Mastering the manga art style is not a simple formula. It takes a lot of practice and a willingness to try new techniques in your art.
But with the right learning materials you can shave off some time from the learning process.
In this post I’ve organized the best books covering the manga/anime art style. Each book has a different focus on specific types of manga, hands/feet/hair, chibi styles, or specific techniques to improve your manga drawing skills.
Take a look over the list and see which titles stand out to you.
The Master Guide to Drawing Anime
One of the best intro books you can get is The Master Guide to Drawing Anime. This covers everything you could possibly need to know including facial expressions, clothes, posing, and quick tips for mastering the manga style.
The author Christopher Hart has written dozens of books about art and self-teaching. He really knows how to convey information clearly regardless of your skill level.
This book is full of templates and step-by-step guides to help you master the manga art style. If you follow along with each chapter and do the exercises on your own then you should see a big jump in skill.
Each page is full of rich information and the print quality is superb. This is a must-have title for anyone serious about drawing manga.
Learning how to draw in the style of Japanese manga is one thing. But the book Mastering Manga goes even further to teach the structure of manga layouts.
You’ll learn how to create poses and compositions that help to tell your story in action. The author Mark Crilley uses plenty of visual examples to convey each idea so you can follow along with ease.
You should pick up this book once you have some basic ability to draw in the manga style. Mastering Manga teaches more about anatomy, posing, facial expressions, and the overall “flow” of drawing a graphic novel from scratch.
Mark does not get too deep into the art style itself. However by practicing these exercises you should walk away with a much stronger practical understanding of manga.
This book is perfect for anyone who wants to create their own graphic novels or even their own manga-style webcomic.
It’s a spiral-bound book so you can keep it open on your desk for any page without crinkles. The chapters progress slowly from faces and poses to sparkling anime eyes, crazy costumes, and wacky hair designs.
Inside the book you’ll find individual lessons with tracing paper to practice. If you repeat these lessons frequently enough you will see results.
Note this book is not for an absolute beginner. You should already feel comfortable drawing from your imagination, but you don’t need any practice with the manga style yet.
In a line of Chris Hart books I have to say that Manga for the Beginner is truly a fantastic intro to drawing the anime/manga style.
This is one of the longer books in this list with a total of 192 pages. You’ll find many different chapters covering facial expressions, body poses, costumes, and other styles like chibi art.
I will say that some of the body posing exercises can be intimidating. Chris doesn’t do a great job holding your hand through this section, so you might feel a bit frustrated when doing these exercises for the first time.
But just be patient and keep trying!
Over time you will develop the muscle memory to replicate these styles with ease. And the exercises in this book can help you get there.
This book spans 240 pages full of exercises for drawing and coloring different anime figures. Many different artists contribute to this book so you get to learn from a variety of experts.
If you have no idea where to start but need an overall view of manga drawing then this book is for you. It covers anatomy, clothing, facial expressions, and delves into color theory for styling your drawings.
And for the price you really can’t beat all the info you get with this book. However I only recommend it for beginners who need an overview of the manga style. Otherwise you’re better off with a more focused manga drawing book.
This is the most comprehensive book on the subject with over 900 faces for you to study, clone, and restyle for yourself. The book splits 180 pages into chapters based on facial type.
You’ll learn to draw faces for babies, young kids, adults, and elderly manga characters. You can also browse through faces based on positive or negative expressions like anger, stress, confusion, excitement, or confidence(among many others).
Drawing great manga faces comes with lots of repetition, and this book will help. If you’re trying to improve your manga drawing abilities then this should be a staple on your list.
Drawing Manga Animals, Chibis, and Other Adorable Creatures
It’s a really cute book for kids but also great for artists who adore the cutesy anime/manga faces and creatures. The book spans 160 pages full of step-by-step lessons covering faces, eyes, and more specific animals in detail.
It does help if you already have some drawing experience but you can pick this up as a beginner. The steps are pretty simple to follow and this is a great book to build your confidence early on.
However it does not touch the “traditional” manga style so it is meant for a niche audience.
Pop Manga is authored and guided by skilled manga artist Camilla d’Errico. This book starts from the very beginning of manga art and moves through lessons that anyone can follow.
You’ll get a lot of artistic direction and beautiful illustrations scattered throughout each chapter. The lessons follow a natural progression so you’ll learn how to draw each piece to completion without much struggle.
This means you will need to do a lot of practicing on your own. Nothing good comes without work.
But Camilla’s writing style is so easy to follow and her examples are brilliant. She covers all the mainstream manga/anime styles along with chibi art and related styles for graphic novelists.
Pop Manga is a stupendous book for beginners who want a solid introduction to the world of manga art.
The Manga Fashion Bible
Character designers and hobbyists alike want to draw their own manga characters. And a big part of this process is the clothing.
