15 se­crets to help you get bet­ter at manga

Vet­eran of the UK manga scene So­nia Leong gives key ad­vice to artists want­ing to draw and paint au­then­tic-look­ing manga…

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So­nia Leong gives key ad­vice to artists want­ing to draw au­then­tic-look­ing manga.

While the style and fin­ish of manga is rel­a­tively min­i­mal­ist in com­par­i­son to other types of comics, this ap­par­ent sim­plic­ity is de­cep­tive. Ev­ery line is a choice made by the artist. The think­ing is never use ten strokes to de­pict some­thing if just a sin­gle, well-placed one would suf­fice.

This prin­ci­ple of con­cen­trat­ing on what’s needed to re­late a story per­me­ates through­out manga cre­ation. Ev­ery panel is an ex­er­cise in choice: size, zoom, cam­era an­gle, speech bub­ble po­si­tion­ing, and type of back­ground. Ev­ery page works as a whole to con­trol the reader’s ex­pe­ri­ence, par­tic­u­larly in pac­ing.

Pro­duc­tion is geared to­wards min­imis­ing costs to max­imise num­ber of pages, so most manga is in cheap black and white. This has led to the de­vel­op­ment of spe­cial­ist tech­niques to add depth and un­der­stand­ing and to en­hance both ac­tion and emo­tion. Stretch­ing limbs, blurry lines and ir­reg­u­lar pan­els add dy­namism. Ex­treme close-ups, ab­stract back­grounds and sym­bol­ism add in­ten­sity and at­mos­phere. We’re not afraid to steer away from re­al­ism if it helps to con­vey mean­ing more ef­fec­tively. It’s not just about how you draw the char­ac­ters, it’s how you tell the story.

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