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  • Sudipto Paul

Draw a Manga illustration of your riverside Jungle trip

Imagine the scene, you are a backpacker exploring a lush riverside jungle. You go to pick berries from a nearby bush, and as you do so you happen to glance into the water and notice a fish staring right back at you, fascinated by your movement! Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to draw such a scene for your hiking diary?

Do your Research to draw a Manga

Many people shy away from using references and research to make their art and draw Manga. They do not realize that this could be holding up their learning process. In fact, even the best artists use references to make sure they can make the correct posture of their characters and recreate scenery accurately.

This means your first task is to find some reference photos and images that can help you create your art piece.

Jungle scenery: trees and a river with fishes

Manga: a trekker with backpack

For your background, you’ll want to find images of jungle scenes with rivers. Close-ups of jungle leaves will help you create the right background as well.

For your character, it can help to find a Manga character you already like and use that as your reference. This will give you a great place to start and you can make changes as you go.

Composition of your Manga

Next, it's time to think about the composition of your piece. Here you’ll need to make some decisions about the things you’ll most want to emphasize. For example, you may want to make the eye of the fish comically large as this will provide a focus point and convey the meaning of your illustration very clearly!

The best way to find a composition that you like is to try a few out as very rough quick sketches. The great thing about working digitally is that you can do this with ease, and without having to find some scrap paper to work on.

While mapping out your composition, create 2 - 4 thumbnails of the image, and consider the value structure of the picture you are creating. Remember the rule is to begin with when your drawing is in its simplified version. You should have separate values for each thing, such as the river, the jungle, and your character.

Proportions in your Manga

Proportions can be tricky, but they are important if you want your sketch for your travel journal to come out looking its best.

For a Manga drawing, the best way to do this is to use basic geometric shapes to represent the different features of your Manga character. For example, many people begin with a rectangle for the body and a circle for the head. You could even use a simple triangle shape for the fish!

By using basic shapes, you can ensure you get the right proportions, and that for example, the backpacker in your picture is the right size compared to the jungle, and the river. Furthermore it's worth noting that in Manga, proportions are often manipulated and extended, especially when it comes to drawing legs.

For a beginner in drawing Manga art, here are some resources you could preview and see how you could join in on the learning process of this expressive form of art and culture.


Art fundamentals for Anime style drawings -

Video courses

Anime Academy: Characters and Illustrations -

Anime Academy: Costumes and Outfits -

The Art of Manga: Drawing Unique Characters -

Expressive Manga Illustration in Watercolor -


How to Draw Kawaii Manga characters -

Manga for the Beginner: Everything you Need to Start Drawing Right Away! -

The Master Guide to Drawing Anime: 5-Minute Characters -

The Master Guide to Drawing Anime: Expressions & Poses -

Outline your Shapes

Once you have your basic proportions, you can start outlining your shapes into clean, clear features. Remember line work is hugely important when it comes to Manga, so accuracy is vital. However, this stage is not the final one so focus on drawing lightly and you can come back and ink the final draft and details later.

Facial Features

After you have got your basic outlines down, you can work on getting the face of the backpacker right. To do this it’s a good idea to use the classic Manga drawing approach and create the face from a sphere attached to a cone. Draw a line 2/3rds of the way down from the top of the sphere, and this is where your eyeline should be.

Eyes in Manga drawings are of course, oversized, and the shape of the eyes also helps to express what your character is feeling. To help you get the position of the eyes right you’ll need to draw a line of symmetry down the face. Remember this line will only be in the middle of the face if your character is standing straight on. However, if they are turned at an angle like a ¾ view, for example, when picking berries, the line will be a bit further towards the side. Once you have your symmetry line in place you can place an eye on each side.

To draw the nose on your character, find the bottom of your sphere and mark out a small circle where it meets the cone. This is the placement of the nose, which in a Manga style will be either a single line or curve.

Ink your Drawing

A clean outline in ink is the essence of the Manga style, and this means that this stage is one of the most important. By drawing digitally, you can gain an advantage here as you can immediately undo or erase any line strokes that need to be redrawn.

An astonished fish

The rules for Manga drawing include thicker outlines for anything in the foreground (up close to the viewer) and thinner lines for things in the background (things further away). In this you may want to draw your jungle trees with a thinner outline, as they form the background of your piece.

Also, anything you want to highlight should be outlined thickly so maybe the fish's eyes, to show its fascination.

Add in the Detail

Once you have got your illustration inked you can work in some detail. This may include adding shadows and shading, or color if you prefer. With your illustration completed, be sure to export it in the right format from your digital travel journal.

Make a wonderful memory of your adventures while being creative at the same time!

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