How to draw manga.
There are no set rules for drawing manga. However, certain advice and approaches can help you pick it up, develop your own manga drawing style and improve your skills. Use the following manga drawing tips and techniques from expert illustrators, comic artists and instructors to get started.
1. Practise by copying.
Aspiring manga artists can learn by trying to replicate particular comics or cartoons that inspire them. “The first step is to allow yourself this period of complete lack of originality,” says author and manga instructor Mark Crilley. “Consider yourself like the apprentice learning from a master.”
Writer and illustrator Mildred Louis began that way too. “I started drawing by basically copying anime,” she says.
“As you learn the skills, consider yourself like the apprentice learning from a master.”
Not only will you sharpen your eye, but you’ll get your hand accustomed to the pen or stylus. “Your muscles are not trained yet, and so much of drawing is muscle memory,” comics artist Ethan Young says.
However, copying is very different from plagiarism. While replicating other work as a drawing exercise is valuable, don’t pass it off as your own.
2. Understand manga proportions.
Manga characters’ anatomical proportions are part of what makes it instantly recognisable. There are big differences between body parts compared to conventional, realistic art and the manga drawing techniques used to create them.
Generally, in manga drawing:
- Eyes tend to be bigger than in real life.
- Mouths are smaller.
- Heights of chins, noses, and foreheads all differ significantly from a real human body.
- Manga hair often defies gravity.
- Facial expressions look nothing like what you’d see in art striving for realism.
This stylisation, however, doesn’t mean drawing manga is simple. “When I started drawing manga faces, I went through this two-step process,” says Crilley. “I thought, ‘This can’t be that hard. It’s cartoony.’ But once you start trying to do it, you realise it really is hard. There’s this careful balance with the facial features that you have to pay attention to — if you don’t nail it, the whole thing falls apart.”
3. Try life drawing.
While it may sound counterintuitive, practice drawing real-life anatomy. “The biggest thing I recommend is life drawing,” says Louis, who notes that many cities have classes fairly accessible to the public. “You need a good understanding of proportions so you can better adjust them when you want to go super stylistic.”
Get a crash course in drawing manga-style art.
In the first of three manga drawing tutorial sessions, watch Mark Crilley walk you through step-by-step manga illustrations.