You can't deny the cultural impact of Dragon Ball Z. The series took the world by storm, airing internationally and inspiring a lot of kids to draw and pursue art. There's a TON of Dragon Ball fan art out there, and the franchise still produces new fans, new future artists, to this day. The world of Dragon Ball and its impact on the world is astonishing, and the art that came out of its wide radius of inspiration is among some of the coolest works of any fan community in the world. Heck, some of these works have even surpassed the original!
We sorted through the best Dragon Ball fan art and found some truly remarkable pieces. Some are realistic takes on the anime-style of Akira Toriyama, while others are redesigns, be it in different style or a complete overhaul/reimagining. There are some really talented Dragon Ball fans out there, so it was hard to choose just 15, but we think we've got a good variety of awesome fan art. So put on your scouters, charge up your ki and get ready to go Super Saiyan, because here's Comic Book Resources' 15 coolest pieces of Dragon Ball fan art (that are better than the real thing).
15 MAGION'S WORK
To start things off, we've got the work of an artist simply known as Magion02 on Deviantart. Magion clearly has a knack for digital painting, and some of their best paintings are the Dragon Ball Z pieces. The paintings create an awesome middle ground between anime cartooniness and gritty realism. These paintings feel a lot like concept art for the greatest CGI Dragon Ball Z movie ever.
But, since that kind of movie might not ever happen, we can still enjoy Magion's awesome digital paintings. Their artwork is not only awesomely painted, but they still maintain a dynamic sense of action and movement. It is especially present in the Android 18 picture, where we feel the danger from Cell's tail heading right for her. For more digital paintings, check out Magion's gallery!
14 BPSOLA'S GOKU
Continuing with more digital painting work, we have a piece by Bryan Sola. Though the anime style is not as prevalent, this Goku fan art is still undeniably awesome. Sola has given Goku a gritty, realistic overhaul, exhibiting just how frightening a Super Saiyan can be. Goku floats above a wasteland, looming like an all-powerful God.
Though this tone might be a bit too gritty, the interpretation is still awesome. Goku's golden Super Saiyan hair flows like flames of energy, ki electricity flows around him and his arms are crossed like no enemy can defeat him. If there was a gritty Dragon Ball Z video game that looked like this, it would sell out immediately. For more work by Bryan Sola, check out his gallery!
13 A GROSSLY REALISTIC BUU (AND BABIDI)
It's so... haunting. The realistic face, the head tail, Babidi's face. It's all so disgusting in the best way possible. This 3D model comes courtesy of Leslie Van Den Broek, a 3D character artist who's done work for Blizzard's Heroes of the Storm. This particular piece was Broeck's winning entry for a Dragon Ball 3D fan art challenge, and deservedly so. This piece has the perfect mix of hyper-realism and stylization.
As disturbing as Buu's face is in 3D, the molding and design are a testament to Broeck's 3D modeling ability. Buu feels truly scary, as does his wizard master Babidi, looking particularly gross and wrinkly. All of these adjectives might sound negative, but we mean them in the best way. The disturbing appearances of these villains is both beautiful and appropriate to their characters. Check out more of Leslie Van den Broeck's work here!
12 MICHAEL LEE LUNSFORD'S REDESIGNS
Now these are among our favorite of the whole bunch. A few years back, digital artist and webcomic creator Michael Lee Lunsford cooked up a fan art project where he did redesigns for every Dragon Ball character. Lunsford has since, unfortunately, removed the designs from his Deviantart gallery, but we were able to save a copy of them.
Above are just a few of the designs Lunsford did, and we love this take on the characters. Lunsford has given the ridiculous hairstyles and similar elements some realism while still retaining a look that would do perfectly in animation. In fact, were there to be some kind of American comic or cartoon adaptation of the series, Lunsford's designs should defiantly be the base. You can find more of Lunsford's work in his Deviantart gallery, and you can read his webcomic, Supernormal Step, here.
