How to Shade an Anime Face in Different Lighting

This tutorial will show you how to use different lighting conditions to highlight a manga or anime-style face.

Anime face shading different lighting

Manga and anime use “Cel” shading, which is shading that doesn’t require gradients. Cel shading is much quicker and easier than real shading. This makes it ideal for shading quickly multiple frames in animations or large panels of manga.

General Lighting Anime Face Shading

Anime face shading normal lighting

This shading option can be used in most lighting situations where there is not a strong directional light source.

This type of general lighting will often draw shadows as follows:

  • Forehead Shadows cast by hair
  • Eyelids Tiny shadows are created by the indentation of these areas in the head
  • Nose– small shadow to one’s side
  • Neck– A large shadow cast from the head

Face Shaping with Side/Top-Lit Anime

Anime face shading top/side lighting

The shadows will appear at an angle when the light comes from one side and the other. One side will be mostly light while the other will be darker. As the area that will receive the most light will be on the darker side, there will usually be a small spot around the cheekbone. A small shadow will appear around the eyelids on the lighter side.

The shadow will appear opposite the light source.

Side Lit Anime Face Shading

Anime face shading side lighting

If the light is coming from one side, you will see an evenly divided (down the middle) light on your face.

Bottom Lit Anime Face Shading

Anime face shading bottom lighting

The shadows cast in the following order will lighten the face when the light comes from the bottom.

  • Chin– A small shaded area above the chin. The chin tends to stick out slightly and the bump will cast a slight shadow.
  • Upper Lip The upper lip will cast a small shadow because it blocks some light a bit.
  • Nose The upper area of the nose will block some light from going ups, casting shadows
  • Cheeks — because the cheekbones tend to stick out a bit, they will create shadows
  • The forehead will be almost completely dark because it curves away at the bottom light source

Top Lit Anime Face Shading

Anime face shading top lighting

The top lighting will be basically the opposite of the below-described bottom lighting. The darker areas will shade most of the face.


  • The forehead will be fully lit as it curves towards the above light source
  • Nose– The upper side facing toward the light
  • Cheeks The upper cheekbones
  • Upper Lip — as it stands out just a bit and will catch some light
  • Chin Upper area of the chin, where the chin curves slightly outwards from your face

Back-Lit Anime Face Shading

Anime face shading backlighting

Backlighting will create an “outline” around the character. The light will be concentrated on the neck and cheeks.

A real nose will have some light, but an anime nose can only have one light spot.


Cel shading is easy to apply, provided you are familiar with where the shadows should be placed. This tutorial should have helped you to understand how to shade anime and manga faces in different lighting.

You can also see:

Different Ways to Draw Anime Hair Highlights

A Beginner’s Guide to Picking Colors for Drawing Anime & Manga

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