A Manga How-to Guide

So far, everything's been mostly about writing stories and such. Now it's time for some tips about manga! First of all, you can't really pull off a good manga until you learn to draw. I've looked at some different styles, and here are some thing I believe mangakas should practice drawing to get a better look to their pages.

Number 1: Profiles
Like it or not, people are NOT 2-D--unless they're stick figures, like the ones I draw on MSPaint. Practice drawing heads from different angles, especially from the side, as well as even from above or below. Actually, profiles can be drawn almost the same way that heads facing forward are, with what is pretty much just half of the chin plus the nose, stuck to the side of the face. The lips and eye can be tricky, of course, but try not to indent TOO far--it only makes the head look like a bean. Or maybe an eggplant. Your pick.

Number 2: Emotions
Unless the character is as emotionless as Raggy Anne the rag doll--or Sesshomaru from Inuyasha--you need to be able to convey a characters thoughts and feelings. Draw about a million heads, and then try different expressions on them. The shown expression can change with simply the cock of an eyebrow, the wrinkling of a brow, the height and arc and tilt of a mouth, the sparkle in their eye, the amount the eyes are open (like they could be squinting or winking), or even if their nose is wrinkled. Sweatdrops and popping veins help a little bit, but on their own they don't work so well. Sometimes, though, when a character is being evil-ish, or is incredibly sad or depressed or shocked or whatever, you can darken the top of their head, about all the way down to their nose. The mouth and any extras (the sweatdrops and such) will convey what the feelings is that isn't shown in their shadowed eyes. Also, sometimes artists use this so the reader feels that they can't properly show the emotion, because it's so intense.

Number 3: Hands
Normal human fingers, unfortunately, are not pointy. They are round, and split into 3 sections, except for the thumb, which has only two. While my dad put a very horrid technique in my head that'd I'd rather not remember and would definitely rather not share, another way is to try sketching circular segments to be the segments of your fingers, ataching them end to end, being careful that they're proportionate with that finger as well as the ones next to it. That way, they can bend at what will hopefully be a more natural angle, and won't look like claws. Otherwise, just practice--maybe even try to come up with your own style. If sharp fingers work for you, though, then by all means, stick to it (sometimes the effect actually makes it look better, but it depends on how the rest of the art is, usually).

Number 4: Proportions
A hand should not, I repeat, should NOT be smaller than an eye. Most body parts can be measured by other body parts. Did you know that if you had a third hand, you could just barely wrap your fingers, touching, around you neck. You're also about 10 times as high as the length of your feet, and your arm span, from fingertip to fingertip, is the same measurement as your height. Your middle finger and thumb can almost circumnavigate your wrist, as well. Keeping these in mind, try drawing two of each thing next to each other for practice. Trust me, I botch up proportions a lot, and it makes the characters look like they have a birth defect.

Number 5: Movement
Movement is harder to draw than it first looks. Study what other artists do, and/or try out your own ideas. Patches of smoke with speed lines running off of the page or panel work sometimes when there's meant to be a chibi or a Saturday-cartoon effect of a fast get-away, and arched lines can show the swiveling of a head or body. Experiment, and see what looks good. Also, a character's pose can also suggest movement. You can show them skidding to a hasty stop, or laughing their butt off, or springing for an attack, even without extra lines. This, at least for me, can be a little tricky, but that's why we practice.

Number 6: Speech Bubbles
'Speech Bubbles' includes thought bubbles and narrator notes and the like. A circle or oval is fairly easy, but then there's the fact that it also has to fit some writing in it, and has to point to the mouth of whomever is speaking. I usually draw a rough circle-oval shape and leave it blank until the page is finished, then add the stem and fill in what it says. With thought bubbles, it's a little more tricky. Actually, you can make thought bubbles just like speech bubbles, only instead of a stem you use increasingly decreasingly-sized bubbles leading to the thinking character's person. As for the cloud type, it has a malleable rim (since it's not a perfectly round circle) and so can be tricky for blancing it out to make it look good. So, draw a circle slightly smaller than how far you want the rim to be, then create arcs off of the curved sides all the way around until you reach that point again. The result should be a more or less neater appearance. Same thing goes with shouts, though with those you can even place them over or beneath whatever you want, including other speech bubbles. Just don't cover up TOO much. As for narrator boxes, those are easy--a square or rectangle is more easily drawn than a perfectly round circle or oval--but it only works if it's a square or rectangle and NOTHING ELSE. Just because all of it's sides are perpengicular to the two other sides it's attached to doesn't mean it works--it just looks odd. Make the rectangle big enough or put it somewhere else, but don't just add a growth off of the side if one written part goes too far to the side. It looks unprofessional. You can, howeer, attach boxes together at the corner or top an bottom or whatnot, as long as each has it's own complete thought that does run right into the other one it's connected to. It doesn't look neat that way, just a race for space.

