Introduction: Draw Manga Characters

Hello! Welcome to my Instructable on how to draw manga characters.

A little warning, the Burning Question was "how to draw manga characters," but that is very general, and would probably make a better book than an Instructable. In the US, a large book store will usually have two or three shelves of manga and anime drawing books in the art instruction books. I suspect in Japan there would be a lot more.

I will narrow it down a little, and show you how to draw a pet, a young man and a young woman.

I am intending this for someone with a little art experience. The pet is a little easier, while the humans are a little more difficult.

Step 1: Materials

Many manga drawing books are very specific on what materials you need for drawing, but they all say different things so its best not to take them too seriously. You do not really need fancy materials. Use what you have, and what you like using best.

Inexpensive drawing paper, copy paper, or office scrap is good. For practicing, you want the paper to be inexpensive. It should also work well with your favorite drawing tools. For example, if you like to draw with colored pencils, the paper should have a little texture. Also, I have found newsprint works well with crayons and markers, but can clog up ballpoint pens and fountain pens.

Pencils are your basic drawing tool. Its the best thing to use when learning to draw. Normal writing pencils, drawing pencil, drafting pencils, and mechanical pencils are all good.

Drawing and drafting pencils come in different lead hardness, which affect the darkness of the pencil. A no. 2 pencil and an HB pencil are the same. H pencils are lighter and have harder lead, while B pencils are darker and have softer lead.

lightest to darkest ----->
8H 7H 6H 5H 4H 3H 2H H HB B 2B 3B 4B 5B 6B 7B 8B

Generally artists prefer soft lead pencils while drafters prefer hard lead pencils.

Something in the 6H to 4H range is good for laying out the drawing. The 2H to 2B range is good for general drawing.


Pens are good for tracing the outlines. They make a bold outline, and you can erase the pencil lines after you trace them.

It is hard to fix mistakes in ink. Most type of ink are not erasable, and if you have erasable ink or markers, the ink line will erase with the pencil line.

Different types of pens have different looking lines, but most will work well. If it dries quickly, and does not skip, it will be fine.

Fountain pens are often shown in manga drawing books. They work really well for art, but the books do not really explain what they are or that different types exist.

Fountain pens are an old-fashioned pen that were used before ball-point pens were available. Some styles are dipped into ink, while others use refillable ink cartridges or are disposable. Usually department store will carry one type of fountain pen, typically a type with refillable cartridges. They make a perfectly smooth line, and the width of the line can be changed by pressing harder on the tip.

I love crayons. They are bright and they do not smudge!

Locally, a normal crayon is a wax crayon. These can be bought super cheap at back to school sales and can be found in a lot of colors.

Less common are plastic crayons and twist up crayons. These usually blend well, last a long times, and are sometimes erasable.

Markers are good for outlines, and coloring in. They can be a little hard to use. You should use markers that come in a lot of colors, last a long time, and have a tip that can draw thin or thick lines.

Colored Pencils
Colored pencils are great for drawing fine details. They also come in a lot of colors. Occasionally colored pencils can be found with three or four colors in the lead.

Manga and Anime drawing books
There are a lot of manga drawing books available, but they can be expensive, since many of them are translated from Japanese. I recommend borrowing drawing books from the library if possible. They can usually be found with the drawing or comic books. Buy the books that are especially helpful, or if you find a good price. The "How to draw Manga" series are considered classics, but check the other books, in case those suit your ability level of interests better.

Manga Comics
Manga comics are a useful source of art to study. Locally, large books stores carry a lot of them, but they can be expensive. The translation makes them more expensive. Check the young adult or science fiction section at the library and watch for sales at discount and used bookstores.

Do not overspend on drawing supplies, especially while you are learning. Artists online can sometimes get really pushy about buying expensive art supplies. What I found out taking art classes in college is that people who want to be artists use expensive art supplies while people who are artists use cheap art supplies whenever possible.

In this instructable I use various types of pencils and crayons for everything. I like the materials a lot, and I think it is important to show that this can be a very inexpensive hobby. With the bad economy, cheap hobbies are really important.

Step 2: Heads

Here are drawing of heads in front view, 3/4 view and side view.

A few tricks for drawing anime heads:

1. Draw guide lines to help show where to locate the eyes. Eyes should be in the center of the head. However, since the head is a 3D object, the eyes will be above center if the person is looking up, and below center if the person is looking down.

2. The top of the ears should line up with the top of the eyes. Again, if the head is at an an angle, you will need to estimate.

3. the larger the head is drawn, the more detailed the features should be.

Step 3: Manga Eyes

Manga eyes can be a challenge. It is important to draw them well, because big, beautiful eyes are probably the most distinguishing thing about manga art.

1. The larger the eyes the more detail they should have.

2. Eyes show emotion. The emotion can be happy, sad, scared, evil, insane, in love, tired, or anything else. Cute happy eyes tend to be what people think about with manga art, but evil and brooding eyes are important too.

3. Characters who are happy or innocent have a lot of light in their eyes. They will have highlights, sparkles, hearts, stars, and pie wedges in their eyes. Evil and angry characters have dark eyes. They will have few highlights, and a lot of shadows in their eyes.

4. If you shade your drawings, shade under the eyelashes. This is a small detail, but it makes the drawing look more professional.

5. Eyelids may be drawn with more or less detail, but even if you do not draw the eyelid, you still need to change the shape of the eye like it is there.

Step 4: Manga Hair

Manga hair is hard to draw while you are trying to learn, but really fun after enough practice. I recommend copying other people's drawings from manga novels to get practice at drawing hair.

1. Shading and highlights are very important. Even if you do not shade the rest of the drawing, you are going to need to added some highlights to the hair.

