Thursday, 14 April 2011

How to Draw Manga - Getting Started

I’ve not uploaded a review for while, the main reason being that I’ve been busy working drawing some comics. So as someone who’s gone through the comic-making process unearthing this book was a pretty interesting experience. If this post turns into half review and half tutorial, then I apologise in advance now.

There are virtually hundreds of ‘How to…’ books on the market (and let’s be honest, a good deal of them are cynical cash-ins), so it’s good to check ahead to make sure you’ll get one that will be of genuine use. The first thing to consider is what you actually want to draw. A lot of books will be advertised as being about drawing manga, but inside is a sole focus on making pin-up work in full colour, ignoring generally universal standards of manga being in black and white and maintaining some form of story. It’s totally fine if that’s the kind of work you want to make, but as these books mainly focus on faces, bodies and proportions it’s essentially a regular life drawing book aimed at the otaku market. Again there’s nothing bad with that, it’s just good to be aware.

If you’re wanting to draw a comic containing proper sequential art you might need to be a bit more picky about what to buy. The book for this post isn’t a totally perfect example, but it’s most definitely one of the better ones out there. Originally published in Japan, the ‘How to Draw Manga’ line has been popular enough to run into multiple volumes. ‘Getting Started’ gives a general overview of many aspects which makes it a good starter for first timers. There’s a lot covered, so a list of pros and cons is probably for the best way around this one:

- Emphasis on black and white artwork, including information on ink and pen types, as well as drawing techniques.
- Speedlines, tones, speech bubbles - advice on skills that are specific to comic making.
- Considers double-page layouts, bleeds and lots of tips on how to position your artwork without it running off the edge of the page when reproduced (a genuine hazard not to be underestimated!).
- Creating thumbnails and ideas on how to create a page layout. Simple stuff but it’s remarkable that most manga creation books do not include this.
- There’s a chapter on backgrounds…. seriously. Manga. Backgrounds. Madness!

- Originally released in 1997 it’s a bit of an old book now. Consequently there’s no content relating to drawing digitally and other areas such as manual toning are essentially redundant.
- Stationary references are obscure and potentially hard to find in western territories.
- For my money the bit where it encourages ‘referencing’ in your artwork is morally, and potentially legally, dubious.

A mix of good and bad then, but as an all-in-one starter guide this is very good for anyone wanting to clarify a few of the more technical areas before diving in. More typical areas regarding human figures, proportion etc. are still all present and correct as with any other drawing guide, but here are suitably brief which gives you enough of an idea on issues to be aware of, without enforcing any one particular style on the reader. Comics, and in my opinion this especially applies to manga, are very much about an individual expression. Replicating someone else’s style will only get you so far. Get the book, understand what you need to do, and then get drawing!


  1. I like the books that still show you how to draw the traditional art is so much fun to do but I don't find it as reliable as hand drawing techniques. It is cool because Hayao Miyazaki isn't really into the digital stuff so he started going back to drawing his films free hand frame by frame.

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