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Draw A Manga Character in Color Pencil

Colored Pencil Manga Art, Step by Step


manga rough sketch

The rough character sketch.

Helen South

To color your Manga drawing, keep in mind the clean crisp look and minimal color schemes that are a feature of comic book art. Manga drawing has evolved into a myriad of art forms from traditional styles to highly detailed naturalistic or even painterly finishes, but to begin with we will look at coloring the classic bishojo (pretty girl) character. You can apply the basic idea to any character.

Once you've designed your character, you'll need to trace the image very lightly onto a good quality drawing paper. Lightly outline areas of dark shadow and highlight, using as fine and light a touch as possible - lift off any excess graphite with an eraser, especially in the face area, so that the image is not dirtied.

Choose your color scheme. For each part of your drawing - skin, hair, eyes and item of clothing - you will need three colors: a shadow, a mid-tone and a highlight. You can also use a contrasting colour for extra zing or to indicate a colored light source (such as a blue computer-screen or TV, or red fire).

Start coloring with the lightest colors first, so that they aren't dirtied by the darker shades. Apply the pencil in tiny overlapping circles, lightly building up to a smooth even layer of color.

Skin: For my image I've used the three basic flesh tones in my box of Faber-Castell pencils, but you can choose anything you like depending on the ethnicity (race) of your character, from deep browns through to yellows, to pale cream with grey shadows. Use the lightest skin tone for the main area of the face (and hands). Then apply the medium flesh tone - this is usually the thin shadow along the side of the face and neck, sometimes the side of the nose and under the hair. Some small areas of dark flesh tone may be used for under the chin and in the ears if shadowed by hair.

Eyes: Apply white pencil to the whites and highlights in the eyes first. I've used the burnt carmine from the hair for the brown eyes, with red lights in the lower part of the iris and a slight brown shadow under the upper lid. The pupils are dark sepia (also used in the hair). Some styles use very simplified eyes, but usually they are full of detail and highly expressive.

Hair: I've chosen burnt carmine as a vibrant hair color, with yellow ochre highlights and dark sepia for the darks. The ochre color doesn't really work, and the highlights need to be finer - pink would look much better.

Outline: Once you've finished coloring, outline the image with a black fineline artist quality marker pen. The main line of the face, sections of hair and the mouth will usually be outlined. The upper lashes and the middle of the lower lashes are usually outlined in black , and sometimes the outer corner of the eye. Some styles of character will have the whole eye outlined.

  • Photocopy paper is great for rough sketching, but won't have enough tooth (roughness) to take much coloring. A good quality drawing paper is well worth the expense.
  • Quality artist's pencils such as Faber Castell or Prismacolor give rich, even coverage. They can often be bought individually from art stores, so you can gradually build up a collection of your favourite colors. Forget the huge sets of student pencils - they are too hard and give a chalky finish
  • Keep the division between each area of color smooth and straight. Use a kneadable eraser (available from art stores) to erase mistakes, but avoid overworking.

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