2. Determine your light source. Light area are in the light, dark areas are away from the light.

3. Generally, for shading, 3 colors are good. In most cases that will be white, natural hair color, and dark, but with very light hair it will be natural color, medium, and dark.

4. Draw hair as section, not individual strands.

5. Any color is fine. Be creative and suit the characters personality. Multiple colored hair is very cool, too, but be careful with the shading. The different colors will need different colored shading.

6. The part will always be dark.

7. Remember to draw the underside of long hair.

8. Long hair will be affected by what kind of clothing a character is wearing. It will lie differently over a collared shirt than a t-shirt, and will stick to some fabrics.

9. Long hair will blow in the wind, and will float around in the water.

10. Usually long hair covers up ears, and short or pulled back hair does not.

Step 5: Pets

In manga, many characters have pets. Pets are usually very loyal to their owners, and do not typically care whether their owner is good or evil. Often, a villain's pet is not evil at all, but appears to be evil because of its loyalty to its owner.

A pet can be a cat, a horse, a fuzzball, or a dragon. Here, I am focusing on small, furry, round cute creatures. Why? They are easy to draw for beginners, and make great sidekicks!

Mouse over the creatures to learn more about them.

Step 6: Drawing a Cute, Furry Creature

I am going to draw a scary, fire breathing dragon. Look through the images to see how I drew this in steps.

1. Draw a circle. This style of creature is based on a circle. Sometimes the creature is all head, and sometimes they have a huge round head and a tiny body.

2. Draw guidelines to show where to draw the eyes. The dragon is looking straight at us, so the vertical line is in the center. The curved line is also is the center, it is horizontal, but curved to show the curve of the head. Eyes are almost always in the center of the head, but if the creature is all head, the eyes can be a little above center.

3. Draw circle for the eyes. They should be large. Large eyes are expressive and show emotion. Cute furry sidekicks are usually very emotional.

4. Add more a little more detail to the eyes. Show where the irises are, and add large highlights. The highlights are important, because they again, make the eyes more emotional. The eyes help create the personality of the character you are drawing.

5. Roughly draw the nose, mouth, ears, cheeks and other facial features.

6. Roughly draw the body, arm legs and tail.

7. Add more details, like fur, horns, and fangs.

8. Darken in the lines, neaten the lines and add more details. You can leave the lighter lines if you like, next to the darker lines they do not show up as much. I usually leave them.

9. Here is the drawing colored in. Shade it if you know how, but do not worry about it you do not know how to shade. Anime art looks better shaded, but shading is complicated, so I will leave that to another Instructable.

Our dragon might look cute, but do not make it mad! It might scratch your ankles!

Some people are probably wondering the point of such a cute dragon. It is a matter of style.
In this style even a flesh vomiting zombie would be cute. Would a scary dragon be cooler? Some people might think so, but cute is easier to draw, and much better for a beginner's lesson.

Step 7: Drawing a Person

Drawing a person... where do I start...?

Body proportions in manga art are a little different than normal, but they still have to be realistic. It is a tricky balance.

In real life, an adult or teenager would be 7 heads tall. In manga they are usually 6 heads tall. Some artist may go shorter or taller, depending on what style they like. To make the character shorter, you do not draw it smaller, you draw the head larger.

Why is the head larger? It makes the face larger. Like is the dragon we were looking at earlier, we want to see the characters emotions. The eyes are larger for that reason, as well.

Another feature common to manga art is idealized and exaggerated figures. This explains why there tends to be so many manga drawings of skinny women with huge ~~knockers~~ hair!

If you know art theory, use it! I know that is terrible advice, but fine art skills add a lot to manga art. A little perspective really makes a drawing stand out.

Many manga art books have great picture showing human anatomy for people of different ages.
I am a little reluctant to try to do this myself. Never trust an engineer to know about anatomy!

An artist mannequin can be a help, but remember that the proportions will be different. Special artist mannequins with manga proportion are available. They can be expensive and hard to find. Sometimes you can find one in a drawing kit, and that can save you a lot of money.

Step 8: Drawing a Man

1. Draw a stick figure sitting on a wall. The wall is in perspective, and it helps us to figure out how the guy should be positioned. There are cross marks on the head to show the location of the eyes.

2. Add more details to the face and body. We need to know the shape of the body before putting hair and clothing on him.

3. In manga art, glasses can be tricky because the eyes are so huge. Unless you are trying to make a character look goofy, its usually better to make the glasses shorter than the eyes.

4. Draw the hair and the clothing on him. A suit? This looks like a pretty serious date.

5. Pay attention the the way the clothing fits. Clothing will fit looser on someone thin and tighter on someone heavy. Clothing will also fit better on someone rich than someone poor. A rich person may have custom made clothing, or at least will be able to pick from a larger selection of items.

6. Darken in the lines and add details.

8. Change a few details and color in the drawing.

Step 9: Drawing a Woman

Now we get to see this guy's girlfriend.

We are doing almost the same thing as before.

1. Draw a rough sketch of the character's body and face.

2. Add details, clothing and hair.

Uh oh! It seems like there was some confusion about the date! She even promised to take her little sister along!

3. Make some changes and darken in the lines

4. Color in the drawing.

Step 10: Gather Up Loose Ends

To get really good at any kind of art, you need to practice a lot. Keep drawing, and even if your drawing do not look good now, with enough practice, they will improve.

If you know about other types of art, you can work that into manga art. A combination of style works well with manga.

Give a general description of the interested in more in more information on manga art, I recommend getting some manga art books at the library or book store.

Some libraries offer classes in manga art.

Burning Questions: Round 7

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Burning Questions: Round 7