Drawing manga: How to draw manga for beginners

How to Draw Manga - Vol 1

Manga are Japanese comics that lots of people love to read. Manga style was once defined as ‘brush gone wild’ by the legendary artist, Hokusai, and over 2 billion comics are sold every year, with around 85 manga magazine titles available. There is something for everyone, so let’s learn about the art and create your own one-page comic!

Manga drawing of Takayo Akiyama is a London-based Japanese illustrator and cartoonist

Meet the illustrator

Takayo Akiyama is a London-based Japanese illustrator and cartoonist. She’s been working with AQUILA since 2014. When she’s not creating amazing drawings for the likes of us, OKIDO, and her books (published by Thames & Hudson), she plays bass guitar in the comedy band, Awesome and Possum.


Draw an oval with a pencil. Draw two straight lines across the middle from top to bottom and from left to right. These lines will help you position the eyes, nose and mouth.

From the outside ends of the horizontal line, draw a jawline travelling slightly inwards. Curve it to the chin. Add a rough layout for the nose, mouth and eyes. When you draw the hair, start it above the top of the circle to give it some volume.

Draw the neck with two straight lines from the jaw. Once you’re happy, you can start to add more detail and think about your character’s personality…

Eyes and eyebrows are very expressive parts of the face.


Draw an arch shape for the eyelid.

Draw an oval shape just underneath.

Now add a circle for the pupil and thin lines from the centre to the edge for the iris. You can add other details too.

Alternative Eye Shapes

This time, the arch is shallow.

The circle for the eye is small.

Add the eyebrow and details in the eye.

It could be as simple as a circle and a dot!

The edges of the mouth go up when smiling, and down when sad.

Let’s draw moderate to extreme facial expressions!

Neutral Happy Sad

A simple way to draw a body is to start with a stick figure. Think about the bone structure and how joints move. Like real people, your characters can come in all shapes and sizes. Once you have decided on their posture, draw them as a stick figure, then add their shape and clothes. You can ask someone to take a picture of you doing the pose and refer to that when you draw.

What kind of person is your main character going to be? I love drawing stories about me and my cat.

To help remember the details about your characters make a character sheet. Draw the face and whole body and include their name, age, location, occupation and hobbies. Remember to include what their connection is to the other characters in the story. This will help you build the backstory.

Don’t forget to think of supporting characters and even villains, they help make up your story too.

drawing of Manga tutorial step by step characters

1 Introduction

Who, when, where? 

2 Action

He’s very excited and kicks the ball very hard.

3 Problem

The ball breaks the window of a house.

4 Solution

Let’s send Jo to pick up the ball.

5 Solved /not solved

The ball has hit a man on the head and he’s knocked out! But don’t worry, he was a burglar.

6 Ending

The owner of the house is very happy and gives Jo the cat a big tuna. Bobby was forgotten about, oh well. He should have gone himself, right?

Put all sections (1-6) of the story into frames then ta-da! Your one-page manga is done!  If you’re struggling for ideas, why not write a story about a pop star, astronaut, medieval knight or even yourself! 

Don’t forget the problem doesn’t need to be a serious one, the pop star’s tummy might hurt, the family hamster is missing, or you can’t stop laughing at silly jokes. If your problem is not ‘solved’ go back to the problem and make your story longer.

Did you enjoy this Manga tutorial? Then you’d love How to Draw Manga Vol 2 in the May issue of AQUILA magazine. Make sure you click here, to subscribe!

Words & illustration: Takayo Akiyama