Is Anime Still Drawn On Paper?

Advanced technology for animations paved the way for stunning graphics in anime. It may be hard to believe that what we are seeing on our screens came from paper. Is anime still drawn on paper? Or do artists draw anime straight from the computer?

Anime is still drawn on paper. Some production houses rely heavily on digital animation but all the images that are processed are hand-drawn material. The paper they use is the same as the ones that mangakas use which is manga genko yoshi. The size and weight vary depending on the anime content.

You are probably imagining the huge amount of papers just waiting to be scanned to start the animation process. You are absolutely right! Keep on reading to know more about how anime comes to life, from paper to our tv screens.

The Paper That Artists Use To Make Anime

We had a conversation with Koji Hirawa who worked at a major production house as a storyboarding editor for more than 15 years.

Although we cannot disclose what production house he worked for, still we can say that it is one of the well-known production houses that use traditional anime drawing techniques.

According to Koji-san, they seek the advice of the mangaka or light novelist regarding what paper to use before they start pre-production.

For him, it is not a matter of how well the images reflect on the computer when scanned, rather the size and weight of the paper dictates the pacing of the anime.

I-C Manga Manuscript Paper A4 Thick Type 40 Sheets 135KG IM-35A

The original creator of a manga or light novel deeply knows the images that will be projected in the anime. Therefore, if they prefer a paper that has a bigger size, but is lightweight, the animation result will be more dynamic.

In contrast, if it is on a smaller paper, but with a heavier weight, the pace of the anime may include a lot of close-ups, full-body shots, and generally a calmer pace. In order to explain this deeper, you can refer to the table below.

Size of PaperWeight of PaperResult in Animation
B4 110 kg.Standard size for animation. As the paper is lighter, it is expected that the drawing does not contain heavy outlines as it will bleed and tear the paper. Perfect for using on talking scenes between the characters. May contain one complete sequence.
A4135 kg.Smaller paper with a heavier size is perfect for character close-ups. Heavy outlines can be added and will show well on the computer. The pace in the animation is slow as it cannot contain a full sequence.
B4135 kg.Usually used for slow scenes or emotional scenes. The character’s face can be drawn in detail. The pace depends on the content but can complete one sequence ie; crying
A4110 kg.Used for a lot of movement sequences as it is a slightly smaller paper. Perfect to be used as a base for a fight scene. The pace in the animation is fast. Can accommodate half a fighting sequence.
There are other sizes and weights of paper, but the ones that we used as an example are the most common sizes and weights of papers that production houses use.

You can read about how the entire animation process that goes beyond hand-drawn elements in this article.

Keep in mind that for the weight of the paper, even though the unit of measurement is kilograms or kg, it is not the actual weight.

This is simply how the weight of the papers is labeled. The origin of using kg is unknown, but this is what they use until today.

In addition to the space on the paper where artists can draw anime sequences, there are also other lines that are present. The outermost line that has scales is used to even out panels in the drawing.

The next line is what they call Tachikiri and it is the line that indicates the limit on which a drawing can be printed or scanned. For example, if you draw further from the Tachikiri line, it will not be printed nor will it be properly scanned.

Lastly, there is the Uchiwaku line which is the innermost dotted line. It is also an indication of a space where you cannot draw.

It is used more for the benefit of the artist in terms of getting parallel animation sequences, but the printing and scanning reference is still within the Tachikiri line.

DELETER Comic Book Paper, 8.27 x 11.7 (A4), white

A good example is to not let any words or dialogue go beyond the Uchiwaku line even if it is still within the Tachikiri line so that the output will look neater.

Based on Koji-san’s statements, the scanners and computers nowadays are advanced enough to detect drawings beyond the Uchiwaku line.

In his line of work as a storyboarding editor, he notes useful expressions and other additional information outside the Uchiwaku line. These notes are then used by the in-betweening team to create other drawings.

Anime Drawing To Digital Processing

Koji-san recounted his experiences with taking thousands of storyboarding papers to be scanned for the turnover to the in-betweening department. Take a look at the example below.

Approximately 10,000 pages were scanned for just half a sequence for this scene. A combination of heavy and lightweight paper was used.

If you are curious about the percentage of hand-drawn and digital elements of anime, you can check this article.

By reading this, you can imagine the huge amount of time and effort that the people in production houses devote to your favorite animes.

On the other hand, if you are concerned with the waste of paper when there are corrections or errors, Koji-san’s company has a special directive for that.

He stated that in their production house, they have a special tie-up with a waste management company that collects their paper waste to help in creating other household items like plates and other pottery.

As for the employees themselves, they make sure to re-use as many papers as possible for other purposes.

It may be a bit hard to imagine how drawings from paper come to life on the computer, so you can refer to the video below. This was the process that was used to create Naruto The Movie.


The type, size, and weight of the paper are essential to animating a specific anime sequence. More often than not, the weight is crucial in the pace of the sequence. Everything is still done manually on paper and then consequently refined digitally.

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