Learn to Design, Draw, Ink, & Color Manga Characters, Eyes, Faces, & More
New to drawing Manga? Looking for some inspiration or to spruce up your process? The Complete Guide on How to Draw Manga is one of the internet’s top resources on Manga art and provides a fairly comprehensive view on getting started with drawing Manga style characters. Start on this page with our overview or jump straight to one of the specific tutorials below.
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So you’re a fan of manga and you have a passion for drawing?
Great! You’re in the right place.
This guide is geared towards the beginner to intermediate artist who wants to dive head first into the world of manga character creation. First, let’s go over some tools you’ll need. A graphics tablet or some type of digital drawing pad is highly recommended, as well as digital art software such as Corel Painter. You’ll also need a pencil and paper to do your initial sketch, and a scanner to get the image onto your PC. That’s about it, really… Other than time, motivation, and determination.
I’m going to break it down into a few sections so it’s easier to follow. We will be covering everything from your initial character design, to rough sketches and inking, to shading and coloring. Not all manga is created equal – there are tons of nuances depending on the kind of style you’re into. Because of this, we’ll be focusing (at least in more detail) on drawing eyes, faces, and the differences in male andm female characters. To keep things simple, this tutorial will focus on drawing the head of a character. Check out other tutorials later on for more advanced tips on bodies, poses, hands, feet, etc.
So, there you go. Once you get all your tools together, you’re ready to begin.
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This part should be a piece of cake, right? You have a million ideas floating around in your head – all you have to do is pick one.
Easier said than done, I know. But for this tutorial, let’s start with a simple human (male or female).
Once you have something in mind, start putting down some very rough doodles of how you want things to look. This is where you figure out the character’s features, expression, overall style, etc. Don’t focus on quality line work or anything here – you just need something as a base for your actual sketch. It’s a great idea to use something as a reference when figuring out how you want your character’s features to look. Find some images online of manga characters you like, or even use photos of real people. Whatever works best for you.
A few great resources for finding a good variety of characters are Pinterest, Anime Planet, and My Anime List.
Now comes the fun part. Grab yourself a fresh, clean piece of paper, your favorite pencil, and get drawing. If you’re not into traditional methods, you can use a tablet or a drawing pad and do your sketch right onto your computer. Isn’t the future great?
Since this tutorial focuses on the head, it seems like as good a place as any to start.
Using light pressure, start with the basic face shape (don’t worry about the hair or any features yet). Once you’re satisfied with the size, angle, and form, you can begin plotting out where you want the eyes, ears, nose, and mouth so sit.
Now, you’d think eyes would be fairly intuitive to draw, seeing as how everyone has them and you see them all the time. They are actually one of the trickiest parts for artists to get down skillfully – especially on manga characters since they tend to be much more expressive.
Because of this, eyes get their own little section in this tutorial.
There are probably hundreds of different styles you can use for eyes, but we will just go over some of the basics. For obvious reasons, male eyes differ greatly from female eyes, just as “evil” eyes look much different than “good guy” eyes. We could spend hours going over every single nuance, so for this tutorial, we’ll keep it simple.
If you’re interested this quora anwser is a reasonably comprehensive (if not complete) explanation of what different aspects of eyes could mean when drawing your Manga.
Let’s start off with a basic female manga eye first. Start by drawing a curved line (remember to press lightly) where the top of the eyelid and the eyelashes will sit. From here you will want to draw a large oval shape underneath, roughly the same width and the first line you made. Leave one side of the oval open (this will be filled in later during the coloring process).
Now you should have something that is starting to resemble an eye. If for whatever reason you aren’t happy with it thus far, just gently erase and start again. This is why you are pressing so lightly with the pencil. When the inking starts, there’s no going back.
Inside this first oval, you’ll want to draw another smaller oval that is slightly overlapped on the top by the eyelashes. Then, draw yet another oval around pupil to represent the iris (the colored part of the eye). If you’re tired of drawing ovals, too bad… There are more coming.
This next part is something very common among manga and anime character eyes.
For the interested, these reflections are called “catchlights” in both film and photography.
Make a small oval near the top of the eye, covering mainly the iris, but also a bit of the pupil. Draw a second, must smaller oval on the opposite side of the eye, covering the area where the iris meets the white of the eye.
Let’s make the lashes look a bit more… lashy. On the underside of the line you initially made for the eyelashes, draw a couple smaller curves nears the outside of the eye to give some more detail.
Now we’re getting somewhere. What’s a good eye without an eyebrow? Draw another, thicker curved line above the eye contouring to the shape of your first eyelash line. How much of a curve you draw and at what angle is entirely up to you depending on what expression you’re going for. Play around with a few different ideas on some scrap paper to get a feel for it. From here, feel free to add a few more lashes or detail lines wherever you see fit.
And there you have it – the art of the female manga eye.
Now let’s try drawing a male eye. The overall concept is pretty much the same, but you’ll see the differences.
First, draw your curved eyelash line as you did for the female eye. Then, draw a second curved line (a bit thinner this time) underneath to represent the bottom eyelashes. This line shouldn’t be as long as the one on top.