11 UKIYO-E GOKU AND SHENRON
Ukiyo-e is a type of Japanese art that was popular in the 17th, 18th and 19th century. Ukiyo-e includes painting and woodblock-printing, sometimes both together. This is the case of the works of Ukiyo-e Heroes, aka the team of Jed Henry and Dave Bull. Jed designs traditional Japanese-styled depictions of pop culture heroes and Dave turns the drawings into wood blocks for traditional printing (though this particular piece is printed on a machine).
Of their many works, perhaps the most apropos is the piece titled "The Dragon's Gift," depicting a Japanese folklore styled meeting between Goku and Shenron, the former presenting seven orbs to the dragon. This piece is such a perfect combination of two cornerstones of Japanese art and culture, and Henry emanates the style perfectly. For more Japanese-styled versions of your favorite heroes, check out the Ukiyo-e Heroes website.
10 RODRIGO PASCOAL'S CLASSIC DRAGON BALL
With how much more popular Dragon Ball Z became than the original Dragon Ball series, there's a bit of a lack of young Goku art. Though adult Goku's adventures are, arguably, more interesting, its nice to see a throwback to the monkey-tailed child's early days. This piece is the work of Rodrigo Pascoal, an artist based out of Brazil with a talent for cartoony digital paintings.
This Dragon Ball piece is not only well done, it also evokes a lot of the fun of the original anime. There's realistic shading yes, but the bright colors, Goku's childish expression of wonder and the tiny easter eggs strewn about harken back to the days of searching for those strange magical orbs to wish for things like a boyfriend or immortality. Both an excellent piece and a fun throwback courtesy of Pascoal, who's work you can find here.
9 SAMURAI-STYLED DBZ
Here we have another great traditional Japanese take on the Dragon Ball gang, this time throwing samurai elements into the mix. Taking bits of the Ukiyo-e style and adding her own personal flair, Jessica Bennet has made some simple, yet effective interpretations of these Dragon Ball characters. These designs are a beautiful mashup of samurai and Dragon Ball and we especially love that Vegeta's battle suit is translated into samurai armor.
There is a connecting theme in the colors between all of the turtle school students, and the strongest aspect of these designs is the personality. The simplicity of the tiny personality quirks that can clearly been seen show that Bennet can do a lot with a little. For more of her minimalist-styled work, check out her tumblr here.
8 GRITTY SAIYAMAN AND VIDEL
Say what you will about filler arcs, but Gohan teaching Videl to fly is one of the best little breaks in the entire Dragon Ball franchise. It all starts with Gohan becoming a superhero known as the Great Saiyaman, which is also an awesome filler arch. As he patrols the city, he runs into his classmate Videl, who finds out his secret identity and forces him to teach her to fly. This digital painting by Lam Nguyen perfectly captures these two filler arcs, albeit with a gritty twist.
The gritty colors and lighting of the painting makes this scene feel grim, but the bright and fun nature of Gohan's superhero persona, as well as Videl's confident smile, turn the grittiness into a feeling of determination. If this is the kind of fan art you're looking for, you should still check out more of Nguyen's work here.
7 DRAGON BALL STAR WARS
When you really think about it, Dragon Ball and Star Wars have a lot in common. They both have origins from other creations — Dragon Ball being based on Journey to the West, and Star Wars being based on Flash Gordon and other movie serials — they both revolve around one family, they both involve intergalactic villains and wars, both Saiyans and Jedi have had their numbers severely dwindled, both franchises have had three different trilogies/series (as well as a few spinoffs) and both Star Wars and Dragon Ball have been around a long time, amassing fans from multiple generations.
With all that said, this digital painting by Sebastian Horoszko is an awesomely fitting mashup between Dragon Ball Z and Star Wars. There's a lot of cool stuff going on here, especially with the villains and their redesigns. For more work like this, check out Horoszko's Deviantart gallery here.
6 REALISTIC GOD OF DESTRUCTION
In Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods, and eventually Dragon Ball Super, we were introduced to Lord Beerus, the god of destruction. Despite learning of the horrifying level of power that a destruction god has, Goku still wanted to fight Lord Beerus, having to obtain a new Super Saiyan God form to do it. Beerus' design was based on Akira Toriyama's Cornish Rex cat, a thin-haired cat breed.
