Put simply, the difference between manga and anime is in the media in which they are presented. Mangas are displayed in the form of a comic book or comic booklet in still images, whereas anime – as the name suggests – is mainly seen animated in moving pictures in film and television.
For the artists who design the concepts and characters, this difference plays a negligible role, as all ideas are first and foremost executed in drawings. Learning to draw manga and learning to draw anime can, therefore, be reduced to one approach.
Whether you realize the drawing in traditional or digital mediums plays a role, especially for its later use. Often artists start by sketching their ideas with a pencil while the finalization takes place on the graphic tablet.
However, this does not change the basic approach and the design of the figures.
In this guide, we’ve summarized all the necessary steps you should take when drawing manga to get the best results. Afterward, you will find five tips to help you make progress in your new hobby as quickly as possible.
Instructions on How To Draw a manga figure
1. Developing an idea for your manga character
At the beginning of creating a new character, there is an idea. An idea or a whole complex of ideas about how the character should look, what pose it should adopt, and what emotions it should radiate.
Either you come up with these essential features of your drawing yourself, or you look for inspiration and templates. Online you will find a lot of motifs and character traits that you can incorporate into your character. You can also draw inspiration from the real world and transfer it to your manga drawing.
2. Sort your materials
Now here is the exciting part. Grab a clean, white paper, your favorite pencil, and off you go.
If you’re more familiar with digital drawing media, you can grab the tablet and open your favorite software right away.
3. Draw the body of your manga character
3.1 Rules of proportion for human bodies
When you draw a manga figure, the correct proportions are essential. Just like normal body proportions in realistic drawing, manga figures are about 7.5 heads high.
Superheroes in manga style have even longer proportions and are usually 8 heads tall, often even larger. The comparatively small head increases the dramatic effect of a low viewing angle in the “hero” posture.
Otherwise, the body proportions are pretty standard: The shoulder to elbow is about the same length as the elbow to the wrist. The same applies to the distance from hip to knee and knee to ankle.
- More detailed information about human proportions and the differences between female and male anatomy can be found in the this article.
3.2 Drawing clothes
The most important thing to consider when drawing clothes or any kind of fabric is the direction in which the material is being pulled. Creases are caused wherever the fabric is stretched or torn. Find out how exactly the structure of the fabric should move, and the rest is quite simple if you have mastered the necessary shading techniques.
Always think of the figure underneath the clothes. The fabric should reflect the shape of the character underneath.
4. Draw a manga face
The face is the central focus area of an anime character. If you want to learn how to draw manga, you should study the depiction of emotions and the related facial features in-depth.
In the following article, you will find tips on how to proceed systematically when drawing a manga head. They are numerous clues to the facial proportions of a manga face that you can adopt.
4.1 Anime hairstyle drawing
Start the manga face with the hairstyle. The hairstyle often hides a large part of the face behind hair, so you don’t have to draw these areas afterward. Decide on a hairstyle and then start drawing the outlines of the hair. Work out the texture and shade the hair to make it look a little more voluminous.
- Here you will find the exact step by step instructions in detail. You will also find some manga hairstyles to get inspired.
4.2 Drawing manga eyes
There are probably hundreds of different styles of how you can draw manga eyes. It is useful to familiarize yourself with some of these styles.
For obvious reasons, male eyes are very different from female eyes.
It’s also crucial to adjust the eyes to the entire facial expression. If you want to draw an angry character, the eyes are one of the most important features to transmit this emotion.
4.3 Drawing Manga Nose
A characteristic feature of anime and manga noses is that they tend to be small and sharp.
Details like the nostrils are often left out altogether.
4.4 Drawing the manga mouth
Mouths are also greatly simplified when drawing manga. The lips are usually not drawn, and the whole mouth is sometimes drawn with only one or two lines.
They can, however, be larger than usual, for example, to express outrage with an open mouth or anger with puckered lips.
5. Tracing the outline
When you are satisfied with the sketch, it is time to trace the outline of your figure. Ink pencils with a fine tip are extremely popular for this task.
Always try to maintain an even pen stroke. When everything is outlined correctly, you can let the ink dry and erase the original sketch lines.
If you have done this correctly, you should get a very clean looking drawing of your character, which you can now paint on.
6. Add color to your manga drawing
The easiest way to color an anime character is undoubtedly in an editing program on the computer. There you can work out all surfaces correctly and don’t have to worry about mistakes. But you can also draw manga first with the ink pens and then scan the image and edit it digitally.
It is helpful to divide areas of your drawing into several layers. For example, create a layer for the background, a layer for the hair, a layer for the skin, a layer for the eyes, and so on. This will make things easier when you have made a mistake and need to undo something.
If you want to stay in analog media, you should choose high-quality colored pencils so that you can precisely fill in the subtle transitions and color areas.
Watercolors are used less often because the fluid transitions only match a few anime styles.
Five tips if you want to learn to draw manga
1. Learning how to draw manga means mastering the basics
In figurative art, knowledge of a person’s anatomy is of crucial importance.
You need to know how to construct the body and how it functions, even if the forms and proportions of manga figures are often exaggerated.
But only when you have mastered the elemental composition of bodies and objects can you consciously carry out this exaggeration.
2. Use references in your anime drawings
It’s tempting to skip that step. But if you can’t draw something, you should look for a reference. This research process can take a long time, but you can learn so much from the work of others. You’ll find inspiration for poses, character designs, and landscapes for your manga drawings.
It is more difficult to draw things from your memory. You can use this procedure if you have already built up a visual vocabulary and can combine the different elements.
3. Learn to construct your manga figures
Practice using construction lines in your manga drawings. This way, you can quickly draw poses, modify body shapes, and spot anatomical flaws immediately.
In manga drawing but also in realistic drawing, it is imperative to recognize the basic shapes of a motif and to construct the picture based on these shapes.
Often digital artists are very familiar with this approach, whereas artists of traditional media frequently try to take the shortcut. Of course, this is also due to the fact that construction lines in a pencil drawing must be physically erased, whereas digitally they are simply and completely removed with a tool.
Note: Make it a habit to use guidelines and draw them very faintly when working in traditional media so that you can easily erase them later.
4. Never copy!
You can look for inspiration endlessly and that is a good thing. But you should never copy other artists. You won’t learn to draw manga if you simply copy other people’s work.
Following on from point 3, you will learn much faster if you recognize the basic shapes and lines of a motif and work them out from scratch. If you just copy something, your anatomical understanding will never properly develop.
5. Learn how to draw different styles of manga
It is normal to have a favorite motif or a preference for certain characters. If you want to learn how to draw manga with ease, it is essential to build up your visual vocabulary and draw other motifs that are new to you. This will greatly improve your drawings overall.
For example, look at how you can draw Chibi. This will emphasize the sweetness of the figures and change the proportions to match those of a child.