How to Create the Iconic 90s Anime Effect: A Step-by-Step Guide

The 90s were a golden era for anime, with shows like Dragon Ball Z, Sailor Moon, and Pokemon captivating audiences around the world. One of the defining characteristics of 90s anime is its unique aesthetic, often referred to as the “90s anime effect.” In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the process of creating this nostalgic effect using modern tools and techniques. So, grab your stylus and let’s dive into the world of 90s anime!

1. Understanding the 90s Anime Effect

Before we begin, it’s essential to understand what makes the 90s anime effect so distinct. This effect is characterized by vibrant colors, bold outlines, dramatic lighting, and dynamic action sequences. It often incorporates exaggerated expressions and intense emotions to create a sense of excitement and energy. By mastering these elements, you can bring the essence of 90s anime into your own creations.

2. Choosing the Right Software

To start creating the 90s anime effect, you’ll need access to the right software. While traditional animation techniques were used in the 90s, we’ll focus on digital tools that can help you achieve similar results. Software like Adobe Photoshop, Clip Studio Paint, or Procreate are excellent choices for this purpose. These programs offer various features and brushes that can replicate the iconic look of 90s anime.

3. Setting up Your Workspace

Before diving into the creative process, it’s crucial to set up your workspace for optimal efficiency. Adjust your monitor’s color profile to ensure accurate color representation. Create a custom workspace layout that suits your preferences and allows easy access to essential tools and panels. By organizing your workspace, you can streamline your workflow and focus on bringing your 90s anime vision to life.

4. Mastering the Color Palette

The color palette used in 90s anime is an integral part of its distinctive style. To achieve the desired effect, it’s essential to understand the color choices commonly seen in this era. Bright, saturated colors are often used for characters’ hair, eyes, and outfits, while contrasting shades are employed for shadows and highlights. Experiment with different color combinations to find the perfect balance that captures the essence of 90s anime.

5. Creating Bold Outlines

One of the key features of 90s anime is the bold outlines that emphasize the characters and objects. To recreate this effect digitally, start by drawing your characters or objects on separate layers. Then, using a brush with a hard edge, create a new layer beneath the character layer and trace the outlines with a solid color. Adjust the line thickness to achieve the desired boldness. Remember to include outlines for facial features, hair strands, and other intricate details.

6. Incorporating Dramatic Lighting

Dramatic lighting plays a crucial role in setting the mood and atmosphere of 90s anime. To add this effect to your artwork, imagine a single light source and determine its placement. Create a new layer above your character and use a soft brush to paint the shadows and highlights, focusing on areas that would be affected by the light source. Experiment with different intensities and angles to create depth and drama within your scenes.

7. Emphasizing Expressions and Emotions

Expressions and emotions in 90s anime are often exaggerated to evoke a strong emotional response from the viewers. Pay close attention to facial expressions, body language, and gestures to capture the essence of the characters’ emotions. Exaggerate the size of the eyes, mouth, and eyebrows to convey different moods effectively. Use reference images and study the works of renowned 90s anime artists to master this aspect of the style.

8. Adding Dynamic Action Sequences

Action sequences in 90s anime are fast-paced, dynamic, and full of energy. To create a similar effect, break down the sequence into key frames or poses that capture the movement. Sketch out each frame and refine them until you achieve the desired motion. Once you have the key frames, add in-between frames to create smooth transitions. Experiment with motion lines, speed lines, and impact effects to enhance the sense of action and excitement.

9. Applying Halftone Patterns

Halftone patterns were commonly used in 90s anime to add texture and depth to the artwork. To incorporate this effect digitally, create a new layer above your artwork and fill it with a solid color. Then, change the layer blending mode to “Multiply” or “Overlay.” Using a halftone brush or texture, paint over the areas you want to add texture to. Adjust the opacity and size of the brush to control the intensity of the halftone effect.

10. Experimenting with Screen Tone Effects

Screen tones were widely used in traditional 90s anime to add shading and texture to the artwork. While replicating this effect digitally can be challenging, you can achieve similar results using various techniques. Experiment with gradient overlays, textured brushes, or pre-made screen tone patterns to add depth and dimension to your artwork. Combine different techniques to create unique effects that pay homage to the iconic 90s anime style.

11. Adding Sound Effects

Sound effects are an essential part of anime, particularly in action-packed scenes. To enhance the impact of your artwork, consider adding sound effects digitally. You can use pre-made sound effect assets or create your own using software like Adobe Audition or Audacity. Experiment with different sound effects to match the intensity and motion of your artwork. Adding sound effects will give your illustrations or animations an extra layer of authenticity.

12. Showcasing the 90s Anime Effect

Once you have perfected the 90s anime effect, it’s time to showcase your artwork. Create a portfolio or an art blog where you can share your creations with fellow anime enthusiasts. Participate in online art communities and social media groups to gain feedback and exposure. Remember to credit the influence of 90s anime in your work and share your unique journey in mastering this iconic art style.


  1. What are some popular 90s anime series that inspired the 90s anime effect?

    Some popular 90s anime series that inspired the 90s anime effect include Dragon Ball Z, Sailor Moon, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Pokemon, and Cowboy Bebop, among others.

  2. Can I achieve the 90s anime effect using traditional animation techniques?

    Absolutely! While this guide focuses on digital techniques, you can certainly achieve the 90s anime effect using traditional animation techniques. Experiment with cel animation, hand-drawn frames, and coloring methods commonly used in the 90s to bring the nostalgic feel to your creations.

  3. Are there any specific brush sets or resources available for creating the 90s anime effect?

    Yes, several brush sets and resources are available online that are specifically designed to help artists create the 90s anime effect. These resources often include brushes, gradients, textures, and screen tone patterns that can be easily incorporated into your artwork.

  4. Can I use the 90s anime effect in my own original characters and stories?

    Absolutely! The 90s anime effect is a versatile style that can be applied to a wide range of characters and narratives. Whether you’re creating fan art or original content, incorporating the 90s anime effect can add a touch of nostalgia and excitement to your artwork.

  5. Is it necessary to strictly follow the 90s anime style guidelines?

    No, it’s not necessary to strictly adhere to the 90s anime style guidelines. While it’s essential to understand the elements that make up the 90s anime effect, feel free to experiment and incorporate your own artistic style and flair into your creations.

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