Manga For Dummies®


by Kensuke Okabayashi




About the Author

Kensuke Okabayashi is a professional freelance illustrator/sequential artist. Born and raised in Princeton, New Jersey, Kensuke has been inspired by manga artists such as Fujiko Fukio, Osamu Tezuka, and Rumiko Takahashi since childhood. While shopping his manga portfolio in Japan, he visited various animation and comic book studios to hone his skills. There Kensuke met with Matsumoto Leiji and Akazuka Fujio and interned with other manga artists.

After studying music and psychology at Wheaton College in Illinois, Kensuke shifted his focus from playing the piano to honing his art skills. He earned his BFA in Illustration at the School of Visual Arts in New York City after studying traditional painting and further developing his drawing skills. Upon graduating, he began picking up illustration and storyboard clients. His works eventually caught the eyes of several illustration agencies that currently represent him. His recent storyboard clients include Diesel Clothing, Diet Coke, Diet Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, Absolut Vodka, Wendy’s, Allstate, State Farm, Canon Digital, All Nippon Airways, and Camel.

In addition to storyboards, Kensuke also actively illustrates for mainstream entertainment industry clients, including Wizards of the Coast, Takara Toys U.S.A., Kensington Books, Skyzone Entertainment, and Carl Fisher Music.

Inspired by his past experience of working long hours at a well-known coffee shop corporation, Kensuke developed and illustrated his creator-owned comic book series titled JAVA!, which portrays the quirky futuristic society of Neo Seattle, where mankind must consume coffee in order to live. The title attracted attention and was picked up by Committed Comics and published as a miniseries. His main character, Java (a high-power caffeine girl fighting crime), received positive reviews from major comic book review sites as well as from readers and distribution. Kensuke continues to work on creator-owned projects with other established colleagues and writers in the industry. His upcoming publication projects include Image Comics, Arcana Publications, and Archaia Press. His online portfolio is posted at his studio Web site at

On the side, Kensuke continues to draw from life and teaches art. He taught illustration courses at Mercer College of New Jersey for several years. He currently teaches studio art classes at the Education Alliance Art School in New York City. When not drawing or painting in his studio, Kensuke still enjoys playing the piano from time to time and honing his martial arts skills regularly at a local Tae Kwon Do club.



This book is dedicated to my parents, Dr. Michio and Sahoko Okabayashi, for their unconditional love and support.


Author’s Acknowledgments

I would like to thank my acquisitions editor, Michael Lewis, my project editor, Chrissy Guthrie, and my copy editor, Sarah Faulkner, at Wiley for all their hard work, advice, and support while I was writing this book. Big thanks to Wiley’s composition department for scanning the illustrations and laying out the book. In addition, I want to thank my colleague, Takeshi Miyazawa, for his role as technical editor. My biggest thanks goes to my family, Michio, Sahoko, Yusuke, and Saichan, who have been my greatest supporters and fans. None of this would have been remotely possible without their help. Thank you and God bless you!


Publisher’s Acknowledgments

We’re proud of this book; please send us your comments through our Dummies online registration form located at

Some of the people who helped bring this book to market include the following:

Acquisitions, Editorial, and Media Development

Senior Project Editor: Christina Guthrie

Acquisitions Editor: Michael Lewis

Copy Editor: Sarah Faulkner

Technical Editor: Takeshi Miyazawa

Editorial Manager: Christine Meloy Beck

Editorial Assistants: Erin Calligan, Joe Niesen, David Lutton, Leeann Harney

Cover Image: Kensuke Okabayashi

Cartoons: Rich Tennant (

Composition Services

Project Coordinator: Adrienne Martinez

Layout and Graphics: Carl Byers, Stephanie D. Jumper, Barbara Moore, Barry Offringa, Brent Savage

