How to Draw in the Style of Japanese Manga: A Series of Free & Wildly Popular Video Tutorials from Artist Mark Crilley

In Japan, the word man­ga refers broad­ly to the art form we know in Eng­lish as comics. But as used in the West, it refers to a com­ic art style with dis­tinc­tive aes­thet­ic and sto­ry­telling con­ven­tions of its own, orig­i­nat­ing from but now no longer lim­it­ed to Japan. Just as the past cen­tu­ry or so has seen the emer­gence of West­ern mas­ters of such things thor­ough­ly Japan­ese as sushi, judo, and even tea cer­e­mo­ny, the past few decades brought us the work of the West­ern man­ga­ka, or man­ga artist. Mark Cril­ley stands as one of the best-known prac­ti­tion­ers of that short tra­di­tion, thanks not only to his art but to his efforts to teach fans how to draw in the style of Japan­ese man­ga them­selves as well.

Apart from com­ic-book series like Akiko, Miki Falls, and Brody’s Ghost, the Detroit-born Cril­ley has also pub­lished a tril­o­gy of Mas­ter­ing Man­ga instruc­tion­al books. In an inter­view with Wired, he frames his own man­ga-mas­ter­ing process as a project sim­i­lar to lan­guage-learn­ing: “When I went to Tai­wan to teach Eng­lish after grad­u­at­ing from col­lege, I threw myself into learn­ing Chi­nese with a real ‘tun­nel vision’ kind of ded­i­ca­tion. As a result I became con­ver­sa­tion­al in Man­darin with­in about a year. More recent­ly I decid­ed to teach myself how to draw in a man­ga-influ­enced style and thus focused exclu­sive­ly on that for many months.”

Cril­ley first took to Youtube to pro­mote his then-new man­ga series, but he “soon found that peo­ple were watch­ing my videos as draw­ing lessons. As more peo­ple watched I got hooked on pass­ing on draw­ing tips to the next gen­er­a­tion, and so I con­tin­ued pro­duc­ing more and more instruc­tion­al videos.”

More young­sters seem to have an inter­est in draw­ing in the style of Japan­ese comics and ani­ma­tion than ever (at least if my friends’ kids are gen­er­a­tional­ly rep­re­sen­ta­tive), and Cril­ley finds that they “appre­ci­ate hav­ing an art teacher who takes man­ga seri­ous­ly, and doesn’t dis­miss it as an infe­ri­or art form. I’m sure plen­ty of art teach­ers are all, ‘Stop draw­ing those saucer-eyed char­ac­ters! Draw this still life instead!’ ”

Not to say that Cril­ley does­n’t appre­ci­ate real­ism: he’s put out a whole book on the sub­ject, and some of his instruc­tion­al videos cov­er how to draw life­like eyes (a tuto­r­i­al that has drawn 27 mil­lion views and count­ing), leop­ards, mush­rooms, and much else besides. But for the aspir­ing man­ga­ka of any nation­al­i­ty, his Youtube chan­nel offers a wealth of lessons on how to draw every­thing from faces to clothes to fig­ures in motion to big eyes in the man­ga aes­thet­ic. But as he sure­ly knows — hav­ing cit­ed in the Wired inter­view a wide range of influ­ences from Star Wars to Mad mag­a­zine to Mon­ty Python’s Fly­ing Cir­cus — if you want to tru­ly find your own style, you can’t lim­it your­self to any one source of inspi­ra­tion. Acquire the skills, of course, but then take them to new places.

You can see a playlist of 256 how-to-draw videos by Cril­ley here. Or a series of small­er draw­ing playlists here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

A Big List of Free Art Lessons on YouTube

How to Draw the Human Face & Head: A Free 3‑Hour Tuto­r­i­al

Watch Ground­break­ing Com­ic Artist Mœbius Draw His Char­ac­ters in Real Time

Car­toon­ist Lyn­da Bar­ry Shows You How to Draw Bat­man in Her UW-Madi­son Course, “Mak­ing Comics”

W.B. Yeats’ Poem “When You Are Old” Adapt­ed into a Japan­ese Man­ga Com­ic

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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