manga drawing

How to Draw Manga – Learn to Draw Manga Digitally With a Tablet

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If you think of the Japanese comic characters, “manga”,  you probably have a character with big round eyes and an oversized head in mind. In fact, this style of drawing is much more versatile than you might think, and there are different manga styles: funny, serious, cute, crazy, and so on. In this tutorial, we will show you how to draw manga step by step. Our manga drawing tutorial works with a graphics tablet. You will be introduced to the manga drawing approach step by step with the help of illustrations in order to create your first manga drawings.



Understanding Manga Drawing

How big you make the eyes, in the end, is up to you and your personal style. Don’t set overly strict rules, and have a look around in the manga world to see what types of characters are out there. I personally like to draw cute figures and so my style actually makes use of many elements of the childhood scheme: big head, big eyes, small nose, etc. If you draw like me, digitally on a computer, you should definitely familiarize yourself with the layer system of your chosen drawing program. It will have many advantages, which I like to take advantage of.

how to draw manga



Materials for Manga Drawing

Drawing digitally is of course not very cheap in the beginning, but it has the advantage that you don’t have to pay attention if your pens and colors are all filled up or if you have enough paper left. While drawing you can also correct most mistakes more easily. However, it takes practice to get used to using a drawing tablet, so be patient with yourself. I would recommend using:

  • The drawing program Clip Studio Paint or its predecessor Manga Studio 5.0 Ex
  • The Wacom Cintiq Tablet and Pen


How to Draw Manga – the Basics

Want to know how to draw manga? Well, there are various different styles and techniques to follow. Our manga drawing tutorial below will cover the basics of how to draw anime characters using a tablet. Follow this guide to learn to draw manga pretty easily.


Manga as a Style

Since manga is only one style and most of the characters represent people, much of it is based (with noticeable variations) on the basics of realistic drawing. This includes the anatomy and proportions of a person, the effect of light and shadow, or the use of different perspectives. Backgrounds are also usually drawn very realistically. It is therefore definitely helpful to work with them.


Rough Sketches

Let us finally start drawing our manga tutorial! With the help of a digital drawing of my cat girl “Shiro” I would like to explain to you my approach on how to draw manga. Since I, unfortunately, do not get a nice, pure drawing on white paper on the first go, I first have to make a rough sketch. It helps you to plan the proportions, the perspective, and the composition of your figure and illustration.

First of all, I start with the most beautiful and probably most important part of a manga figure: the head. Here I draw a simple circle and attach the chin at the bottom. This way the head shape is already formed. To determine the viewing direction of the figure it is very useful to draw the vertical and horizontal axes with two simple and clear lines in the face.

manga tutorial

Next, I determine the position and angle of the eyes by drawing two simple circles. The eyes are usually the eye-catcher in a classic manga figure and may be larger (especially in female and childish figures) compared to the other parts of the face. Then follows the position of the small nose and mouth. To make the face look a little more delicate, I like to just indicate the nose a little.

After the head follows the body. As already mentioned, a smaller body compared to the head is suitable for a particularly cute figure. As with the head, I draw the body, without any clothes, with simple shapes like circles and cylinders. Also on the body, the direction to which the body turns can be determined by means of an axis.

Remember: When doing manga drawing, always remember important basic rules of anatomy – such as the arm length ratio, so that your figure does not look too disproportionate or odd.

how to draw anime characters


Working Out the Sketch

When your figure is ready with pose and perspective, you can now work it out further. For this, I create a new layer and reduce the opacity of the rough sketch. I also like to create sketches in different colors (like here in blue) to distinguish the lines better. In this step, I give my figure her hairstyle and clothes. But I also work out the parts of the face, like the eyes. If you take the steps slowly one by one, learning things like how to draw anime hair becomes easier.

Tip: To give your figure the classic manga look when learning how to draw anime eyes, you should never forget the light reflections.

learn to draw manga


Indicate Atmosphere and Mood

Now you can, if you like, sketch elements for your background (and/or foreground). If you work digitally, remember to do this on a separate layer from the figure! Together with the background, I like to get an idea of the relation of light and shadow. For this purpose, I create a layer above the sketch in “multiply mode” and indicate the shadows with a lighter color than the sketch. Additionally, I add a layer in “soft light mode” with white color to add some light. With this step, I can plan my illustration better and the sketch can be seen. When learning how to draw anime characters, getting the background and atmosphere right is just as important as the character.

Tip: To always get some order in the level forest I like to use folders. This way each level can be found more easily.


