do try different brushes or pencils and see if there could be a better brush than you have used before, something that could give that extra flavor. If you feel that the brush you have selected gives the results, then keep at it. Start drawing on top of your sketch and have fun.

I have always drawn my line art on a new layer on top of the sketch layer. I suggest you do the same because if you have the sketch layer on top, you can’t see the new line art clearly, and it distracts more than it should. I also made the sketch layer blue and reduced the opacity to around 30%.

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Finalized line art before base colors and shading.

Line width and brush

With this drawing, I did something I hadn’t done in a long time. I changed the brush from G-pen to Pencil, and it was a good call. The drawing gave me a new experience, and it felt good.

The lines weren’t looking so decisive, so strong, but then again, it didn’t have to. I wanted this drawing to look more painting-like than, let’s say, painterly-like.

I also varied the line width, and as I was using a pencil, I could more easily control the thickness and strength of the brush. This gave more life to the line art than I had achieved with G-pen before.

What should be noted here is that it all comes to the point of what you are aiming for and what style/look you want to achieve with the brush. Choose your brush according to that.

Add Colors to Your Drawing

From the get-go, I knew I wanted to color this ”beast” red. However, just coloring the whole thing with red would have been boring. So I colored different parts with different colors, but all from the realm of red, so even the metal parts are red but from the very gray area of the color spectrum.

I also used some yellowish metal colors and light red colors for some parts. It is so easy to use saturated colors as those colors always get the attention more easily than muted, greyish colors. However, that was my goal from the beginning. The line art was drawn with a specific color palette in mind, so the line art also complements these color choices.

I think saturated colors would have worked as well, but I think muted colors work better.

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The color palette for the drawing.

Use gradients to add that extra depth

For this drawing, I used a gradient-like effect. I used a super big brush with minimum hardness. However, use the brush with 100% opacity.

Using the brush this way makes the color depth even for all places. I placed a layer on top of the base color layer, clipped it to the layer below, chose a light color, placed the layer on multiply blending mode, and drew light strokes to places where a shadow is thought to be.

Shadows, Light, And Volume

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Mech, in my case, was metallic and had a hard surface all the way. This fact gave me the point of using strong shadow color as the material would not disperse the light anywhere. The shapes/objects are either in light or in the shadow.

To make the coloring easier, make a one-color layer beneath the shadow layers. Also, remember to choose a light color for the layer so you can see shapes and shadows more easily. My mech had this shiny metallic surface, so it was crucial to convey that.

I used these fluid-like shadows on top of the surface to convey it was shiny.

If you look at shiny metal in real life, you see that it has these weird shapes on its surface, and that is because it reflects the surrounding environment and because the surface is not entirely even. I don’t have any environment to reflect the form, so I used the same shadow color I used for the main shadows.

When placing shadows, the easiest light source is from the top because the sun is above us most of the day, and we are used to seeing objects lit from above. However, if you want to make the drawing slightly more interesting, you could use a light source that resides on the side or possibly even beneath the object.

Finalize Your Drawing

In the initial sketch, I had these texts and things placed on top of the mech. It was to give the mech some character and some magazine/editorial style.

As this drawing was made using the symmetrical guide tool, it was okay to hide things with the characters and text. The viewer could see things anyway because they were the same on both sides. I intentionally left the front rather simple so the letters would not cover some crucial parts of the design.

Texts and end effects were added in Photoshop. The red variant was a happy accident, and usually, you should keep those.

It made the drawing more sinister and threatening but also created a cool-looking effect to it. Overall, I am delighted with the result, as it genuinely feels like a Japanese mech with all the cool kanji characters and all.

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The final drawing, including the red variant.
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Okuha

Digital Artist

I’m a digital artist who is passionate about anime and manga art. My true artist journey pretty much started with CTRL+Z. When I experienced that and the limitless color choices and the number of tools I could use with art software, I was sold. Drawing digital anime art is the thing that makes me happy among eating cheeseburgers in between veggie meals.

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