How To Make Good Fan Art

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Written by Juha

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Fan art is a great way for somebody to imagine a beloved character in a new or exciting way. Or maybe you just want to draw a tribute piece for your favorite TV Show, Anime, Movie, or Video Game.

Whatever it is you plan to do with your particular fan art, you want to make it good.

After all, you wouldn’t be creating this fan art at all if you didn’t love the character so much to begin with. The least you can do is make sure it’s of good quality.

Thankfully, there are some tips that you can follow to make sure that it’s the best it can be, and I’m going to share them with you today! This guide will tell you exactly how to make good fan art.

Develop your own drawing style

guilty_gear_strive_by_heavymetalhanzo_de6t43i
Artwork by Heavy Metal Hanzo

This is one of the most important things that any new artist can do. Art as a whole is only beautiful and interesting when it means something to the artist. So you need to create something that is unmistakeably yours. 

Something that when you look at it makes you feel as though there is nobody else in the world that could have created your fan art in quite the same way that you did.

The last thing you want is to spend hours on a piece, just to look at the finished product and think, “Wow. That looks exactly like the picture I was using.”

Art is about creative expression, not copying someone else’s work. You won’t make good fan art if you don’t create something for yourself.

As a quick guide, here are some things that you can do to help you find a drawing style of your own:

  • Research different illustrators that you love! It isn’t copying to admire someone else’s work and give their technique a try next time you sit down to draw. Just make sure that you look at a broad range of work and take inspiration from all of it. Soon you’ll find a style that is unique to you if you concentrate on taking a little bit from every illustrator and piece of art that you admire.
  • Practice. A lot. The only way you will develop a drawing style of your own is through frequent practice, so keep going until you find a style that suits you.
  • Try unique scenarios. If you are struggling with creating a style of your own, try drawing your favorite character in a place that they would never be. Draw them sitting at your desk in your bedroom or eating dinner with your family downstairs. Forcing yourself to draw them in situations that are unique to you could help you work out your own style of drawing, and it’ll probably give you some interesting ideas for later when you’re trying to create fan art that stands apart from everybody else’s.
  • Remember that if you’re new to fan art, it will take some time. Be patient. Your unique drawing style will come if you keep working hard towards it.

If you follow the steps above, you’ll be able to develop a drawing style of your own.

It’s really important that you develop this style before attempting to create a real piece of fan art because otherwise, you run the risk of simply copying someone else’s work or having a finished piece that could have realistically been created by any artist anywhere.

Finding your own art and drawing style first is the first step in making good quality fan art.

Study the main features of the character or person

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When creating fan art, you want the finished piece to look like the character you are trying to represent.

The best way to do this is to become really familiar with the features or characteristics of the character that make them so unique.

This is obviously easier for artists who are creating fan art of characters in media where you can actually see them for yourself, but even if you’re creating fan art of a character from a book, you can use the authors’ details to focus on the characters main features.

Maybe note down the key points to remember, so you know that you are creating fan art that is as accurate as possible.

If you are able to look at your character either in a video game, movie, TV show, or anime, etc., then yes, you do have it a little easier, but be careful not to trip yourself up by copying the image directly.

You should take the essence of the character in fan art, so only pick the features that make the character them, without copying every minor detail.

You aren’t looking at creating an exact replica image, so make sure the main features inspire your work but don’t copy anything directly.

Use a reference photo

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While copying an image directly is something you definitely shouldn’t do, reference photos are commonly used by the best fan artists in the world. 

You need something that can anchor you as an artist.

It’s so easy to let creativity run away with you to the point that your fan art isn’t really fan art anymore because your character doesn’t even look the same.

Creativity is great, and you should allow yourself some artistic license when creating anything, even fan art, but reference photos will keep your character looking like they should so that others instantly recognize who your fan art is about.

Once you’ve created your fan art, you’ll probably want to show everybody the piece of art you’ve been working so hard on, so making sure that the character is accurately represented is important.

Having a reference photo that highlights the character’s main features is really important too.

You might have studied them and know them well, but having a photo with you as you draw your character is vitally important so that you can refer back to it to stop yourself from straying too far away from the character.

The whole point of fan art is to show off the character in the best possible way, and reference photos can really help you with that.

