Drawing Dynamic Manga Characters: A Guide
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 7 min read


  1. Drawing Basics for Manga Characters
  2. Character Design Principles
  3. Facial Features and Expressions
  4. Drawing Dynamic Poses
  5. Character Costumes and Styles
  6. Adding Shading and Textures
  7. Capturing Emotion in Scenes
  8. Creating Interesting Backgrounds

Imagine you're drawing a manga character, and you want to portray them in the middle of a thrilling action sequence. But how do you capture that sense of motion in a still image? In this guide, we'll explore how to draw a manga character in motion, making your characters burst into life on the page.

Drawing Basics for Manga Characters

Before we dive into the dynamic movement, let's start with the basics. Drawing manga characters involves understanding a few key principles:

  • Body Proportions: Typically, manga characters are seven to eight heads tall. This gives them their distinctive, elongated appearance. You might want to start by drawing a stick figure as a base, ensuring you get the proportions right from the get-go.
  • Line Art: Sharp, clean lines are a hallmark of manga art. When drawing, consider your line weight: lighter lines give a sense of distance or lightness, while thicker, heavier lines suggest closeness or weight. This will be particularly useful when we discuss how to draw a manga character in motion later on.
  • Understanding Anatomy: Even though manga characters often have stylized, exaggerated features, a basic understanding of human anatomy helps in creating believable poses. This includes knowing how joints bend and muscles flex.

Now that you've got a handle on these basic principles, you're one step closer to bringing your manga character to life with dynamic motion. It's like learning to walk before you run, or in our case, learning to stand before you leap into action! So, let's move on to the next stage—designing your character.

Character Design Principles

Designing a character is like preparing for a role in a play: you need to know who they are, what they like, and how they move. Here's what to keep in mind:

  • Distinct Features: Unique characteristics make your manga character stand out. Maybe they have a scar, a funky hairstyle, or a signature outfit. This helps your character be easily recognizable, even when in motion.
  • Consistency: Ensure that these distinguishing features are consistent. If your character’s hair is tied in a ponytail, it needs to stay that way unless there’s a reason for it to change. This consistency is crucial, especially when you aim to draw your manga character in motion.
  • Character's Role: Consider your character's role in their world. Are they a brave warrior, a cunning detective, a clumsy student? This can influence their posture and the way they move.

Remember, each element of your character's design is a piece of the puzzle that makes up their overall persona. Having a clear image of your character will help when you start to sketch them in action. After all, a knight and a dancer wouldn't move in the same way, would they?

Facial Features and Expressions

Now, let's talk about facial features and expressions. You can think of the face as a mirror to the character's soul — it's where their feelings and thoughts come to life. When it comes to learning how to draw a manga character in motion, mastering the art of facial expressions is key. Here's how you can do it:

  • Eye Shapes: Eyes in manga are often larger than in reality, and their shape can tell a lot about a character. Round eyes can signal innocence, while narrow eyes might suggest a more serious or cunning character.
  • Mouths: Manga mouths can be as simple as a line, or more detailed with lips and teeth. The shape of the mouth can show a range of emotions, from happiness to anger and surprise.
  • Expressions: When drawing a character in motion, their facial expression should match their actions. If they're running, are they scared, determined, or excited? Let their face tell the story.

Remember, the face is just as important as the body when showing motion. A running character with a blank face won't be as compelling as one with an expression filled with determination or fear. So, keep practicing those expressions. Your manga characters will thank you for it!

Drawing Dynamic Poses

Once you've got the hang of facial expressions, it's time to put your characters in action. Learning how to draw a manga character in motion is all about mastering dynamic poses. Let's get to it:

  • Action Lines: These are imaginary lines that guide the movement of your character. They're a great starting point for any dynamic pose.
  • Body Proportions: Manga characters often have exaggerated proportions, but it's important to keep them consistent. A good rule of thumb is to make the body about seven heads tall.
  • Dynamic Angles: Don't stick to front-on views. Try drawing characters from different angles to make the pose more dynamic and interesting.

Quick tip: When drawing a character in motion, think about what they're doing and how their body would move in response. For example, if they're running, their arms might be pumping at their sides and one foot would be off the ground. Just like with the face, the body can tell a story, too.

