Born in 1952 in Tokyo, Japan. After studying oil painting in Tokyo, he moved to San Francisco in 1975 to attend the Academy of Art College majoring in illustration. In 1980 Sano graduated with one of the very first MFAs the University ever handed out. Sano returned to the University in 1986 to begin teaching and continued to teach until 2011.
As an illustrator, Sano's works ranged from book covers to movie posters, annual reports, postal stamps, scientific illustrations and limited edition prints.
Some of his more popular works included the Star Wars Episode VI: The Return of the Jedi movie poster, the Frank Sinatra commemorative US Postal Stamp, as well as many editorial pieces for the National Geographic and Scientific American magazines.
His works have been widely exhibited worldwide – most notably his retrospective shows in Tokyo in 2000, Retrospective: 1980-2000 and in 2001, Sketches of Europe. Both toured in Japan and enabled the publication of his first book, Retrospective 1980-2000 / The Art of Kazuhiko Sano. Other exhibits included the American Museum of Illustration in New York City in 1996 and at the Central Museum in Tokyo in 1992.