This awesome digital painting of Lord Beerus — by Philippines artist Raph, AKA Raph04art on Deviantart — takes the cartoony design of Beerus and gives it some realistic and gritty flair, making the cat-influenced aspect of his design much more prominent. This fan art really makes Beerus seem like a frightening entity. Raph does a ton of digital paint work, including a good collection of Star Wars pieces, that you can check out here.
5 NACHO MOLINA'S PAINTINGS
Above are just two of Nacho Molina's amazing Dragon Ball paintings. These featured works are digital paintings, but Molina has also done some traditional paintings, as you can see in his gallery. Molina's Dragon Ball works are particularly interesting because they are so frightening.
The two works above are some of the best examples of this. Let's start with the Cell one, which is a bit more obvious. This scene is taken right out of the anime, but in Molina's depiction the moment is much more frightening. You feel scared for Cell's victim and maybe you're afraid you might be next. The sense of fear in the Dr. Gero painting is a bit more subtle. There's this feeling emanating from the piece that makes it feel like you're not supposed to be in the lab, and bad things are going to happen now that you've broken in.
4 3D ANDROID 16
Speaking of Dr. Gero, the villain is the creator of the villains of the Android and Cell Sagas. A brilliant scientist, Dr. Gero created his android series both from scratch and from organic material. Android 16 is the former, but is believed to be made in the image of Dr. Gero's son, who was killed in action for the Red Ribbon Army. He's an awesome character with an awesome design that is made even cooler by this 3D model.
Created by Sam Yang, this model cranks up the "real-ness" dial to 11, giving Android 16 a gritty makeover. The coolest aspect of this 3D model is the insane detail that's been added to 16's designs. Props to Yang for not only converting the character to 3D, but also for adding his own touched to the android. For more of Sam Yang's work, stop by his Deviantart gallery!
3 PULP ANDROID SAGA
Now this is a fantastic series of fan art by the very talented Ástor Alexander. It depicts the Android Saga of Dragon Ball Z as a series of pulp comic books. There's so much to love about these faux covers; the retro redesigns, the '50s styled titles (and the stories they imply occur within) and old-fashioned painterly-looking art.
Seriously, the redesigns of the androids and Trunks alone are enough to make us want an actual comic miniseries like this. The way the android's robotic arms represent the sleeves they have in their original designs, Trunks' classic blonde space hero look and the capsules the Androids sleep in are all perfectly reminiscent of five cent sci-fi serials. For more pop culture mashups like this, check out Alexander's Deviantart gallery.
2 3D GOKU REDESIGN
It pieces like this (as well as the many cool figurines and action figures of the Dragon Ball franchise) that really show how surprisingly well Akira Toriyama's art style translates to 3D. This particular 3D model was done by Bruno Camara and seems to be based, in some part, on Goku's outfit from the Dragon Ball Heroes video game. We particularly love this piece because it feels real, but also feels like it could be translated back into 2D and not lose the cool details of the design.
This version of Goku (also for a DBZ fan 3D art challenge) definitely looks like a strong warrior, but he also looks like a wandering adventurer, the design combining aspects of both Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z. Seriously, every time we look at this one, we find something new to love about it. Hopefully, Camara puts out a new Dragon Ball piece, but until then, check out his other work here.
1 FUTURE TRUNKS AND BULMA
Last but not least, we come to a quiet, but beautiful piece by Sangyup Lee. This fan art depicts Future Trunks and Bulma at a desert gas station, a quiet aura permeating from the scene. Perhaps this piece is an alternate version of Trunks' future, some kind of Mad Max-infused depiction of the apocalyptic future they live in. Or, perhaps it has no context besides the characters and what we see on the page.
Whatever this scene is, it sure is nice to look at. The warm colors make the desolate desert seems comforting, and the subtle expressions on Bulma and Trunks imply this might be a fun adventure in a barren place. So many thoughts and emotions come forth when looking at this piece, not something one might expect from anime fan art, huh? For more of Sangyup Lee's work, take a look at her tumblr here!
Which of these would you want to see animated? Let us know in the comments!