The Lineart

Your manga drawing tutorial is starting to take shape. After you have prepared your figure well, we want to clean up the whole thing a bit with the lineart. The Lineart depicts the contours of your figure. Compared to the rather wild sketch, you only take over the important lines. Your drawing looks much cleaner afterward.

Tip: To make the lineart a little bit more lively I use one stroke with different strengths. That means, I let the lines look differently thick and thin with sometimes more and sometimes less pressure. Also using omissions, which are later complemented by the colored areas, can look great.

manga drawing tutorial


The Coloration – Base

When you learn to draw manga, the lineart is followed by coloration. The first thing I start with is to define the colors for my figure. With the help of the different “selection tools” and the “fill bucket function” I fill my lineart with the different colors.

Tip: If I work with light colors, I put a layer of darker color underneath it to be able to see better whether I have filled the lineart well or whether I have painted beyond it.

Now the color base/color primer is ready. The rest of the coloration is based on this base, hence the name. By the way, I like to create each color as a separate layer, so that I can easily set the shading in the following step with “clipping masks” or “clipping layers.


Coloration – Shadow and Depth

My character Shiro still looks rather flat and two-dimensional. I want to change this quickly with the shading. Shading is an essential part of manga drawing.

Tip: When shading, you should be aware of the direction, angle and strength of your light source. Also, what kind of light (warm, cold, artificial, natural) the shadow creates can be important for your drawing.

how to draw anime eyes

For shading I proceed as follows: I create a clipped layer (or “clipping layers”) or a layer with a “clipping mask” on the layer of the respective color area. Now I can easily draw the shadows with a darker color without having to take care that I paint beyond the area. By going darker and darker in color, I work out the deepest parts. On Shiro’s dress, you can see the different levels here. You can also color and shade your background in the same way. It doesn’t matter which area you shade first.


Coloration – The Light

To give the light an even better effect I also create additional layers for light reflections. Depending on how strong the light should be, you can simply use a lighter color or white. Especially with the eyes such light reflexes look good and highlight them, so try a little bit here.

how to drawy anime hair

Tip: In order to make the coloring look even more vivid, I finally add the colored reflections of the opposite color areas. But do not overdo it, otherwise it will quickly look like simple color spots.


Softer Lines

Because I still find the black lineart around the colors a bit too hard I like to give it color. Sometimes it is enough to use just a brown tone, but I also like to adapt the color to the enclosed color and the light.


Adjust the Figure to the Environment

Have you drawn or painted a background and your figure still looks like it’s glued on or floating? In this case, I give my manga figure (and other picture elements as well) some more shadows from its environment and set the layer to multiply mode. And she now looks like she is standing in the middle of it.

anime tutorial


The Finishing Touches – Corrections

If you have made a mistake in the color pot, the colors have become too gray or your picture lacks a certain color direction, you can finally correct them with the help of correction layers. I like to use these very much to give my picture the right color mood at the end.


Fine Tuning – Depth of Field

To give the illustration more depth and make it look more natural, I use a “blur filter” for the foreground and background elements. With this filter, these elements blur and slip out of focus. Depending on how far or close these elements are, I also adjust the strength of the filter. And there you have it, you have drawn a manga character!

drawing manga



Frequently Asked Questions


How to Draw Anime Eyes?

Anime eyes are generally oversized and full of detail. Always remember to add light reflections in the eyes to make them come alive. When learning how to draw anime eyes, you can create them in any color you want.


How to Draw Anime Hair?

Start by drawing the basic shape of the hairstyle, and get the outline drawn. Then you can add layers and details to get the hair looking realistic. When learning how to draw anime hair, you can use any color you like. Always remember the importance of light and shading when drawing hair.


This manga tutorial should have covered all the steps needed to create your own anime characters.Follow these manga drawing tutorial steps, get creative, and have fun! This should be an enjoyable process.


hanna kirchner

Hanna Kirchner | «Hanapen»

Hanna Kirchner graduated year as a graphic designer and currently lives in the Karlsruhe area (Baden-Württemberg). Since kindergarten, the drawing corner was the most interesting for Hanna and in the afternoon were first, the then broadcast on RTL 2 anime, such as "Pokemon", "Beyblade", "Yugi-Oh" and co. Since she was totally in love with the cartoon series from Japan, she tried from an early age to draw this style and has not stopped until today. Her older sister also had a fondness for manga and anime and thus influenced her even more. When Hanna finally held the German manga magazine "Daisuki" in her hand for the first time, which her sister collected diligently at that time, it was clear to her: "I want to do something like that! After many years, Hanna is now setting foot in the professional world as a graphic designer and still diligently draws her manga characters on the side.


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