Cute Chibi Drawing in 4 Steps With Photoshop

A cute chibi drawing is a type of art that is well-liked as people are quickly drawn to adorable art. The style itself resonates with a broad audience since it's simple to get an idea across. It is also not as taxing on the artist to draw. Why wouldn't one not take advantage of this ever growing type of art?

The term 'chibi' is short for 'chicchan na bito'. This is Japanese for a short or small person. It evolved to mean a cute version of an existing person or animal in the context of anime and manga. In promotional media, a cute chibi drawing is often preferred over a well proportioned character.

For artists, it is a great way to be creative without being taxed through the complexities of realism. Gone are worries about proportions, shadows, light sources, etc. Of course, there are some rule of thumbs, but generally, a chibi is a character where the head is disproportionately large compared to the body.

Having said that, since there are no set ways to draw a chibi, it really is up to the individual artist to play around with different levels of simplicity. It is also a chance to be creative with style! Here is a full example of how I handled learning how to draw a chibi character.

Sketching the cute cute chibi drawing

Since a cute chibi drawing is so open-ended to interpretation, there's more value to be had in understanding the thought process than to follow an exact style. In my mind, I want my chibi characters to have a style that is simple enough but bridges what I know about realism.

As I draw my sketch, the first thing is to draw a large head with a circular shape. I've compacted the face towards the lower half of the sphere. For the body, I would like to depict some knowledge of the human body by using a position that shows the shifting of weight to the hips.

cute chibi drawing step 1 from

I know some artists that are used to having a finalized line drawing scanned in and cleaned up first before shading it in. However, I like to draw everything in all at once, in my drawing software, without regards to a well thought out composition as it allow me to edit the drawing as I go.

This is just a personal preference that speeds up my work flow for ideas that do not have a finalized shape. Furthermore, I draw it in two layers initially: one for the line art and one for the flat shading. Normally, if I want to retain a clean line art, I keep the layers separate. In this case, I will merge it together.

Cleaning up the cute chibi drawing

Already, merging the two layers deviate from standard line art practices. Instead, this method allows me to work on both the line art and the shading all at once. The downside is that I will have to redraw the line art afterwards to get that cartoonish style.

My tool of choice for the hair is the smudge tool set at maximum pressure. Using a small brush, I carefully smudge out individual strands of hair. Hair shine is accomplished with a the dodge tool to create highlights. Other detailing like skin, clothing, and shading are done with the chalk brush.

cute chibi drawing step 2 from

Between all this detailing, locking and unlocking the layer helps a lot. The layer is locked for detailing for the majority of the time to prevent accidentally spilling of the details outside the object's boundaries. Aside from that, I will unlock the layer if i wish to clean up the outline.

As mentioned before, the line art can disappear, become too thin, or become distorted compared to the original sketch. In these instances, I redraw the line art. This is why there is a nice combination of line art and realistic shading all at once, giving it a unique style!

Coloring the cute chibi drawing

The advantage of working in black and white is that it allows me to focus primarily on details, shading, and composition without having to worry about color choices interfering. It also allows speeds up the drawing as I do not have to worry about sampling multiple colors.

At the end of the day, though, colors do add a very nice touch to the cute chibi drawing. Luckily, drawing it in monotone values doesn't mean coloring is not possible. On the contrary, it's very easy to add colors to a black and white drawing that has a good range of grey hues.

cute chibi drawing step 3 from

First, I lighten up the entire picture with global contrasting settings. The idea is to increase the range of grays so the colors will show up better. The next step will require changing the brush or layer (if drawing colors separately) blend modes used to add the colors.

Default is set to normal. My favorite setting would be 'soft light'. This will allow a very subtle set of colors to be added to the drawing. It's very faint as I don't want to go too strong on the color and have it overpower the actual details. I've saved strengthening the colors to the final step.

Enhancing the cute chibi drawing

Before I do any final touches, I stop to redo some of the details. For example, adding a drop shadow to the characters and shading underneath the head. I've also added some small patches of light under the eyes to show glowing cheeks.

This is to add a bit of spark to the cute chibi drawing based on my own desire to incorporate realistic shading to own style. Most artists will stop at previous steps so long as the idea presented by the drawing is accomplished. I like to go a bit further. So what can I do to bring out the flat colors?

cute chibi drawing step 4 from

I could increase the entire contrast using two different methods. The first would be to go into the global settings to increase contrast to the entire drawing. This method alters the original drawing and is something I want to do if I am sure of the results.

The second method would be to duplicate the entire drawing and change the blend mode to 'soft light' or 'contrast'. This method allows me to edit the amount of contrast as its on a different layer. It is a quick and easy way to test contrast strength if I am not sure.

There is actually a third method but is only available in Photoshop. I could duplicate the entire drawing and change the entire drawing into a smart object. This means I won't be able to draw on it anymore, but any contrast changes and filters being applied is completely reversible.

Speaking of filters, some filters have awesome effects. For example, 'surface blur' or 'faucet' removes some of the sketch lines to give it a flatter look. The takeaway from this drawing is that there are so many options that are possible. Just be creative!