In our guide, How to Draw a Basic Manga Figure we learned the shapes that make up a figure. Naturally, males have a different body shape from females, even as different males have varying body shapes from one another. We’ll explore these differences in this guide, and look at which sort of male manga character is best suited to a particular body type.
We begin with the athletic male. This isn’t to say that the average male is athletic, but, like movies and TV, heroes and protagonists are, in general, better looking than the average Joe on the street—and in better shape, too.
In this case, we start with a stick figure of our male-to-be. In this figure, we just get the basics of the character’s posture and skeleton but can’t really tell too much about the character.
Just by adding some cylinders to represent the limbs and circles for the joints, the chest, and mid-section, our character comes into view much more easily. And he looks distinctly like a human male—one who either hits the gym regularly or at least keeps away from the potato chips and Big Macs.
The chest is more circular than the head and about one and a half times the head’s height and width. The forearm cylinder is larger than the upper arm. For the legs, instead of seeing them as two cylinders representing the calves and thighs, visualize them as one unit, getting progressively bigger and wider the closer it gets to the hips.
In this figure, the body is getting more definition, looking more like an actual human than a man-shaped compilation of circles and cylinders. The limbs curve more and connect to one another. We see the outline of a stomach. We also see a little more evidence of dimension to the body, in the wrist of the lowered hand as well as the upper back and the upraised arm.
In this figure, we see outlines defining the musculature. In males, this is most obvious in the abdomen, as the characters are routinely given the washboard abs that most comics and manga readers only dream of having. We see some definition as well to the ribs, the pecs, the clavicle, and the biceps.
In the previous figure, what was outlined previously is more realistically rendered. In addition to the abdominal muscles and the chest, we see some lines to denote the upper rib cage and others to define the neck, the thighs, and the calves.
Please note that although the chest is well defined, it is not particularly large. We’ll be comparing this chest with the muscular chest in a bit.
In this figure, David uses arrows to identify some of the key points of articulation (or anchor points) on the character. This is something to take into consideration when drawing your character; the points that have the most movement on a character consequently will have the most clothing folds. These points are around the joints—the shoulders, neck, elbows, crotch, and knees—all areas of articulation on a character.
In the next figure, the character is now garbed in some sort of jumpsuit. In the case of this figure and his naturally fitting clothes, we see the outline of the chest, and most of the rest of the body is lost to folds in the clothes. As you can see, this character’s outfit of choice is not particularly tight, as it would be on a more muscular character.
Also, note that at this point David is satisfied enough with the character’s body language and body type that he begins working on another equally important aspect to the character: the face.
Just for fun, David has added some elements to this character’s outfit to make the character more visually interesting. In this case, we see some miscellaneous pockets to add to the character’s belt and some lines down his outfit, which will make his clothing appear less like a jumpsuit and more like a uniform.
Clearly, this is a young soldier or perhaps a pilot.
In the case of this figure, a young pilot or soldier should be in shape, but there is no reason for them to be grotesquely muscular. A person in this position would be expected to keep himself in some semblance of good shape.
Consider this body type for your young adult male protagonist.
There is not a tremendous amount of difference between the teenage and athletic male, except for less development of muscles (particularly less definition to the abdomen and chest).
However, the teenage male is as popular as the athletic male body type, perhaps even more so, since boys’ Shonen manga is the most popular type of manga. Bearing that in mind, it’s worthwhile to pay close attention to design differences between the athletic adult male and the teenage male.
Of course, in this drawing, there is not a lot of difference, is there?
Still not a lot of difference, as we see the placement of circles and cylinders to give us a better idea of what the body will look like.
The largest difference is the chest, which is smaller at the bottom, and less circular than the athletic male would be. Again, this is because this chest will ultimately be less developed.
The limbs have changed from cylindrical to smooth in this picture, and the mid-section is wide, making the chest appear smaller. The legs are a bit thinner, too, compared to the athletic figure shown earlier. We will see that the arms are less muscular, too, although that becomes much more obvious in the next figure.
Here we see the outline of the musculature. Keep in mind, although everybody might not show that they have these muscles, a quick flip through an anatomy book will confirm that everybody indeed has these muscles. Much like the athletic figure shown earlier, we see the outline of the abdomen and chest, as well as a much less pronounced bicep.
Now, with the muscles more defined, we see that this is a figure with some upper-body definition, but not a lot in the way of muscles in the arms and legs.
Again, based on the natural movement of the body and the limbs, David identifies the points on the character’s body where there are most likely to be folds in the clothes. And, as before, these are the areas of the body with the most movement—the neck and the joints of the upper and lower limbs.
The previous figure is decked out in sporty, yet casual clothes. Of course, we don’t see much in the way of upper-body definition, and some of that is due to the jacket, but this young buck isn’t really ripped enough to see much anyway.
In the finished figure, we see that Dave chose the character’s jacket to have a pronounced cut in the mid-section, which emphasizes that this is a slender character.
Another nice touch is the fact that the character is wearing “high-waters,” pants that appear just a tad too short, and the cuffs of his jacket are just a bit short for his arms. It’s a subtle but effective touch, implying this character is probably growing faster than his parents can keep him in new clothes.
Now we move to the opposite spectrum, from large to small. There are plenty of kids in manga: bratty young brothers, runaways who happen into trouble, orphans who stumble into adventure or some hidden land. And there are some fundamental differences to drawing children.
The most obvious is that kids are shorter. Not only do they not have the height, but their heads are larger, to emphasize that the rest of the body is comparatively smaller.
Naturally, when you are drawing the outline of your character, limbs will be short, as will the line representing the spine. They would still be proportional to that of adult bodies, just a miniaturized version of adults.
In the previous drawing, we can see that his features are slender, and his neck in particular is slight, to emphasize that big ol’ noggin sitting atop the neck. The chest and mid-section are oval-shaped rather than circular, giving the figure a thin aspect.
As this figure is fleshed out, we see that limbs remain thin like the torso. There are no defined muscles, and the arms and legs are mostly straight. (In this figure, you can’t see the upper arms, but you’re just gonna have to take my word for it!)
One nice touch to this outfit is the enlarged neckpiece, which spotlights how thin this young man’s neck appears to be.
And there you have it—the basic of drawing a male manga figure! Make sure to check out our other guides on drawing a basic manga figure and drawing female figures. Happy drawing!
From The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Drawing Manga Illustrated, Second Edition by John Layman and David Hutchison for IDEA + DESIGN WORKS, LLC