Let’s take a look at the process behind the creation of manga.
If you haven’t heard of “A Bride’s Story” (“Otoyomegatari”), they should give it a look. I’m thoroughly enjoying the story, but even if it’s not for you, give the art a look over – it’s a very detailed piece of work. Kaoru Mori, the mangaka, has uploaded a video of her drawing a manga page from scratch. I’ll use this as a source to show the process in which manga is created:
The first step Mori does is start on the draft of her creation. This is a normal process for any drawing, but in a manga there will be many stages of planning, whether that be literary (ploy) or artistic (character sheets). This draft is usually on the same sheet as the final drawing, but novice mangakas sometimes draw their drafts on separate sheets of paper and transfer a cleaner version to the final sheet before moving to the next stage. This sketch is done in a very light shade of pencil/graphite pen which is easier to erase than a darker shade. There are also non-photographic pens that contain a blue ink that won’t show up in a scan of the image.
Mori starts drawing the main character
she wears a special glove which attempts to prevent smudging
Now that the guidelines have been set down, She starts the inking process. The mangaka uses a special pen for the process, the most notable of these being the Gpen which is used predominantly for harsh striking lines. Beginner mangaka often start with the stiffer (and hence easier to use) kaburapen, while experts occasionally opt to use the marupen for its finer lines. It’s very important that the artist gets this stage right as accidental strokes or other mistakes can cause the entire piece to be written off and the page must be created from scratch again.
Logically, shounen artists use the GPen more than many other genre artists as instances of speed lines and sharp visuals are common, while shoujo artists use the marupen for the fine details in the female-targeted works.
You’ll see that in the video Mori uses the edges of her pen nib and other techniques to get different styles of lines without using a multitude of pens.
Occasionally artists will use crosshatching during inking and leave out the next stage.
Mori begins inking
Inking goes a lot further into detail and shading than the draft
If the artist has decided not to crosshatch manually, they can apply sheets of toner. These sheets come with already created designs on them which can be applied to the artwork. Designs range from shading sheets to clouds, sparkles and speed lines. Mori cuts out an area of the sheet which she then places over the drawing and flattens, making sure there is no trapped air and that the tone has applied fully. Using a craft knife unneeded toner is scraped away, leaving the desired shading.
These steps are usually all done by the manga’s creator, but with larger productions they may have assistants working under them who they can distribute the work to.
Mori assesses how much toner she will need
The toner is applied with paper cement and a flat-edged tool
The excess toner is scraped off
Shading on the face complete
Sparkle toner (ﾉ◕ヮ◕)ﾉ*:･ﾟ✧
This video gives a pretty accurate summary of the process that manga goes through during creation. There are some other aspects of design that are not covered here though. Preparatory scripting/storyboarding, character mock-ups and deciding where the panels go all contribute massively to a manga’s success and final design. However, for this once-off drawing, these steps were not necessary.
A lot of studios are starting to opt for digital alternatives, but unfortunately I haven’t been able to find any statistics about how popular this is, but there are definitely artists using both techniques. There are several large software products that are targeting this market which provide large libraries of screentone, easy mistake reversion, etc. . Despite the comfortable tactile of paper, the saved costs on redrawing for mistakes, smudges and the expenses of a traditional mangaka’s equipment make it an attractive option for publishing houses.
If you want more videos of manga drawing, the mangaka of One Punch! has a daily live stream