If you want to build your clothing design skills then The Manga Fashion Bible is the #1 book to use. It’s a fairly new release with the 1st edition being published in Q4 of 2016.
It’s also fairly short but very detailed. Each exercise covers a different concept borrowing outfit ideas from real mangas and Tokyo’s fashion scene. You’ll learn how to match shirts/pants, dresses, and more wacky outfits with accessories and color schemes.
The author Chris Hart has written a lot of these books so if you’ve read any other titles under his name then I think you’ll like this one too.
The Manga Fashion Bible covers fashions for all seasons and character styles. This book will not only help you plan fashion ideas for your characters, but will also improve your manga drawing capabilities by leaps & bounds.
How to Draw Hair
Drawing hair is one of the most frustrating parts of learning to draw. Realism can be the toughest aspect but manga styles are still very complex.
That’s why How to Draw Hair can be such a valuable resource for aspiring artists. It’s crazy cheap and surprisingly long with over 200 pages of different exercises to pick from.
The author does a good job organizing hair styles by type and gender. Although many of them can work for androgynous manga characters too!
It helps to already have some ability to draw manga on your own. You don’t need to be a skilled artist but you shouldn’t pick up this book as a complete beginner.
If you’re brand new then consider grabbing a copy of Manga for the Beginner along with How to Draw Hair. They both compliment each other nicely and you can move from one to the other seamlessly.
Manga Crash Course
Another beginner’s book you can try is Manga Crash Course by Mina Petrović. She’s a specialized illustrator and manga teacher based out of Serbia with years of experience drawing & painting.
This book is made for complete beginners who need a hand-held approach to learning manga. You’ll learn the whole artistic process from drawing hair, facial expressions, poses, and compositions to inking and creating a completed manga.
You can pick this up with little-to-no knowledge and work through the lessons somewhat comfortably. If you have no artistic experience then you’ll need to practice a lot more on your own.
But the end results can be fantastic and with this book you’ll learn so much more than just an art style.
With even 1-2 months of practice you will see big improvements in your storytelling abilities and your visual compositions.
The exercises are easy enough to do with a sketchbook and any pencil. Each chapter is easy to follow and naturally leads into the next chapter. So as you work through the exercises you’ll be building a visual library of knowledge to draw from.
You’ll find lots of pictures for each exercise and the steps are easy to follow regardless of your background.
However this is a pretty short book totaling about 60 pages. So while it is easy to follow it’s also not a comprehensive guide.
I do feel it’s an excellent starting point and you can go pretty far if you practice daily.
Basic Anatomy for the Manga Artist
Here’s yet another book from Chris Hart focused on the topic of human anatomy.
Basic Anatomy for the Manga Artist is undeniably the best book you can get on proportions and limbs with a manga slant. You’ll learn about the musculature of the body and how it all fits together, along with the visual differences between men and women.
Note this is not a pure anatomy book. If you want a deeper study guide then look over our anatomy book list.
But this is a deep enough guide for anyone just practicing the anime/manga art style. Chris explains the different shapes and sizes of muscles along with different poses in action. He has more than enough knowledge to explain things clearly and he offers plenty of exercises.
Anatomy is a big topic so you won’t master it in a day or even a month. But this book is the best starting point for anyone studying the manga art style with precision.
Drawing Simple Manga & Anime Eyes
Drawing Simple Manga & Anime Eyes is the definitive guide to Japan’s unique eye designs. I absolutely recommend this title if you’re trying to master anime eyes in your artwork. And this book is very similar to How to Draw Hair and they’re both published by the same company.
Over 220 pages the author introduces hundreds of unique facial expressions and eye styles. You’ll learn by copying in a step-by-step fashion which should help you move through a natural learning progression.
These exercises can be practiced by a complete beginner so you don’t need much prior art knowledge. However it certainly helps to know a little about manga art and you’ll move through the book quicker.
But this is the only solid art book teaching the anime/manga eye techniques so if you’re stuck on that area then you’ll gain a lot from these exercises.
How to Draw Manga: Mastering Manga
My last book in this list is How to Draw Manga: Mastering Manga by Andrew Harnes. It’s a pretty short book just shy of 100 pages teaching all the core basics of manga drawing.
You’ll learn the fundamental artistic process, which materials to use, and how to draw manga characters from different angles.
Naturally this leads into many different chapters on eyes, ears, noses, hair, and facial expressions. Andrew also moves into poses and how to draw characters doing different actions.
The chapters are fully actionable so you can easily copy the exercises and study from them as you go along. The only downside is the short length of this book.
However the writing is superb and the illustrated examples are designed to help you really see how manga art is formed.
And that’s my list! I know there’s a lot to choose from but you’ll notice each book does have its unique benefits.