If you love Naruto, Dragon Ball, and One Piece and have the heart of an artist, you’ve probably already thought about making your own comics using the style from your favourite manga.
Of course, it’s not easy; you’ll need to learn all the fundamentals of drawing since a mangaka is nothing like a western comic book artist. From manga anatomy and facial features to inking, there’s a lot of work to be done.
In this article, Superprof is going to show you how to start drawing manga and the basics you’ll need to get started. You’ll soon be on your way to drawing like Kishimoto, Toriyama, and Matsumoto! Manga isn't easy, but here's how you can draw it!
Find appropriate drawing classes for you here.
The Characteristics of Manga
Firstly, you need to understand what manga is and what it means to Japanese culture. If you’ve never read manga, you should know that it’s hugely popular all over the world and not just in Japan.
Readers eagerly await the release of every new issue of their favourite manga. The stories can vary hugely depending on the target audience. The three main types of manga are Shōnen (for boys), Shōjo (for girls), and Seinen (for adults).
The style can vary by mangaka, too. For example, Eiichiro Oda has a different style to Jiro Taniguchi. While there are certain characteristics in common that make both works manga, the artist leaves their own imprint on their work.
Anatomy can differ from one manga to another, too. In Shōjo manga, characters tend to be delicate and slender whereas you’re far more likely to see larger chests in Shōnen (on both men and women).
If you’re thinking about drawing manga, you need to do your research first. Keep in mind that most of your drawings will be in black and white and you’ll need to practice working on your page layout.
Once you’ve done this, you can start on your manga career. Grab your art supplies and sketchbook and let’s get to it!
Find out more about learning to draw.
Drawing Faces and Bodies
Drawing a Final Fantasy character or someone from City Hunter isn’t easy but you’ll need to start somewhere. Let’s start with the face. You should know that the eyes can take up to half of the face, especially if you’re trying to draw kawaii female characters.
Here are the steps to follow when drawing a face:
- Outline the face (including the ears)
- Draw the hairline onto the forehead (unless you’re drawing Saitama, of course)
- Then move onto the eyes, ensuring that they reflect the person’s character.
- Don’t forget the pupils or your character will look dead-eyed.
- Choose their facial expression.
- Define the nose and the mouth by expression.
- Finish with defining characteristics (scars, accessories, wrinkles, etc.)
Whether it’s a male or female character, you should always start with the outline of the face or body and then refine their contours. You can do this with construction lines; a circle or oval for heads, lines for the limbs, and triangles for hands and feet, for example. Think of the big picture first.
It’s a good idea to draw the details onto the face after you’ve drawn the body so that the proportions can be respected. After you’ve done the outlines for the arms and the legs, you can draw the clothes, making sure to erase the construction lines when you’re done.
You can then colour using your chosen medium: coloured pencils, paintbrushes, pastels, markers. It’s up to you whether you want to add colour or not.
Finally, try redoing your character in different poses to bring them to life. It’ll take several attempts to create your own Goku, Luffy, or Light.
Find out more about making your own comics!
Manga Objects and Backgrounds
Your manga can’t just be characters floating around in space; you need to create a world. Whether your story takes place in the city or the countryside, you need to learn a few techniques for drawing buildings, trees, the sea, etc.
The natural environment made up of vegetation, grass, dense forest, leafy trees, rocks, and mountains. The important thing about the environment is light and shadow. The lighting will help you add detail to things like rocks and tree trunks.
The sea is an almost flat expanse in shades of grey to give an impression of depth. Waves are easier to draw sideways on as they’ll set themselves apart from the rest of the water, especially as they crash against the rocks in little explosions.
For urban environments, use vanishing points. Start with a line on the horizon and then place one slightly higher than the horizon for the tops of buildings. You can then add details such as doors, windows, etc.
To add more perspective to your backgrounds, use the multiplane technique to add depth of field. Draw the different elements on different pages (from the furthest to the nearest) then bring the sheets together to create a single landscape. Use a dark grey palette for front and white for the back.
Finally, practise drawing everyday objects like transportation, which can be difficult to do at the start. Start with vague shapes, then progressively add details just like you would for someone’s face. Take your time and be patient.
Check out our article on drawing caricatures.
Advice for Getting Better at Drawing Manga
Becoming a mangaka isn’t all fun and games; you can’t just pick up your markers and create a storyboard. However, you can get started with a few fundamentals.
To get started, a simple method would be to look online for something you can’t draw. Whether it’s poses, objects, environments and backgrounds, or visual effects, you can find plenty of reference material online.
However, you can’t just copy the original, regardless of what it is. If you want to become the super Saiyan of drawing manga, you need to have your own style, even when you’re struggling to get that eyelid or jawline right.
It’s also important to remain open to criticism. Don’t think that your drawings are perfect and you can’t improve because that’s the quickest way to plateau. Family and friends might be the first people to show your work to but make sure you take what they say with a pinch of salt because they might just be being nice.
When you’re drawing, you might want to take shortcuts, especially when it comes to things like drawing hands and feet. Don’t do it! It’s better to draw horrible feet and get better at it than to give up altogether.
You’ll improve by regularly drawing different types of people. It might be tempting to draw only one type of character but variety will make you a better artist. In Evangelion, for example, the author had a cast of children, adults, giant robots, and aliens.
Finally, the best advice we can give you is to not get discouraged. You won’t become a manga master by huffing and puffing every thirty seconds and ignoring any feedback. Enjoy your drawing and try to steadily improve. You can also get lessons to learn more quickly.
Now that you’ve had an introduction to manga, get your pencils and drawing materials and work towards creating something to rival Attack on Titan, Fairy Tail, or Dragon Ball Super. You could also learn more with private tutorials from one of the many talented tutors on Superprof.
You can learn how to draw animals, still life, simple shapes, one-point perspective, the human anatomy, portraits, or even how to paint with a step by step tutorial from an art teacher!
There are three main types of tutorials available: face-to-face tutorials, online tutorials, and group tutorials, and each comes with its pros and cons in terms of learning and cost-effectiveness. What's right for one student may not be right for another so take your time to find the right kind of tutor and tutoring.
Face-to-face tutorials are taught with one student and one tutor and they tend to be the most cost-effective type since every minute in the lesson is spent focusing on you as the student. Additionally, the tutor will also spend time outside of the lessons finding resources and planning the time they'll spend with you.
Online tutorials are similar to the face-to-face tutorials but take place either on a call or via webcam. Since the tutor won't have the travel costs to worry about and can fit more students into their schedule as a result, online tutorials are usually cheaper than face-to-face tutorials.
Finally, group tutorials are classes with one teacher or tutor and multiple students. However, with group tutorials, you and a group of friends could get in touch with a private tutor to plan lessons that you'll all attend together. These tend to be the cheapest per student per hour.