How to draw a manga?

The guide of our manga teachers

First of all, let's define the term "manga", what exactly is it?

We can group together in this category everything related to Japanese comics, and, as in our Western cultures, comics can deal with anything from the most dramatic to the most romantic and from the lightest to the darkest.

There are all kinds of styles, whether they are inspired by science fiction (Cyberpunk Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo), history (Buddha by Osamu Tezuka) or purely fictional (One-Punch Man by Yusuke Murata), there is something for everyone.  

Manga has its own characteristics and codes, which fascinate a large number of artists from all over the world. Moreover, we increasingly find in modern films, series or cartoons the influences of manga, those Japanese comic strips, which, outside their native borders, are intended for everyone, without any categorization of gender or age.

So, how do you learn to draw manga?

Simply start by copying the cartoons that inspire you the most (without taking credit for them, of course).

In this way, you will train your eye and activate your critical sense on all the particularities of this discipline.

What are these peculiarities?

To begin with:

  • The proportions

You have surely noticed that the eyes of the characters are disproportionately large and their mouths disproportionately small? These small features make the manga character unique and easily recognizable.

However, the task is not easy. The drawing of the manga requires precision and balance in the disproportions, paradoxically.

  • Visual language

In our Western comics, we immediately recognise the concept behind a picture. A light bulb lit above the character's head reveals an illumination, a sudden idea, smoke at his feet indicates a quick, extremely quick start. 

Manga has its own visual language. Thus, an extremely embarrassed manga character can somehow "die of shame" and turn into a ghost to express this emotion. Moreover, in one and the same comic strip, it will be possible to find several different styles because the precision of the pencil stroke is likely to indicate the character's character. The more precise it is, the more serious or angry the character might be and the coarser the character will be taken less seriously. It is a language in its own right, and to learn it, once again, one must simply immerse oneself in manga, to name just a few, Oh My Goddess, Case Closed or Naruto. 

How do you find and develop your style?

We repeat, there are a diverse and varied number of manga styles. Between Battle Angel Alita by Yukito Kishiro and One Piece by Eiichiro Oda, there is a world.

Creating a manga is complex: you have to find the story, illustrate it by keeping the same style without being repetitive, while remaining coherent.

But the world of manga is vast and it offers infinite possibilities, so go for it, try, make mistakes, learn from them. Taking drawing lessons in the comic book/manga style, with the help of a qualified manga teacher will save you precious time, you will progress faster and your motivation will be multiplied tenfold!

You will then be able to develop your own style.

How can you start learning to draw today and unleash your creativity? With Apolline, a Swiss art school based in Lausanne, Morges and Montreux.