In his mid-teens he began to study painting and woodblock design under Utagawa Toyoharu. His oldest known print to be published is one from 1785, depicting kabuki actor Mimasu Tokujirô I as a female ashigaru.
Toyokuni then went on to produce privately commissioned surimono, illustrations for kibyôshi fiction volumes, and calendars, among other works. Beginning in the Kansei era (1789-1801) he produced numerous bijinga (images of beautiful women).
Utagawa Kunisada took the name Toyokuni (III) in 1844.