And don't forget: Practice makes perfect. So keep drawing, and soon you'll be creating manga characters that leap right off the page!

Character Costumes and Styles

Let's talk about style—specifically, your manga character's style. The clothes your characters wear can say a lot about them, and they can add to the movement and dynamism of your drawings. Let's see how to do it:

  • Consider the role: Is your character a hero, a villain, or a sidekick? Their clothes can help establish their role. A hero might have a distinctive emblem or a unique color scheme, while a villain might dress in darker, more menacing outfits.
  • Think about movement: When learning how to draw a manga character in motion, it's important to think about how their clothes will move with them. Flowing capes or loose clothes can add to the sense of motion in your drawings.
  • Be consistent: Once you've decided on a style for your character, stick with it. Consistency is key when building a recognizable manga character.

Here's a thought: Imagine if Naruto didn't have his signature orange jumpsuit, or if Sailor Moon didn't have her iconic sailor suit. They wouldn't be the same, right? So, find that unique style for your characters and make it their own!

Adding Shading and Textures

Now that you've got your manga character styled up, let's add some depth by exploring shading and textures. This can take your drawing from flat to 3D real quick. Now, how do we do that? Let's get to it:

  • Light and Shadow: Understanding where the light is coming from in your scene is crucial. Light areas indicate where the light hits directly, while shadows are formed where the light doesn't reach. Adding these to your character will give a depth that makes them pop out of the page.
  • Texture it up: Adding texture to clothes, hair, and skin can make your character look more realistic. For example, adding lines to denote folds in the clothing or a pattern to signify a certain fabric.
  • Don't overdo it: While adding shading and textures can enhance your drawings, remember not to overdo it. Too much can make your character look busy and detract from the overall image.

Think of shading and textures as the seasoning in a dish. Just the right amount can enhance the flavors, but too much can overpower everything. So, keep practicing until you find the right balance in your drawings. And remember, practice makes perfect when it comes to learning how to draw a manga character in motion!

Capturing Emotion in Scenes

What separates a good manga drawing from a great one? The ability to capture emotion. The heart of manga lies in storytelling and expression. So, let's talk about how to inject emotions into your scenes to make your manga character come alive.

  • Body Language: Emotions aren't just shown on the face, they echo through the entire body. A happy character might jump in the air while a sad one might slouch. Pay attention to how the body reacts to emotions and express that in your drawings.
  • Facial Expressions: The face is the window to the character's soul. Make sure to draw the eyes, eyebrows, mouth, and even the cheeks to represent the character's feelings. They can express a wide range of emotions, from joy and surprise to anger and despair.
  • Context Matters: Context plays a big role in how emotions are perceived. For example, tears could mean sadness or joy depending on the situation. Make sure the surrounding scene supports the emotion you're trying to portray.

Remember, the more you understand your character—their personality, their story—the better you'll be able to portray their emotions. That's the real secret to learning how to draw a manga character in motion that truly touches the heart of your audience.

Creating Interesting Backgrounds

When it comes to manga, the background is more than just a backdrop. It's a vital component that sets the mood, frames the action, and provides context for the characters. Let's take a look at how you can create interesting backgrounds for your dynamic manga characters.

  • Setting the Scene: First, determine where your scene is taking place. Is it in a bustling city or a quiet countryside? Your background should reflect your setting, and it can be a great tool to show not tell the reader where the story is happening.
  • Adding Details: Details can make your background pop. Items like furniture, foliage, or even weather can add depth to your scene. Just be careful not to overdo it—you don't want to distract from your main character.
  • Using Perspective: Perspective is a powerful tool in manga. It can make a scene feel dynamic and exciting. Practice drawing from different angles and perspectives to bring variety and depth to your backgrounds.

Remember, creating interesting backgrounds in manga is all about balance. You want to create a setting that supports your character and story without stealing the spotlight. With practice, you'll learn how to draw a manga character in motion, plus the perfect backdrop to make your scenes truly come alive!

If you're excited to create dynamic manga characters and want to expand your knowledge, consider joining Trey Zimmerman's workshop, 'How to Draw Beautiful Character Designs from Scratch.' This workshop will help you improve your character design skills and assist you in creating stunning manga characters that captivate your readers.