Do Manga Artists Draw Digitally?

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Written by Juha

Modern art doesn’t just mean paint splatters and eccentric art pieces hanging in a museum. Because of technology, art has taken on a whole new fresh look, and that includes manga.

Today, manga artists rely on digital software, tools, and even CGI to help produce their work. That’s surprising to a lot of fans because if you examine a manga very closely, it all looks hand-drawn.

Certain details, effects, and even shading look as if they were scribbled by a pencil.

Those people aren’t exactly wrong, as digital art is able to incorporate the traditional hand drawing process and replicate it.

So, do manga artists draw digitally? The answer is yes. Manga artists do draw digitally, but some artists also use traditional mediums. There are two types of manga artists, those who use pencils and paper and those who solely rely on the digital medium. Some manga artists combine the two by first drawing the sketch of the manga traditionally and then finish the drawing digitally.

Manga Artists Draw Digitally

Manga drawing example that was drawn digitally

Traditionally, both manga and Western comics were drawn laboriously by hand. This process is both time-consuming and prone to error. Many manga artists were (and are still) taught to draw in pen in order to concrete the importance of avoiding mistakes.

Drawing by hand has its advantages and disadvantages.

For one, most artists are accustomed to drawing by hand, and that is how they were taught.

Drawing by hand also allows greater control over values, perspective, and shading. Digital drawing software, however, has sought to replicate the hand drawing process as closely as possible, making it an attractive option to many manga artists.

How Do Manga Artists Draw Digitally?

In order to draw digitally, manga artists use art software specially built for artists. Popular software includes Procreate, Photoshop, and ClipStudio. The latter is the most popular among manga artists, as it includes specific features that help supplement manga.

Today, with the use of software, manga artists are able to flawlessly create layouts, speech bubbles and add texture (such as crosshatching or dots) to their work.

Before, simply working on the layout of a manga page was a monumental task, and once it was completed, there was no option to go back. 

Art software allows manga artists to effectively manage their pages, volumes and spreads.

Technical Hardware

If the software is the virtual version of a page, then you can think of a stylus as the virtual version of a pencil.

Styluses are highly sophisticated works of technology. They contain an inner gyroscope that enables them to sense and react to pressure. 

Coupled with settings from a drawing application, the stylus can mimic any art supply or tool.

This is why drawing digitally gives manga artists a huge advantage. Manga artists now have access to an infinite number of colors and tools, as well as some features that wouldn’t typically be available to traditional hand-drawn artists (i.e., the airbrush or effect stamp).

The stylus is how the drawing software aims to replicate the hand-drawing process as closely as possible or make it even better than before.

Art And Artificial Intelligence

Drawing software can be quite intricate, with each tool having its own subset and personal settings. One huge feature of any digital drawing software is the layers tool.

The layers tool enables the artist to work on a piece layer by layer, making it easier to add or take away from the piece. It also allows for more elaborate details than traditional hand-drawing does.

With the advent of artificial intelligence, the tools found in drawing software are more impressive than ever.

Some tools are able to instantly produce things like zippers, chains, or clothing textures, which are normally meticulous and time consuming to do.

With manga a time-consuming art as it is, these features are invaluable.

Using Traditional Mediums

Just because drawing digitally has its perks, it doesn’t mean that manga artists shy away from drawing the old fashioned way. In fact, many prefer to do so!

Many manga artists sketch out their ideas or outlines on paper first, which is easier to do than on a tablet. They take these outlines and scan them into their software, which they are then able to trace over or even colorize.

Drawing digitally gives a sharper, more clean appearance to the manga, so most (if not all) manga artists use it for some portion of their creative process.

Clip Studio, the most commonly used art software by manga artists, even has a tool for cleaning up leftover eraser shavings on an imported drawing!

Related article: Clip Studio Paint Review

How do Manga Artists Draw Digitally?

Another important thing to consider with manga is that, typically, multiple people are involved in the creative process. Often, there will be one artist dedicated to outlines, another to coloring, one to lettering, and another to effects.

Working with pen and paper makes it easy to pass pages around a team and collaborate. Drawing software is able to replicate that by being able to send editable files instead.

In some cases, artists can work on a piece simultaneously, which is a major help for manga artists who are dealing with multiple pages and long projects.

For the solo manga artist, drawing digitally helps simplify the creative process and streamline it into one, compact application.

Built With The Manga Artist In Mind

Aside from its tools to create speech bubbles and manga effects with ease, another perk to using drawing software is the 3D model. 

Applications like Clip Studio Paint have taken the artists’ manikin and turned it virtual. The user can pose a three-dimensional manikin within the app and use it as a reference.

These manikins can be posed together or in different frames, which makes the drawing process much more efficient. Hand-drawn artists don’t get such a luxury unless they use tracing paper over an existing drawing (or reference a manikin by eye).

In some cases, artists sketch out an outline and then compare it against a 3D model to check that the proportions and perspective are accurate.

Digital Mediums Are Getting Popular

Today, digital drawing mediums are the leading choice among both anime and manga artists—the reasons why are numerous.

Digital drawing offers a high level of convenience and efficiency, which is critical to manga artists who have deadlines to meet and fans to please. It allows teams to work remotely or simultaneously.

It is also preferred for its ability to manage several pages and volumes of manga at once. Hand-drawing manga is a sort of organizational challenge to keep the outlines, storyboards, and finished pages separate.

Most software has a bookkeeping feature to keep finished pages together and easy to access.

Why Is Drawing Digitally Better?

Manga is a time-consuming art for a number of reasons. Artists have to draw (and perfectly replicate) the same characters over and over again, all while adding background and expressive elements to hold the reader’s interest.

If you look at manga from years past, before digital mediums were popular, you will notice that it is much simpler in nature. In particular, outfits and clothing are much more simplified, as are backgrounds.

This is because scribing such details is an intensive process. Manga today has a greater number of details, with some series even appearing in full color, something that was largely unheard of in the past.

Digital drawing streamlines the creative process in so many ways, allowing manga artists to take their work to a whole new level.

Why It’s Not Better

Digital drawing has its downsides, however. One thing that off puts some artists is that drawing digitally can be especially exact or blunt, not quite as intuitive as a pencil.

Or, some artists find that they are so accustomed to drawing traditionally that the learning curve is just too steep. For the most part, however, artists find that drawing digitally adds a sense of cleanliness to their drawings.

Lines appear crisper, and details more easily stand out when drawn digitally. In the case of pencil and paper, some minute details are prone to smudging or losing definition over time, so that when the manga goes to print (or is uploaded online), it has a lower resolution.

Control + Z

Perhaps the greatest advantage to drawing digitally is the ability to undo. Despite the miraculous innovation behind erasers in recent years, erasing can leave behind faint lines, shavings, or even damage other parts of the drawing.

Digital software makes it possible to work with many layers at a time, as well as reverse any mistake. Many artists upload a time-lapse of their entire drawing, as the software is capable of remembering every stroke and movement.

When a piece is saved, the artist can return to it at any point and access these same layers and tools. They can also take a finished piece and adjust the contrast, tint, and other values to their liking.

A New Age for the Manga Artist

Manga, like all art, advances with technology. It’s interesting to see how manga artists are incorporating both traditional and digital techniques into their work.

So the true answer to the question, “Do manga artists draw digitally?” is both yes and no!

Where one method will make the drawing process more convenient and efficient, manga artists jump to it.

With the advent of CGI and other technological advances on the horizon, it makes you wonder what manga will look like ten or even fifty years from now.

Hopefully not too different than what we’ve seen previously.

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