Anniversary Logo Design: Richard J. Pacifico

Proofreaders: John Greenough, Melanie Hoffman, Charles Spencer, Aptara

Indexer: Aptara

Publishing and Editorial for Consumer Dummies

Diane Graves Steele, Vice President and Publisher, Consumer Dummies

Joyce Pepple, Acquisitions Director, Consumer Dummies

Kristin A. Cocks, Product Development Director, Consumer Dummies

Michael Spring, Vice President and Publisher, Travel

Kelly Regan, Editorial Director, Travel

Publishing for Technology Dummies

Andy Cummings, Vice President and Publisher, Dummies Technology/General User

Composition Services

Gerry Fahey, Vice President of Production Services

Debbie Stailey, Director of Composition Services




About This Book

Conventions Used in This Book

What You’re Not to Read

Foolish Assumptions

How This Book Is Organized

Icons Used in This Book

Where to Go from Here

Part I : Manga 101

Chapter 1: Welcome to Manga World

Tracing the Rise of Manga’s Popularity

All Manga Is Not Created Equal: Looking At the Different Genres

The Key Components of Manga

Manga versus American Comics

“Making It” in the Manga World

Chapter 2: Gearing Up and Getting Ready

Materials You Need to Get Started

Setting Up Your Studio

Chapter 3: Drawing: Starting with the Basics

Making Your First Moves with the Pencil

Exercises Using Your Ruler

Creating Patterns

Fixing Mistakes

Part II : To the Drawing Board

Chapter 4: Taking It from the Top with the Head

Heading Out on a Manga Mission

The Eyes Have It!

Filling In the Features

The Emotions Tell All

Chapter 5: Nice Bod: Manga Body Basics

How Many Heads? Setting Up Your Character’s Proportions

Drawing a Wire Frame

Getting in Shape with Geometry

Growing Pains

Chapter 6: Customize and Accessorize Your Manga Character

Know When to Fold ’Em: Drawing Fabric Folds

Dressing Up for the Occasion

Equipped to Make a Positive Impression

Part III : Calling All Cast Members!

Chapter 7: The Main Protagonists

Drawing Male Lead Characters

Drawing Female Lead Characters

Chapter 8: Those Loveable Sidekicks

Drawing Male Sidekick Characters

Drawing Female Sidekick Characters

Chapter 9: The Dreaded Villains

The Handsome yet Icy-Cold Villain

The Awesome Warrior

The Military Vixen

The Evil Sorceress

Chapter 10: Elder Figures

Enter the Grandmasters

The Wizards

Chapter 11: Damsels in Distress

The “Little Sister” Princess

The Innocent Schoolgirl

The Loyal, Selfless Damsel

Chapter 12: Girl Power! Shbulletjo Manga

Drawing Classic Shbulletjo Manga Faces and Hair

Drawing the Rest of the Body

Art Nouveau Backgrounds in Shbulletjo Manga

Part IV : Time to Go Hi-Tech

Chapter 13: Designing Mechas

Creating Simple and Cute Mechas

Drawing Pilot-Operated Mechas

Chapter 14: Gadgets and Weapons

Small Gadgets

Battle Arms

Chapter 15: Taking Off: Vehicles and Airplanes



Part V : An Advanced Case of Manga

Chapter 16: Putting Manga into Perspective

Creating Buildings and Backgrounds with Basic Perspective

Adding People to the Environment

Using Perspective and Camera Angle to Tell the Story

Chapter 17: Using Speed Lines to Create Motion and Emotion

Getting Your Character Moving

Zooming Around for Emotion

Chapter 18: Thumbnails and Scenery

Creating Effective Thumbnails

Sketching Scenic Backgrounds

Chapter 19: Writing a Good Story

Deciding Who Your Audience Is

Establishing a Synopsis and Plot

Seeking Inspiration

Part VI : The Part of Tens

Chapter 20: Ten (or so) Manga Artists

Osamu Tezuka (1928–1989)

Fujiko Fujio: Hiroshi Fujimoto (1933–1996) and Motoo Abiko (1934–1988)

Rumiko Takahashi (1957–)

Leiji Matsumoto (1938–)

Takehiko Inoue (1967–)

Suzue Miuchi (1951–)

Katsuhiro Otomo (1954–)

Yoshiyuki Okamura (1947–) and Tetsuo Hara (1961–)

Akira Toriyama (1955–)

Riyoko Ikeda (1947–)

Chapter 21: (Nearly) Ten Places to Strut your Stuff

Animé/Manga Conventions

Art Schools

Manga Competitions

Manga Publishers

Small Galleries and Art Shows


Online Portfolio

Small Press


Ybulletkoso (welcome) to Manga For Dummies. Manga is a cultural phenomenon that continues to grow in popularity not only in the United States, but also worldwide. Throughout this book, I focus on the basic skills you need to create your first manga characters for your own creator-owned manga series. Whether you’re an aspiring artist or a professional illustrator wanting to explore a different style of drawing, this book is a great place to start.

