Kanji Sketch Pad, Learn To Draw Kanji

Martin Brinkmann
Mar 29, 2011
Updated • Feb 26, 2014
Software, Windows software

One of the biggest problem that many beginning learners of Japanese face are the characters and scripts of the language. Learners not only need to memorize the characters, alphabets and words but also how those are drawn on paper.

A standard Latin alphabet for instance has 26 characters, and depending on the language you want to learn a few special characters like ä,ö,ü and ß if you learn German. Compare that to the three Japanese scripts Hiragana and Katakana (referred to as Kana) and Kanji. A student of the Japanese needs to learn the 96 characters of Hiragana and Katakana (48 each) plus between 800 and several thousands of Kanji characters depending on teacher and desired language skill.

Students usually start with the Hiragana and Katakana characters before they move on to learn Kanji. With Kanji, it is mostly a matter of memorizing the characters, their meaning and how they are drawn.

The software Kanji Sketch Pad aids Japanese students in their Kanji learning efforts. It is offered as a free version that contains 80 Grade One Kanji and a commercial version with no limitations for $5 (or $10 are for the Cerebware Vocabulary Trainer which comes with the full Kanju Sketch Pad software and offers more than just learning Japanese.)

The program consists of several modes to teach Kanji to the Japanese student. It displays characters and explanations, shows how those characters are drawn, offers free hand drawing and drawing aids to teach how those Kanji are drawn perfectly on screen, tests that test what has already been learned and statistics for progress information.

It usually begins with information about a character and how that character is drawn. The program uses animations to show where where each stroke starts. A left-click on the interface activates the sketch pad to draw the character that was displayed before. It is possible to add visual aids in that mode that show where each stroke begins.

kanji drawing

Mnemonics are used to teach character meanings or pronunciations, which can aid the learning if you can get used to the visual and verbal aid. A multiple-choice test to identify a specific character is displayed every now and then. If you get it right you can continue with the lesson, if you get it wrong that character will be the next in your lesson.

Kanji Sketch Pad offers several features that make it an interesting program for Japanese students. The biggest setbacks are the missing online help and that it is only available in English and not in other languages (not really a drawback for English natives). A detailed seven part program tutorial is available on the developer website. Users who download the application should read the complete tutorial before they start their first lesson.

The extra $10 for the full program are well invested considering that you would not buy the program if it would not aid you in your learning efforts. I could not find a download link of the software on the developer's website, the download portal Softpedia offers downloads of the latest program version.


Tutorials & Tips

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  1. Anonymous said on February 22, 2012 at 9:58 am


  2. Craig said on September 10, 2011 at 1:00 am

    Hi there,

    I’ve posted a couple of demonstrations of the program on YouTube:




    1. Martin Brinkmann said on September 10, 2011 at 9:19 am

      Craig, great, thanks so much for posting.

  3. Craig said on July 3, 2011 at 1:40 am

    Just correcting the info above, as I have moved online help to a new site…


    Licences are still free for beta testers.

  4. Pranith said on April 2, 2011 at 12:45 am

    I really love the program. I have watched it change and develop over the last month. I think it will be a very powerful tool for lerning Japanese. In fact, many of my friends have taken Japanese as a highschool course. They all learned it using the same methods employed by Craig. This is indeed a very promising tool.

  5. Craig McColl said on March 30, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    Sure Martin, Good idea.
    I’m still switching modes from releasing it to a few beta testers to a more general release, but I’ll make it more available now. People will have to be patient while I get the final version polished but at least it is currently free.
    Cheers, Craig.

  6. Craig McColl said on March 30, 2011 at 4:39 am
  7. Craig McColl said on March 30, 2011 at 1:52 am

    Hi Martin,

    I’m the author of this program, and I’d like to thank you for your interest. A couple of minor corrections: the Kanji Sketch Pad is only $5 for the full version, which comes with around 2000 kanji (and yes, it’s free for the 80-kanji version, which also covers hiragana and katakana). The $10 is for the full Cerebware Vocab Trainer that offers audio facilities, a built in Kanji sketch pad, fully customisable vocab lists, and so on.

    In fact, the Kanji Sketch Pad is still in Beta mode, so I am giving the full version away as freeware at the moment. It does not yet have mnemonics and commentary on all 2000 kanji, but that will be coming online in the next couple of weeks. The help files are still rough. New versions wil be coming out every few days in the near future as the development phase is rapid and there is a lot of interest and feedback coming in. All upgrades are free, so people can start with the free beta version now and then get the alpha release when it is ready.


    Craig McColl.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on March 30, 2011 at 10:05 am

      Craig thanks for the corrections, I have modified the article according. One thing you may want to look into is the availability of the download link on your site. I did not find it and I guess many others won’t as well. I would place the download link in the download directory of your site.

      It is nevertheless a great software for Japanese students, well done.

  8. Robert Palmar said on March 29, 2011 at 9:44 pm

    You might consider adding a language learning site to your portfolio, Martin.
    Your passion for learning and mastering English has amassed many
    useful tips that could serve as a foundation for such a website.

    While tech is your forte to be sure,
    I do think you could pull it off
    and make it successful.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on March 29, 2011 at 10:34 pm

      Robert you are right, I have a passion for languages, and learning new languages but no time to start another site. I’d love to start a site about my attempts to learn Danish, Swedish and Japanese but I do not think I have enough time for that. I will keep it in mind however.

      1. Robert Palmar said on March 30, 2011 at 1:45 am

        Ah yes, time. There is never enough.
        Do keep it in mind should time arise.
        You are a natural to make it all work.

  9. insanelyapple said on March 29, 2011 at 9:40 pm

    Reminds me very a Tejina Dictionary with input that was able to read kanji and kana… Thank you for news Martin!

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