How do Mangakas Learn to Draw (Step by Step Guide)

how do mangakas learn to draw manga

Most artists learn realism as a foundation for their drawings. But many who did this before learning manga-style art struggled to become mangakas. Why? Because their skills have to be aligned with their chosen industry.

How do mangakas learn to draw? Mangakas learn to draw through trial and error from a young age before moving to an art institute.

Still, not everyone who learned to draw like a mangaka became a mangaka.

To understand what it takes to draw a good manga, read on!

Where Do Mangakas Learn to Draw?

Art Courses and Manga Institutes

Mangakas typically learn to draw by gaining an interest in the manga medium as children. After this, many of them take up art classes in grade school or high school. Then they go on to take up an art-related course for university.

For example, Kentaro Miura enrolled in a creative curriculum while he was in high school. He went on to study in the art college of Nihon University. He published Berserk not long after getting his degree.

Meanwhile, Hiro Mashima, mangaka of Fairy Tail, went to a manga institute, but he did not finish his degree. Still, he stated that he got the fundamentals from that course.

These days, manga institutes and courses have become popular. They are helpful for students because the manga industry is saturated. Formal education will help in building a portfolio.

Several schools that are known for their manga courses include:

  • Yogogi Animation School *English support
  • Tokyo Designer School
  • Tokyo Animation School
  • Tokyo Polytechnic University
  • Kodansha Culture Center
  • Amusement Soukou Gakuin
  • Kyoto Seika University
  • Japan Manga Institute
  • Osaka Animation School

Yoyogi Animation School Manga program


There are also those who don’t take up formal art courses. Some mangakas have decided from an early age that they want to be manga artists. Hence, they taught themselves to build their skills.

An excellent example of this is Eiichiro Oda, mangaka of One Piece. He knew from the age of four that he wanted to be a mangaka. Therefore, he drew inspiration from animes and mangas that he encountered from then.

He taught himself to draw and practiced for years. Eventually, he had the opportunity to become a mangaka assistant. There, he developed his drawing skills even further.

Most Important Aspects Mangakas Need to Learn Before Manga

Drawing manga is different from drawing other art forms. Because of this, there are certain aspects and elements that mangakas need to work on. This is done to capture the style that manga is famous for.


The anatomy of a manga character is different from the anatomy of a cartoon or a Western comic book. Think of characters like Midoriya from My Hero Academia or Asuna from Sword Art Online. You can immediately identify that they are from manga.

Now, it is not recommended that you study realistic art before getting into manga art. Still, you must at least have a good sense of a human being’s anatomy. With this as a foundation, you can then experiment and get into manga-style bodies and forms.

To understand this better, take a look at this manga drawing of Asuna. Compare it to the realistic comic drawing of Lois Lane:

Asuna from Sword Art Online
Asuna from Sword Art Online
Lois Lane from DC Comics
Lois Lane from DC Comics

It is also essential to understand the differences in male and female anatomy. In manga, mangakas exaggerate these differences for emphasis. These proportions must be captured to be considered as manga art.

Consider this reference:


In manga, a character’s face is commonly drawn by sketching a sphere attached to a cone, like this:

The mangaka then cleans up the lines and adds details according to the design of the character. Older characters are typically drawn with longer chins. Their faces are also more slender than younger characters.

Manga Eyes

This aspect of manga drawing is distinct and famous. When you say “manga eyes,” people will know what you are referring to. Male characters typically have smaller and thinner eyes. In contrast, female characters are drawn with disproportionately wide eyes.

They say that eyes are windows to the soul. This is especially true for manga characters. Mangakas rely on a character’s eye expressions to show their emotions. Therefore, it is necessary to get this aspect right.

Just look at this panel from Your Lie in April:

Kaori’s eyes in the top image are closed to express delight and happiness. Meanwhile, Kousei’s eyes are wide and glinting with tears as tears pour out.

Accordingly, mangakas put highlights and glints in the eyes of characters. These depend on the emotion being invoked.


The framing of characters and other elements in a panel are critical for a mangaka. The perspective and angle must be accurate, or else distortions will occur.

A mangaka needs to know how to draw from different perspectives. Or else, his story will become one-dimensional and stilted.


Manga is produced in black and white. Because of this, mangakas can’t rely on colors to style and articulate their drawings. Instead, they have to rely on shading.

The shading is mainly dependent on the tension of a scene and the emotions of the character.

Here is an example of how shading can affect a drawing:

Apart from blend shading, mangakas also use hatching and cross-hatching. Here is an example of when they were used in Vagabond:

Takehiko Inoue used this type of shading to convey the dirt and bruises on Miyamoto.

Meanwhile, both hatching and blend shading were used in this scene from Horimiya. The mangaka did this to illustrate blushing:

We then see that shading decides a scene’s mood and interpretation.

How Long Does it Take to Draw Good Manga?

Drawing a manga takes years of preparation and practice. But once you’ve mastered the fundamentals, drawing a good manga shouldn’t take long.

For example, some mangakas have serialized series in weekly manga magazines. They need to produce around 20 pages of content every week. Storyboards typically take 2 – 3 days to make. This means that the drawings are done within 4 – 5 days.

Following this calculation, a mangaka should be able to draw 4 – 5 pages in one day.

Other mangakas have their series in monthly manga anthologies. They need to produce around 45 pages per month. They usually allot 14 – 20 days for their drawings. This means that they draw 2 – 3 pages of manga per day.

We can average the number of pages drawn by mangakas with weekly and monthly releases. With the data, we can conclude that a mangaka can draw 3.5 pages of good manga per day.

With this as a base, here is a chart of how long it takes to draw a good manga of varying lengths:

Manga lengthNumber of hours
One page3.5
One weekly chapter70
One monthly chapter157.5
One volume700

Now, it’s time to hear from you:

Did I miss anything?

What element do you find most challenging to draw in manga?

Whatever your answer is, let’s hear it in the comments below.

How do Mangakas Learn to Draw (Step by Step Guide)

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