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How to Draw a Bishounen

Mamerto Adan is a feature writer who is back in college once again. Science is one of his favorite topics.


Learn to Draw Bishounen Anime Characters

"Bishounen" literally means “pretty boy,” and for me, they are challenging to draw. Unlike normal shonens, these characters are more flowery, complex and have different proportions.

I’m not too fond of bishounen characters, and my first exposure to them was by watching Magic Knight Rayearth. And by the way, did I mention that CLAMP has the best bishounen design there is? At least in my honest opinion. Nevertheless, I prefer the usual shonens over them, as they are easier to draw (and relate to).

I did try doing bishounens, and my first attempt is a portrait of Aoshi Shinomori from Rurouni Kenshin. And now that we mention portrait—I think it’s about time to scroll down so we can start drawing!

Naruto, a good shone example (left) with the CLAMP Bishounen Kamui (right).

Naruto, a good shone example (left) with the CLAMP Bishounen Kamui (right).

Shounen vs. Bishounen

Many of you probably knew this, but this is for the sake of the noobs out there. If you are a regular fan of shoujo anime, being a bishounen fan is life. Yet I know a lot of shonen otakus who are also followers of bishounens.

Shonen characters are often portrayed as an everyman, at some point flawed and comedic. Bishounens are their complete opposite, much like an antihero foil in shonen-themed anime.

Aesthetically, bishounens are drawn differently. Obviously, they tend to be prettier and more complex than their relatively simple shonen counterparts. Artists often adopt delicate features for their bishounen characters, at varying degrees. Bishounens of shojo-themed manga often have overly effeminate faces and builts, to the point that they are basically girls at first glance. A good example is the art of Keiko Takemiya, though we could also see shojo-themed manga with manlier bishounens, like the pretty boys of CLAMP. For the shojo-themed manga, we get characters like Mamoru Chiba from Sailor Moon, Lantis from Magic Knight Rayearth and Yuki Soma from Fruits Basket.

In the case of shonen manga, they are not as effeminate as their shojo manga counterpart. In fact, they may adopt a more masculine feature. If shonens are flawed, bishounens are sometimes presented as twisted, though there are few exemptions. Good examples include Aoshi Shinomori from Rurouni Kenshin, the Gundam Wing pilots, Lelouch from Code Geass and Sasuke Uchiha from Naruto.

Effeminate features taken aside, bishounens are also portrayed to be slimmer, taller and flowery than shonens.

Anyway, enough said and let’s start drawing!


1. Begin With the Wire Frame

You have seen this in my past articles involving full bodied anime figures. The figure we will be doing today won’t be striking any complicated pose. Just a simple standing position, yet we still need to figure out the initial proportions, the overall height, and everything we need to get an initial impression of our character. Hence as always, we will begin with the basic wire frame, which involves easily erased faint lines. Again, feel free to adjust when you feel to.


2. Add the Sausages and Eggs

Whenever I do this technique and show this online, I will credit Art-Attack’s Neil Buchanan for sharing this to us. Again, the eggs are for rounder parts, like the head and the torso, while the sausages are for the limbs. Use the wire frames as a guide. Make the eggs and sausages as faint as possible for easy erasure when you are done. Feel free to adjust when the proportions or pose is off. Do note that we are making a slimmer character here, but we may adjust later.

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3. More Sausages and Eggs Still

With the basic proportions of our character slowly coming to life, we will then add more sausages and eggs until our rough human shape becomes more well defined. Notice how I add smaller eggs to form the torso and neck? What started as a round shape now has chest and waist. I also use egg shapes on the shoulder joints just to know where the shoulders will be when I do the outfit.


4. Defining the Rough Line

With the eggs and sausages now forming our rough human, we will then trace the outline and make it more defined. Again, when you see something wrong, erase and adjust.


5. Give Our Character a Face

One of the hardest parts when drawing a bishounen is constructing the face. Unlike shonens, which have simpler features, bishounens are more flowery and delicate. The eyes are smaller than shounens, the shape of the face longer, like that of a mature person. For a quick tip on how to draw anime faces, you may give my previous articles a quick visit. But to be quick, we will use vertical lines to align the nose and mouth, and the horizontal line to align the eyes. And since we are doing a bishounen here, female features apply. Feel free to make him effeminate.


6. Doing the Bishounen Hair

Another source of frustration I have is the bishounen hair. It’s basically as complex as a shojo hairstyle! With the shonen hair, all we need is to get spiky. Bishounen hair on the other hand could range from wavy, with fringes, long, everything! Drawing Aoshi Shinomori back in high school was a nightmare with those fringes. And Aoshi’s hair is basic compared to other bishounens’ crowning glory. What we did here is what I always see in CLAMP character through scaled down and less elaborate. I will never get into their level!


7. The Costume

What I have been noticing about bishounen clothes is that they tend to be less wild than their shonen counterparts. Bishounens in shonen themed anime could get wacky in their attires, but mostly they are not as colorful. When featured in Shojo anime, they dress neat and formal. Hence, we will give our character here a plain shirt.


8. Inking and Finishing Touch

Finally, you may ink your finished art. Start with cleaning the rough lines so you won’t confuse yourself when you start inking.


9. Final Work

It’s up to you how you will enhance your final art. In my case I love shades and hatches, as it gives my work its depth.


Mamerto Adan (author) from Cabuyao on November 03, 2019:

Thanks Louise! Actually anyone could be good at drawing. Practice is the key here.

Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on November 03, 2019:

That's a really nice drawing, I wish I could draw like that. Maybe I should practice this!