About This Book

As you see throughout this book, more than 50 percent of the content is devoted to illustrations. I show you examples in the illustrations, and I tell you how to replicate them (or create your own examples) in the step-by-step instructions that accompany them.

All tips, advice, and drawings that I provide are based upon my own experience, both as a professional illustrator/sequential artist and as a former art student. I designed this book to take you through various drawing techniques and popular styles of drawing manga. Although you draw some manga characters realistically, others are more exaggerated. I encourage you to try out these different styles and find out which ones you like drawing most. As you become familiar with different faces and body types, you may want to combine different elements to come up with your own individual style.

Throughout this book, I cover a variety of popular manga topics. I introduce basic proportions and anatomy to demonstrate how to draw your first manga character from start to finish. I also cover different must-know character archetypes, including popular main protagonists, their supporting sidekicks, evil villains, wise ones, damsels in distress, and shbulletjo characters. In addition to characters, I show you how to create cool effects to apply motion and emotion to tell a story. For mecha fans, I also show you how to create your own mecha. Finally, I talk about some tips for self-publishing your first manga works and preparing to exhibit your works at your first manga convention.

Conventions Used in This Book

While writing this book, I used a few conventions that you should be aware of:

bullet Numbered steps and keywords appear in boldface.

bullet Whenever I introduce a new term, I italicize it and define it.

bullet Web sites and e-mail addresses appear in monofont to help them stand out on the page.

What You’re Not to Read

Now, I didn’t spend hours upon hours writing this book and drawing all the illustrations because I want you to skip over them. However, to be honest, you can skip over certain elements in this book and still get the gist of what’s being covered. The sidebars (the gray boxes) throughout the book contain information that’s interesting yet nonessential, so if you’re pressed for time or just not into anything that isn’t essential, feel free to skip them. Also, feel free to skip any information that has the Technical Stuff icon attached, because that info goes beyond what you absolutely need to know. You won’t hurt my feelings (much).

Foolish Assumptions

When I sat down to write this book, I made a few assumptions about you, dear reader. This book is for you if

bullet You’re really into manga, and you want to draw your own manga characters and come up with your own stories.

bullet You’ve never sketched anything other than a stick figure before, but you want to try your hand at this style of art because it seems pretty fun and easy to pick up.

bullet You’re a fan of one kind of manga (maybe kodomo manga), and you want to know more about other kinds of manga (like shbulletnen or shbulletjo manga).

bullet You know very little about manga, but you want to know how it got started and what it’s all about.

bullet You’re an aspiring manga artist who hopes to be published someday.

bullet You don’t care whether you’re published or not. You just like to draw, and you like manga. So there!

While we’re on the subject of foolish assumptions, allow me to take a moment to dispel a few foolish assumptions I’ve heard over the years:

bullet After reading this book from cover to cover, I should become a successful manga artist. One misconception of most reference books is that you should be able to master the art of manga by reading through the book from front to back. Drawing isn’t an overnight phenomenon. Unlike those final exams in high school, you can’t cram good art. My strong advice is not to be dissuaded if your drawings don’t come out the way you want on your first try. Like many skills, practice is essential to getting good results.

bullet I’m not as talented as my other friends — I may as well give it all up! Nonsense! One of the glories of manga rests in its simplicity in line and form. Although having drawing skills or drawing lessons certainly helps, they aren’t required. In my opinion, the key to achieving success isn’t raw talent or even hard work, but passion. If you’re not passionate about what you draw, no amount of talent or long hours you work will help you in the long run.

bullet Like other comics, manga is for kids — people will make fun of me for taking this art form seriously (even more so if I pursue it as a career). If this is your first time experiencing manga, this is an understandable false assumption. As I explain in the first chapter of this book, manga has a tremendous diversity of topics and genres (ranging from sports to politics to romance). It’s no surprise manga is a multi-billion-dollar entertainment industry enjoyed by all ages and sexes.

