How To Make Good Fan Art – Keeping It Original

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Fan art is a great way for you 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. I’ve drawn quite a few fan art pieces myself, and below I will share some tips I see as valuable when drawing fan art. Keep on reading!


Key Takeaways

  • Finding your drawing style is the first step in making good-quality fan art.
  • Understand what the character, person, or object (you are a fan of) is all about.
  • Use as many reference images as possible to know how the one you idolize looks from multiple points of view.
  • Create an original version of the topic you are about to draw. Don’t copy or mimic, but draw it in a way you see and idolize it.

Develop Your Own Drawing Style

guilty_gear_strive_by_heavymetalhanzo_de6t43i
Artwork by Hans Steinbach.

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 unmistakably 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 as a reference.”

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

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

  • Draw What Feels Good To You
  • Draw Things You Like
  • Draw A Lot
  • Focus In A topic
  • Experiment With Different Styles
  • Give Yourself Time
  • Mimic The Masters
  • Combine Styles Together
  • Give Yourself Space To Switch
  • Settle On A Style
  • Analyze Your Past Work
  • Have Fun Drawing

If you follow the steps above, you can develop a drawing style of your own after some time. You must 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.

Study the Main Features of the Character Or Person

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Original character version of Satsuki Kiryuin from Kill la Kill anime on the top. Down below is a fan art of the same character, but envisioned as a demon.

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

The best way to do this is to become 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 character’s main features.

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 shows, 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 Reference Images

breath_of_the_wild_confronting_calamity_ganon_by_heavymetalhanzo_dc0qpox-fullview
Artwork by Hans Steinbach.

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 doesn’t really look like 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. Still, reference images will keep your character looking like they should so that others instantly recognize who your fan art is about.

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Fan art of Asuka Langley.

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 reference image 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

final_fantasy_xiv_battle_against_ifrit_by_heavymetalhanzo_d9yb1o2-fullview
Artwork by Hans Steinbach.

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 everything they’ve been through.

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 entirely 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.

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

Maybe a character is incredibly brave, and most people focus on that, but are they compassionate too? Represent a side of the character that is underrepresented in other people’s fan art so you can explore that side of the character more.

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.

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

Create A Tribute Piece

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Artwork by Hans Steinbach.

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 the fan art about just one character?

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 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 will certainly result in a finished piece of fan art that is of high quality and truly impressive.

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. 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.

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.

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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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