10 June, 2024 / Sozoroo TEAM
Blog Anime

Tips for Drawing Manga and Anime Characters

The Rising Popularity of Japanese Anime Drawing and Manga Art
In recent years, many young artists have entered the world of art through Japanese anime drawing and manga series. Over the past two decades, the popularity of Japanese anime and manga has steadily increased. But what is the difference between anime and manga?

Understanding Japanese Anime and Manga

Both anime and manga originate from Japan’s animation industry but represent different styles of artwork. The relationship between Japanese anime/manga and traditional art is similar to that of Bande dessinée (comics from Belgium and France) and Western art. Manga are books similar to comic books and are read from right to left, which might seem like back to front for Western readers. While there are deluxe colored editions, most manga are in black and white. Anime, on the other hand, are animated videos drawn in the same style as manga comics. Many modern children's anime series, even Marvel Comics adaptations, fall under the category of anime.
Examples of Famous Anime Series and Movies
For those unfamiliar with Japanese anime culture, here are some famous anime series and movies:
  • Pokémon
  • Dragon Ball Z
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!
  • Howl's Moving Castle
  • Ghost in the Shell (originally a manga, later adapted into a movie)
  • Princess Mononoke
In this article, we'll explore how to draw anime characters. This tutorial covers the basics and does not require the use of pens or paints.

Manga and Anime Styles

From the list above, it's clear that traditional Western animation (currently undergoing transformations) is quite different in style and artwork compared to manga and anime.
Characters from Ghost in the Shell look nothing like those from Dragon Ball Z.
Manga and anime styles vary greatly, influenced by the type of story and the audience. There are manga and anime for children, teenagers, and adults, with genres ranging from innocent high school girls and tentacle-filled adult stories to historical, fantasy, and sci-fi tales.

Children's Manga and Anime

Children's manga and anime are characterized by cute drawings and simple stories with charming characters.

Notable Examples of Children's Manga and Anime

  • Heidi, Girl of the Alps
  • Anne of Green Gables
  • Astro Boy
  • Chibi Maruko-chan
  • Hello Kitty

Shoujo and Shounen Manga

Shoujo manga target girls but are also popular among boys. They often feature female protagonists and revolve around everyday life, historical settings like The Rose of Versailles, fantasy stories like Sailor Moon, or sci-fi adventures like No. 6.
Shounen manga, aimed at boys, usually feature young male protagonists and adventure-filled stories. Popular examples include Pokémon, One Piece, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Dragon Ball Z, and NARUTO. Some, like Fullmetal Alchemist and Death Note, tackle more mature themes and are suitable for older audiences.

Josei and Seinen Manga

Josei and seinen manga target older teens and adults, featuring more realistic content, including violence, psychological conflict, and mature romantic relationships.

Popular Seinen Manga
  • Cowboy Bebop
  • Ghost in the Shell
  • Hellsing

Notable Josei Anime
  • Paradise Kiss
  • 07-GHOST
  • Karneval

Drawing Chibi Characters

Chibi characters are part of the "kawaii" culture, with big heads and small bodies. Their hands are often mitten-like, with no individual fingers except for the thumb.

Character Types in Manga and Anime

One interesting aspect of manga, especially shoujo and shounen, is that heroes and villains can be easily distinguished by their design, not just their clothing. Understanding whether a character is a hero or a villain is crucial when mastering how to draw them.

Heroes and Heroines

Heroes typically have large eyes, especially in shoujo and shounen manga, where the eyes can occupy nearly half the face. In josei and seinen manga, eyes are drawn more realistically but are still larger and rounder than those of villains. Heroes often have distinctive, sometimes eccentric, hairstyles, with colors ranging from pink to blue or orange.

Villains and Anti-Heroes

Villains or anti-heroes usually have narrower eyes, often with an upward slant. While heroes may have flamboyant hairstyles, villains often have more refined hairdos. Even when villains have similar hairstyles to heroes, theirs tend to be more angular and less curved.

Charming Sidekicks

Sidekicks, who accompany the hero, are not exclusive to Disney. Cute, talking animals like Pikachu from Pokémon or Hawk the pig from The Seven Deadly Sins are common in anime. In more adult manga, sidekicks may be replaced by other elements, like a giant tank.

Tools for Drawing Manga Characters

Anime productions can be drawn on paper or digitally. Whether using traditional methods or software like Photoshop or CorelDraw, having the right tools is essential. Beginners should start with:
  • Paper
  • Pencils (softer lead for easy erasing)
  • Erasers (kneaded erasers are best, but electric erasers can be useful for hard lines)
As you improve, you may want to invest in high-quality Japanese or Indian ink, brushes, inking pens, and Copic markers for shading. For digital art, tools like Benday dot brushes for gradients are helpful.

Drawing Bodies and Poses

Understanding basic human anatomy is beneficial, but manga proportions differ from real human figures, allowing even complete beginners to draw well. Characters are often broken down into basic shapes following specific proportion charts, which vary by anime style.

Boy and Girl Bodies

In shoujo and shounen manga, characters usually have larger heads in proportion to their bodies, typically around six and a half heads tall. Main characters are rarely overweight, and their legs make up more than half their height.

"Realistic" Proportions

Even in more realistic anime styles, characters tend to have very long legs, often accounting for more than half their height. Shoulders are usually less than twice the width of the head.


To draw good poses, grasping perspective is crucial. Practice sketching basic stick figures in various poses to capture smooth movements. Copying frames from well-known manga can help improve your perspective skills.

Drawing Heads

Learning to draw faces is essential in mastering Japanese anime drawing. Faces often express the most personality and, in some styles, are the most prominent feature.

Basic Head Shape

Start with a circle. Add guidelines for the vertical and horizontal axis, which will help in placing facial features. Shoujo and shounen characters often have more rounded faces with pointed chins, while more realistic styles might have elongated faces.

Drawing Eyes

Eyes are the most expressive part of manga characters and come in various styles. In shoujo and shounen manga, eyes are large and round. Villains and supporting characters often have smaller, narrower eyes.

Adding Highlights

Anime eyes usually feature highlights that add a sense of emotion. Pure-hearted characters may have multiple highlights, while villains might have only one small highlight, giving them a more superficial and cold look.

Drawing Noses and Mouths

Noses and mouths are usually simplified in manga. Noses are often indicated by a slight curve or a simple line. Mouths are generally small, expanding dramatically only to express strong emotions.

Drawing Hair

Hair is a crucial element in character design, often exaggerated to add personality. Even in realistic manga, hair should have volume and movement. Experiment with different hairstyles and colors to create unique characters.

Expressing Emotions

Anime uses specific conventions for depicting emotions. For instance, fear is often shown with contracted pupils, while joy may be represented by closed eyes. Practicing different expressions can help you capture your characters' emotions effectively.

By following these guidelines, you can start creating your own characters and contribute to Japan’s animation industry. Happy drawing!

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Start your anime and manga creation journey with our free trial. Ignite your passion, learn from the pros, and take the first step towards your dream career in animation.
Write your awesome label here.

Join Sozoroo and Dive into the World of Anime! Enjoy a 7-Day Free Trial!

Start your anime and manga creation journey with our free trial. Ignite your passion, learn from the pros, and take the first step towards your dream career in animation.