Just remember, being inspired by a photo is very different from copying one, so tread carefully as you draw.

Create original looking fan art

breath_of_the_wild_confronting_calamity_ganon_by_heavymetalhanzo_dc0qpox-fullview
Artwork by Heavy Metal Hanzo

This is more than simply having a style of your own. This is about doing something with the character that is truly unique.

If you see lots of fan art about your character that all seem to focus on a specific epic battle scene that they take part in, for example, why don’t you think about producing fan art of your character from a less action-packed scene?

Maybe they have a sweet moment with their sister right before the battle, or there’s a quiet moment just after where they take stock of all the things they’ve been through.

The point is, you need a fresh angle or a different perspective from which to start your fan art. Because even if you have a style that is completely unique to you, you’ll still probably be disappointed with the end result if it looks very similar to the work that other artists have produced.

Remember earlier when we said allowing yourself some artistic license is important in fan art? Well, this is where that comes in.

Think deeply about your character, the way they look, how they act – is there something there that you could add to in order to make your character even more interesting?

Maybe a character is incredibly brave, and most people focus on that, but are they compassionate too? Why not try to represent a side of the character this is underrepresented in other people’s fan art so that you can explore that side of the character a little more?

By taking a character and imagining them in a different scenario but acting in a way that is true to their character can be a great way to produce some really unique work.

You might even be creating fan art about the villain of the piece, but you know that a tragic backstory went some way to creating the evil character that they are now.

Could you explore the time in the character’s life before they were evil? Could you imagine how they might have been before, as a younger, more friendly version of who they are now?

Even if this information isn’t given within the TV show or wherever it is your character is from, you can still easily imagine how things might have been for them.

It doesn’t matter how you look at it, or even if you embellish the character slightly. The point is that with any form of media, every individual will take something different away from it.

You should let this shine in your fan art. Whatever resonates most with you should be your starting point. Use your imagination and let yourself be creative.

Exploring different sides to your character or different times in their life can be a great way for you to create something that is truly unique and original.

So long as your finished piece is still recognizably the character you wanted to represent in the first place, then it will be a great piece of fan art.

Create a tribute piece

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Artwork by Heavy Metal Hanzo

If you’re a huge fan of a specific TV show, movie, anime, book, or video game as a whole, then why limit yourself to fan art about just one character?

In fact, creating a tribute to the whole cast of characters can be a really good way of forcing yourself to think differently from everybody else. 

You’ll have to ask yourself questions like “How will I lay this work out to fit everybody in?” and “Who do I want to feature prominently, and who can be placed more in the background?”.

You’ll basically be creating unique fan art without really having to think about it because you’ll have to get really creative with how you want to represent everybody in the tribute piece.

It is quite a task to take on, but it’s certainly one that will result in a finished piece of fan art that is of high quality and truly impressive.

Having a whole roster of characters to draw upon when you need inspiration for your fan art can be a great tool to make sure that you actually finish the piece you start too.

Sometimes you can become bored with a piece of art that you’re working on if you have to represent the same character and only imagine them in the situation you’ve chosen for them, and you might end up abandoning the piece and starting work on something else.

In a tribute piece, you’re more able to explore the characters and how they interact with one another so you can inspire creativity as you go.

You’ll have a bunch of characters that you can add in as you work on the piece, so you’ll always be working on something new, and you’ll always be thinking about how you can represent them best.

Remember that most people choose to create fan art about only one character, so you’ll instantly be setting your work apart from the majority of people anyway.

The key to any good fan art is attacking it from a fresh perspective in a creative and new way that interests people who are looking at it.

So, a tribute piece might be a really good option for you if you have the patience and the skill to create such a large piece of work.

Conclusion

The main takeaway message for any new artist hoping to put their skills to use in fan art is that you need to do something that’s unique. A lot of people might love your character, but each one will have a different reason as to why.

It’s your job to show off your character in the best possible light, and you can do this by thinking a little different from everybody else.

You should try to take something unique to you and put it into your work so that you are more attached to the piece.

The best quality art ever created comes from artists who have a special connection to their piece, after all.

If you can do that, then your fan art will not only be meaningful to you, but it’ll also be an incredible piece of art for everybody who sees it.

Don’t forget to share with your friends!

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