What Does Official Art Mean in Anime?


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The anime scene is filled with fan art, and sometimes it’s difficult to differentiate between official and fan art. In this article, I’ll share what official art means in anime and how it’s created.

Key Takeaways

  • Official art in anime means any artwork or visual piece created and distributed by the official animation studio or production company.
  • Official art is created by the company that owns the rights to the IP (intellectual property).
  • Official art is often used as marketing material to entice viewers to watch the anime series or movie in question.
  • Official art and fan art differ in the monetary perspective. Fan art can’t be sold without getting rights from the copyright holder, whereas the company owning the IP can sell official art as merchandise, for example.

The Meaning of Official Art in Anime

Official art in anime is any artwork or visual piece created and distributed by its animation studio or production company. This includes posters, ‘first look’ character designs, Blu-ray or DVD covers, etc.

Official art pieces are used to promote the show, and artists who create them either work for the studio or are commissioned to design material for the company. Either way, the creators get paid for the work.  

Official art of Vinland Saga Season 2 anime series. The anime series is produced by MAPPA studio; all credits belong to the studio and the creator Makoto Yukimura.
Official art of Vinland Saga Season 2 anime series. The anime series is produced by MAPPA studio; all credits belong to the studio and the creator Makoto Yukimura.

What Is Official Art?

Official art generally encompasses all types of content distributed globally across various industries. But the term is often used in anime, games, and movies, whose distribution and publicity rely heavily on visuals.

Official art is always tied to an artist or company who owns the copyright to any artwork piece. Any recognition or profit derived from the art is credited to his name or to the company owning the IP. 

One Piece, for instance, is always tied to Eiichiro Oda, who wrote and illustrated the manga series. Any art he produces to promote the manga is considered official.  

On the other hand, its anime franchise is owned by Toei Animation, and the character designs are all credited to different artists like Noboru Koizumi, Kazuya Hisada, and Midori Matsuda, who worked together to polish the manga and make Oda’s characters TV-ready.

Any visual One Piece material released by Toei is also considered official art. 

How Is Official Art Created?

Official art of Vinland Saga Season 2 anime series. The anime series is produced by MAPPA studio; all credits belong to the studio and the creator Makoto Yukimura. The image showcases character design, which to follow when creating art for the anime series.

Creating official art varies across industries, but general steps are involved in the process, which applies to all forms of media content.

Planning and Conceptualization

While most official art already has a working idea, planning remains a vital step in its creative process. Apart from the artist in charge of the main design, key people involved in the art’s marketing and distribution departments are often involved in this initial step.

Planning and conceptualization are where art meets marketing, ensuring that all art pieces fit the platforms where they should come out. The goal is to capture the essence of the anime movie or series in question and produce artwork to entice viewers to watch the anime.

For independent, third-party artists, this means close collaboration with the company that’s distributing the material. It’s where you discuss elements like preferences, timelines, and art variations.

Usually, the artists are found inside the company, and no external artists are needed to produce the official art, usually used as marketing material.

Concept Sketching

Once the technical requirements are laid out, artists start to work on the sketches. There’s a bit of flexibility in this step regarding the starting point.

For instance, in a manga-to-anime adaptation, artists already have source material on which to base their designs. Modifications and enhancements are welcome, but they can’t totally deviate from the original work.

It’s a different case for a brand-new mobile game, for example. Since concepts are drawn out from scratch, artists must turn all the ideas from the planning stage into some informal visual form. You can call it your initial rendition of an idea. 

This is where you work on the basics, like shapes, tones, and other features, to create rough silhouettes for your art. 

Artist often produces 3-6 different sketches, from which the best sketch is selected based on how well the sketch depicts what the anime series or movie is all about.


After the artist gets the sketch approved by the management (marketing department, project manager, lead art director, etc.), it’s time to complete it.

The sketch is turned into a final illustration, including the color (if part of the design choice), texture, effects, typography, and logo of the anime.

The artist might also create different illustrations or versions of the main illustration to different image dimensions. Posters, print, wallpaper, mobile, and tv screens all need different image dimensions to showcase the art in the best way possible.

Evaluation and Approval

Artists have done their work, so this step is passed on to the editorial team. It’s where they review the artwork, offer feedback where it’s due, and gives the GO signal for the production team to start working on distributing the material. 

Any rework, add-on details, or concept alteration required also falls under this step. At times, this can take the longest to finish in the process. 

The Difference Between Official and Unofficial Art

On the left side, you can see official AKIRA poster art, and on the right side, you can see unofficial fan art for AKIRA. Poster image credits belong to Katsuhiro Otomo, the creator of AKIRA.

The main difference between the two is ownership. Official art is copyrighted or licensed and only comes from authorized distributors by the artworks’ creators. On the other hand, unofficial art can take on different forms, like fan art and referenced works, with no organized distribution method. 

Another difference is profit. Official art and its artists earn royalties for the work. Their exclusive right of ownership grants them credits for any revenue earned from the piece. Unofficial art, like fan art, is royalty-free, which means you can share it and showcase your skill but can’t earn directly from it. Doing so may put you in trouble with copyright issues. 

Lastly, official art can involve multi-departmental collaboration among professionals working on the project. This can include writers, illustrators, digital marketers, and producers. Unofficial art is usually done solo. Artists have complete control over how they create it and where to share it.

Feature image credits.



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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