Near the middle of the top, draw a small circle for the pupil and surround that with a larger half circle for the iris. Again, expression is entirely up to you. You’ll notice that how much of the iris is exposed can drastically change the emotion the character is showing. To give this eye a more masculine look, draw some curves around the corners of the eye to emphasize wrinkles in the skin, and a long, thin line above the eyelashes to make the eyelid stand out.
All that’s left now is the eyebrow. Make a thick, curved line above the top eyelid and angle it however you feel is best. For male eyebrows, they tend to vary in thickness – usually they are widest in the middle, with very narrow tips, but feel free to style them however you like.
And that’s how to draw standard manga eyes. Again, there are hundreds of different styles, but they all seem to follow a pretty rudimentary method. Play around with different approaches to see what works best for you.
Does your character have a head? Check.
Does your character have awesome eyes? Check.
Does your character have any other features that most human beings have? Nope, so let’s fix that.
Start by drawing very faint lines through the head to mark where you want to place the nose and mouth. Like eyes, there are multiple ways to draw a nose. For most manga and anime characters, noses are comprised of just a line or two and some shading. There’s no heavy detail on nostrils or bridges or anything like that – a simple vertical line that slightly bows out to one side is all you need.
The mouth is a little trickier since it’s nearly as expressive as the eyes. Let’s go ahead and draw a basic closed mouth with a little bit of a smile. Again, this will only consist of a couple lines and some shading, but you can experiment a bit more with it. Draw a line under the nose about the length from one pupil to the other and give it a slight curve. Next, keeping the same shape, draw a shorter, thicker curved line under the first. This distinguishes the bottom lip.
That’s really about all there is to simple noses and mouths. For other features such as stubble, wrinkles, scars, or blemishes, you can play around with various techniques. Just remember to keep your lines faint so you can make changes easily.
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Now that you have your character’s head with all of the needed facial features, it’s probably a good time to add some ears and hair (unless you like bald… Bald is cool, too).
Ears are relatively simple unless you’re showing them really up close. For this tutorial, they’ll be pretty basic. Typically, ears should go from about the top of the eyes to the bottom of the nose. It’s usually a good idea to look at a picture of an ear for reference during this part just so you can get a more solid idea of the shape. Obviously the earlobe will be thicker than the tip of the ear, but it’s entirely up to you when deciding how big they should be or what shape looks best.
Manga hair – this is where you can really use your imagination. Short, long, curly, straight, spiked, bangs, tied back. The options are almost endless. Let’s keep it simple, though.
Very lightly, draw a rough outline of the hair. Don’t worry about parts or points or anything like that yet. Just focus on where you want the hairline to sit and how it should lay around the ears. From here you can start experimenting with length, bangs, and more of the fine details. Unlike realistic hair that is made up of millions of individual strands, manga hair is drawn in several sections or clumps. Once the shape of the hair is how you like it, you can start adding some finer lines throughout the different sections of hair to indicate the way it flows and where shadows will lie.
All right – things should be looking pretty good at this point. You have your character drawn the way you like and you’re ready to take the plunge into inking. There’s no going back after this step.
Grab a quality, fine-tipped pen (or a darker pen setting if you’re using a tablet) and very slowly and carefully go over your lines. It’s best to not lift the pen halfway through a line – try and maintain a steady solid pen stroke. Once everything is properly outlined, let it dry a bit, then gently erase any sketch lines that remain. If done properly, you should be left with a very clean looking drawing of your character.
Whether you are using a digital media or pen and paper, Tom Richmond has a great inking tutorial if you want to take a look.
You’re getting close to finishing. Excited yet?
If you used a tablet or drawing pad, your image should already be on your computer. You can go ahead and open it in Painter or whatever program you prefer to use for shading and coloring.
If you created your sketch on paper, make sure it’s free of any debris and scan it into your PC.
When it comes to picture editing software, the possibilities are endless. There are hundreds of books out there that go over every feature and offer thousands of tips and tricks, but we’re going to keep it basic for this tutorial and give you a very broad overview of what goes into coloring and shading digitally.
So, you should now have your image on your computer. Go ahead and open your drawing in your program of choice.
It’s a good idea to separate areas of your drawing out into several layers. Create a layer for the background, a layer for the hair, a layer for the skin, and a layer for the eyes. This makes things easier if you make a mistake and need to undo something.
Choose whichever area you’d like to start with first and with the brush tool and color of your choice, begin filling in the whitespace. Take your time so you don’t go outside the lines (the magnifying tool helps to fill in those tiny, hard to reach places). Repeat this step for each layer until your entire image is colored how you like.
If you’re satisfied with your character’s colors, you can move on to shading. Shading is pretty similar to what you just did, but you’ll want to use a larger, softer brush tool and go over section of the hair that should be lighter than the rest. Getting the lighting right can be very challenging, so use an image for reference or keep playing around until you get something you like.
Like I said, using picture editing software can get very, very complicated, so just take your time trying out new things and see what you can come up with.
Once you finish, you can collapse all of the layers and export your image into an .img, .png, or whatever file format you prefer.
So, how was it? If this was your first time drawing manga, just keep practicing. The more you draw and edit, the better you will become. Once you feel you have the basics down, check out some more advanced tutorials and maybe someday, you’ll publish your own manga.
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