How to Draw a Manga Face

Manga painter
portishead1 / Getty Images

Follow these basic principles to learn how to draw any Manga character's face. Change the facial features and hair to suit the character. Learn about this history of Manga, too.

01
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Draw a Circle

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To begin your Manga character, first draw a circle. This will be the top of your character’s head and help shape all the other aspects of the head, such as the eyes and mouth.

02
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Draw the Face Outline

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Find the center of the circle and draw a vertical line beginning at the top of the circle and ending below the circle by about half the circle's length. This will be the guideline for your character’s chin.

Note that older characters have longer chins and more slender faces, and younger characters have shorter chins and rounded faces. From the bottom of this line, draw two curved lines (as shown) ending at the sides of the circle.

Some Manga artists draw the chin with sharp points like a square at the end of the chin and base of the jaw. But at first, stay as curvy as possible so you can get the style down.

03
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Make Proportional Guidelines

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To get the proportion right, find the halfway point on the vertical guideline and draw a horizontal guideline across the width of the head. This is the eye line.

Halfway between the eye line and the chin, draw another horizontal line. This new line will indicate where the bottom of the nose should go.

Halfway between this nose line and the chin, draw a short horizontal line. This line is the shadow below the lower lip.

04
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Add Facial Features

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The ears, top to bottom, go from eye line to the nose line, the bottom of the nose just touches the nose line (as shown), and the corners of the eyes (corners of the top eyelid for big-eyed characters) go on the eye line.

Note that the eye line from ear to ear should be roughly five eyes wide. This means that your eyes have an eye length between them. Draw simple curved lines above the eyes for eyebrows. Their placement doesn’t matter quite as much as the other elements of the head, though you might like to experiment with different eyebrow placement and shape.

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

05
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Draw Manga Eyes

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These are general rules for drawing Manga eyes. After you are familiar with Manga style, you can break these rules and get more creative.

  • Manga eyes generally have a top and a bottom with suggested 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, as in the photo.
  • Girls' eyes usually have more highlights in them and their eyelashes are longer than boys'.

Be original with every character— ​the eyes are the most defining part.

06
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Add a Manga Nose

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There are limitless options for noses, but in general, 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 are sometimes shaded and sometimes not. Sometimes they have nostrils and sometimes they don’t. Do what looks best on the character.

 

07
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Make the Hairline

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The first step to adding hair is drawing the hairline. Keep it simple until you get more experienced. 

It helps to look at hairlines in pictures of real people and then draw clean lines where their hairlines are. By doing this, you will get a good grasp of how hairlines should look.

After you’re happy with a hairline, draw a guideline where the hair should part. This will make it easier to give structure to more complex hairstyles.

08
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Draw the Hair

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Next, you should block out sections of your Manga character’s hair. Note that the hair strands on each side of the part are combed in the same direction as the other strands of the same side. Also, note that the hair lies outside of the circle guideline you drew in step one. This gives the hair a more realistic, believable look.

Whether the hair is long and sleek or short and spiky, divide it into sections and outline those rather than trying to draw every strand of hair.

09
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Shade the Hair, Add the Chin

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Now you need to shade the hair for the final touch. In general, Manga artists pick a section of the hair to be highlighted and shade accordingly. Hair is typically shiny and therefore shaded with high contrast. In other words, the change from dark to light happens abruptly over a short distance rather than gradually over a longer distance. Use a photographic reference for help on highlighting hair. 

The final touch: Draw lines that curve slightly inward down from the chin. These simple lines form your character’s neck. In general, men have thicker necks than women, but keep in mind that the age of the character matters as well. In Manga, very old and very young males are usually drawn with skinny necks. You can shade the neck and face if you wish but keep it simple and don’t overdo it.