There are also some elements I feel should have some notice:

If you can't read your comic/manga properly unless there are arrows present between panels, you have a problem. A page should be set up so that the reader can tell almost without thinking what to read first, then second, then third. Tell on the side somewhere on the first page which way you're supposed to read the manga--left to right or right to left. And make sure YOU know which way, too. It can only get confusing if it seems to switch. Then again, if your layout's good, maybe one can tell which way to read simply by looking at it. Like with the first page of Alice 19th, start everything in the upper corner on the starting side and go from there, descending down below and then over, so you know that that's how it's going to be, since that's the way the first page led you.

If you're one of those artists who loves to put in fillers, it's a rather bad idea to just slap them in at the very center of the story line. Put them in between scenes, or chapters--when a new chapter begins, you can put one both before and after the chapter title page. As a reader myself, I understand nothing is as irritating as having been rapt up in the storyline to suddenly have it cut into by a character or two in a certain pose and/or suit. A good picture, for sure, but really, I'm trying to READ. I get the same feeling when my brother tries to talk to me when I'm reading a book. It gets me irriatable in a very dangerous way...

Some people use photoshop or some such when they do their pictures. First off, this can very easily be overdone. Not EVERYTHING needs to have textures or patterns; if it's one solid color, KEEP IT one solid color. I don't know about you, but MY walls don't have Tie-Dye splotches of white on some other color, nor my shirts or pants, except for the ones that are, well, Tie-Dye. Sure, if it's just empty space behind the characters, go ahead, get funky, and no one can say no to a little wallpaper, but sometimes it doesn't really help. Not to mention that it makes everything distracting, plus sometimes it blends in. Sometimes, all I can really notice at first is a person's shirt and the wall behind them, since they contrast, and my eyes skip right over their pants. I always have to double-check, to make sure they actually have them.

First, only attempt a contest if a lot of people read your manga. Second, once again, don't start one smack dab in a chapter's center. You can use it as a transitional post,to go from one setting to another, or can announce it around the chapter title page. I don't think anyone will be interested in a contest as much if they have to remember it's there as they read on past it, trying to get back to the story so they don't forget what the page before had said.

You can't start drawing a character named XX (insert proper noun) who is an XX (insert profession) who XXs (insert verb) and can talk to XXs (insert noun). That's only a character. In a manga, that character needs to be put into a story to be of any use. Which also means the making of other characters for them to interact with, as well. What is their goal? Is there an antagonist? How do they end up getting involved? Answer these questions in your story by drawing it out!

So there it is, what I believe is what you should keep an eye on when making a manga, or at least in my opinion. Actually, I probably covered everything there IS when you're making a manga. Or close to it. Since, well, you should work on all of it, anyway. They are the elements that I believe influence the quality of a manga. Then again, I've seen a few that lack in more than half of these qualities that are fantastic to read, thanks to their artist's ideas or humor or story, and that's always something to think of, too--these elements are useless unless there's a good mind to use them. Either way, it's your choice to listen to me or not; hopefully you will at least try some of these techniques.

And hopefully you will see this all as constructive critism, and not a big insult. Because I don't want to be running form pitchfork-wielding mangaka after my life for critisizing their work.

Have a good day--and while you're at it, put that pitchfork down...thanks.

P.S. If you want to be a part of the Writers' Block writers and help other artists with their works, please contact me so you can be made a Guest Poster and a member of the site. We (I) would be grateful to have you!