Feb 26, 2019How to

How to Draw Manga Characters

Struggling to get your Manga characters' faces looking how you want them to? Well, look no further. Manga faces are a fun and challenging way to showcase your talent. Not just that, they’re a great way to develop basic skills needed for more advanced pieces too. This post will outline everything you need to know and about how to draw Manga faces step by step. To make sure they were easy to follow, we've included step by step images of what your Manga drawings should look like at each stage. Have a go yourself...

How to draw Manga faces step by step

Like anything, practice makes perfect. So, follow these great tips to get you on your way to perfecting Manga faces.

Start with a circle

To begin your Manga face, first, draw a circle. This circle will be the top of your characters head and will guide you when shaping all of the other aspects, like the mouth and eyes.

Draw the face outline

Down the middle, faintly draw a downwards line from the top of the circle and ending below it by about half another circle’s length. This will act as the guideline for your characters chin.

NOTE: Older characters tend to have longer chins and more slender faces, and younger characters have rounded faces with shorter chins. From the bottom of the line, draw two curved lines that join it to the edge of the circle to create a rounder or longer chin, depending on the character's age.


Make proportional guidelines

It's important you get the proportions right. To do this, find the halfway point on your vertical guideline and draw a horizontal guideline across the width of the head. This will be your eye line.

Halfway between the eye line and the chin, draw a short horizontal line. This line will show where the bottom of the nose of your character should go.

Find halfway between the nose line and the chin. This time, rather than draw a line across the width of the face, draw a short horizontal line that will act as the shadow below the lower lip.

Adding in facial features

Firstly, add the ears. From top to bottom they should go from the eye line to the nose line. Add in the nose, which can be of any shape but it must just touch the bottom of your horizontal nose line. 

NOTE: To help with how big to make the eyes, the eye guideline from ear to ear should be roughly five eyes wide. This means that your eyes should have an eye’s length that separates them in the middle.

The eyebrows require simple curved lines above the eyes and the placement doesn’t really matter too much, they just need to follow the placement of the eyes. You can experiment with different shapes and placement to portray various different emotions.

Lastly, draw the mouth line halfway between the bottom of the nose guideline and the bottom of the lip line.

That's the proportions sorted, now let's make it Manga...

Drawing perfect Manga eyes

After you’ve gotten familiar with balancing your proportions, feel free to bend these "rules" and get more creative. But for starters:

Manga eyes generally have a sharp top and bottom with softer sides or corners.
The eyebrow follows the shape of the upper eyelid to some degree.
The distance of the eyebrow from the upper eyelid is proportional to the eye’s height.
The upper eyelid casts a shadow on the eye.
Girls’ eyes usually have more highlights in them and their eyelashes are longer than boys’.

The eyes are arguably the most crucial and defining feature on your character’s face. Therefore, experiment and see how you can express different emotions through the character's eyes.

Add a nose

Manga noses are simple shapes with the bottom always at the nose line, but you can experiment with as complex a shape as you want. Noses in Manga can be shaded but it’s optional. As are nostrils. Do what you think looks best for your character.

Make the hairline

Keep your hairline simple until you become more experienced. We’ve found that looking at the hairlines in pictures of real people and then drawing clean lines where the hairline would be helps you grasp how a hairline should look.

Once you’ve drawn a suitable hairline, draw a guideline where the hair should part. This will make it easier to give structure to your character’s complex hairstyle.

Draw the hair

The hair lies outside of the circle guideline you drew in step one. This gives the hair a more realistic, believable look. Whether it’s long and sleek or short and spiky, divide it into sections and outline those rather than trying to draw every strand of hair.

Shade the hair and add the chin

Hair is typically shiny, so, therefore, shaded with high contrast. The shading can be the difference of making hair look Manga-tastic or taking you back to square one. It goes without saying, the better the pen and the stronger technique you have, the more likely it is that you’re going to produce the best results. Click here to read more about which pens are best used for shading.

TIP: Use photographic reference for help on highlighting hair.

Draw lines that curve slightly inward down from the chin. These simple lines form your character’s neck. Men usually have thicker necks than women, so bear that in mind. The age also determines the neck as in Manga, very old and very young males are drawn with skinny necks. You can shade the neck if you like but keep it simple and don’t overdo it.

From here, you can use a Chameleon Art Products Detail Pen to make permanent line drawings, an eraser to remove the pencil lines and use a Chameleon Pen and its innovative Mixing Chamber to shade the hair.

Clips taken from How to draw Manga with Sonia Leong. Check out her Instagram profile - @sonia.leong


Check out what other Manga artists can achieve... 


Image by Anime Manga Top


Image by nashimanga


Image by nashimanga

If you're curious, here's a bit of background to answer "What is Manga?"

By definition, Manga is Japanese comic book art and is often made into cartoons or anime. The art in Manga has a distinctive style to it and is often referred to as “Manga Style.”

Manga first became popular in the 20th century when laws prohibiting the publication of this kind of artwork were lifted. It has since become a great part of Japanese culture and the majority of the country often read Manga cartoons.

There are many characteristics that make Manga art very distinctive and so popular all over the world. The most renowned characteristic that makes this type of art recognizable is definitely the characters. They usually have large eyes, small mouths and often abnormal hair colors.

Along with those features, they also show over-exaggerated emotions. When a character cries, they usually are shown to be pouring buckets of tears. It’s not unusual for their face to be engulfed by the size of their mouths when they’re laughing and when they’re angry, rosy cheeks and steam arises from around their bodies.



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