How This Book Is Organized

This book is broken up into six different parts. Following is a summary of each of these parts, so that you can decide what appeals to you.

Part I: Manga 101

Think of this part as your first day in a class for your favorite subject. This part provides an overview of manga’s history and different genres, it tells you what tools you need to get started, and it wraps up with some basic drawing exercises to get your brain and your hand moving.

Part II: To the Drawing Board

Even though this book is set up to be modular (meaning that you can start anywhere you like), unless you’ve drawn manga before, you don’t want to skip this part. Here I show you how to draw the essential components of any manga character: the head, eyes, body, and basic clothing. These chapters are the foundation for the rest of the book, especially Part III, where I show you how to draw specific types of characters.

Part III: Calling All Cast Members!

This is where things get juicy. Although you can find thousands of storylines and characters in today’s popular manga world, most stories use certain archetypes as their protagonist or lead characters, sidekicks, antagonists, and so on. For whatever reason, this method has been a winning formula that’s stood the test of time.

In this part, you take the basics and apply them to draw various types of characters, such as heroes, villains, and elders.

Part IV: Time to Go Hi-Tech

Like drawing those cool robots, machines, and weapons? How about those small sophisticated electronic devices? In this part, I cover the basics to get you started on drawing your own machines (referred to as mecha).

Part V: An Advanced Case of Manga

In this part, I go over the more advanced topics and manga subject matter. I start off with basic principles of perspective that allow you to add depth and interest to your drawings. I then show you how to create the illusion of motion and emotion by using different types of lines. Next, I cover backgrounds and storyboards. Finally, I tell you what goes into a good manga story and how to get your work noticed if you’re looking to break into the biz someday.

Part VI: The Part of Tens

As a new manga creator, it’s important to keep a look out for what other hot manga artists are drawing. As part of this section, I include ten of the most influential manga artists who continue to inspire the manga community worldwide. I also list ten places where you can present your work to the public.

Icons Used in This Book

Throughout this book, you see various icons in the left margins. These icons serve as flags to draw your attention toward important or helpful information. Each specific icon carries its own meaning, as listed here:


As you may have guessed, this icon points out concepts or other information that you don’t want to forget.


This icon points out information that goes a bit beyond what you absolutely need to know. If you’re a thorough type of person, you’ll likely enjoy these tidbits; however, feel free to skip them if you prefer.


Look for this icon to provide you with helpful tricks and shortcuts to make your drawing life easier.


Don’t skip this icon. It alerts you to various mistakes and pitfalls that you want to avoid.


If you need some help getting the creative juices flowing, seek out this icon.

Where to Go from Here

Going from cover to cover in a strict sequential order isn’t required. Based on your interests, you can visit chapters in any order, and you’ll find that each section takes you step by step through accomplishing an objective. For those with drawing experience, the beauty of this format is that you can select whichever topic you want to know more about and dive into it.

However, for those of you who are new to manga or don’t have prior drawing experience, I recommend starting with Part I and working your way through this book in order. Even if you’re an experienced artist but new to manga, it’s not a bad idea to brush up on your knowledge by starting with Part I and then choosing the section you’re interested in.

Regardless of where you start, I recommend reading all the way through the chapter you choose before sitting down at the drawing table and working through its steps. Give yourself time to first digest different kinds of characters and techniques that are used in today’s manga world. After that, go back and draw to your heart’s content.

Finally, as if you don’t have enough to keep you busy here in this book, be sure to check out some great bonus content online. Just go to and search for Manga For Dummies.

Part I

Manga 101

In this part . . .

S o, you want to draw manga? Whether you’re drawing for the first time or you’re a serious artist new to manga, this part is designed to get you started on the right foot. Maybe you’re here as an experienced American comic book artist wanting to try something new. More likely, though, you’re just really into manga and want to figure out how to draw your own characters. No matter what your background is, you’re in for an awesome ride.

Here you get up to speed on the history of manga and how it’s grown in popularity in recent years. You get the lowdown on the supplies you need to get started, and then you try some basic drawing exercises, which are designed not only to loosen your wrist, but also to help you become familiar with the tools. These exercises are widely prescribed by manga artists and their assistants; you can think of them as warm-up exercises.

If you’re ready, turn the page and prepare to discover the world of manga!