Learn to draw manga

Always wanted to get your own manga down on paper? Find out here how to do it – from the storyboard to the finished illustration

Are you ready for manga? Well then: Totemo subarashī, yo! (Japanese for ‘super, great, amazing!’) Mangas are comics that are mostly produced in black and white and originate from Japan. They tell stories with the help of images – and you read them in the Japanese way from right to left. Special features of the painted characters include their large eyes and often expressive faces.
In this text you will get a lot of background knowledge and learn more about the possibilities for drawing your own manga – and which material is suitable for it.

No worries if you’re hooked on color: Nowadays, single pictures in the Japanese style of comics and caricatures are also referred to as mangas as well as the usual picture stories. And some of these are brightly colored! Even manga books in color are no longer an exception. The possibilities of painting in manga style are unlimited. That also applies to you too from now on. Isn’t that great?

Manga script: What is the plot – and which characters will appear?

Before you create the pictures for your manga, write down exactly what you want to draw. When will what happen? What characters can be seen and where is the action taking place? The script is important preparatory work for creating your manga in a structured way. In the script, you write down in detail what your readers will see in which picture, what the people are saying and what action is taking place. With mangas, it is typical to tell a story using lots of images and a little text. This narrative medium enables a fast reading flow and the reader immediately has the feeling of ‘being there’.

Create the basic structure of your manga in a storyboard

The storyboard is also part of the basic structure if you want to draw a manga. A storyboard contains panels. Panels are single images in a sequence. To draw them, a pencil with a soft lead, such as the MONO 100 with a hardness of 3B to 6B, is ideal. Its graphite lead has a high density and creates an intense contrast. Because the lead is very soft, it is very easy to draw with.

The advantage of working with pencil: With the help of a good eraser you can erase drawn lines again. Depending on whether you are erasing a larger area or a fine line, it is convenient to have erasers of different sizes ready on your drawing board. For example the MONO L for large areas and a finer variant like the MONO zero for single lines or highlights.

Got your story down on paper and happy with it? Great, then you can paint your drawings in more detail and then start with the outlines.

How to draw speed lines and outlines for your manga – and these are the pens you'll need

To draw exact lines, fineliners such as the MONO drawing pen are particularly suitable. The long metal tip on this pen is particularly practical as you can use it with a ruler if you want to draw e.g. speed lines. This graphic style element depicts strong feelings or high speeds. Don’t know what outlines are? Outlines are borders, silhouettes and contours.

The lead in the MONO drawing pen is filled with water-based pigment ink. The waterproof, black ink is therefore ideal for grids, speed lines, hatching or even outlines.


How to brush? How to add volume, shadow and plasticity to your figures with the Brush Pens

Picture gallery creation of an illustration

To give your figures more volume, shadow and plasticity, you need a pen that is suitable for painting and coloring flat surfaces, such as the ABT Dual Brush Pen. It has two different tips. In addition to the wide brush that you can use to paint the whole surface, you’ll find a fine and firm tip on the other side, which is great for details and edges.

You can achieve more depth and dynamics with various color gradations. The ABT Dual Brush Pen is available in 13 different shades of gray. This makes it easier for you to create flowing transitions and shadows.

You can use colour to create atmosphere in your illustrations

Instead of just working with grey tones, you can of course also add color. color determines the character, mood or impression. If you want to draw mangas, you can use different color palettes comprising coordinating colors. Depending on the application – and your preferences – some very extensive manga color palettes are available. The water-based brush pens in the ABT Dual Brush Pen Manga-Set Shojo, for example, are intended more for feminine mangas. They contain delicate and light cyan and magenta tones that look like pastel shades. The water-based ABT Dual Brush Pen Manga-Set Shonen for the masculine genre, on the other hand, contains stronger shades.

The different Manga genres

Over the course of time, different genres have developed, so each has its own visual language and coordinating colors:

  • Kodomo for small children
  • Shōnen for male teenagers
  • Shōjo for female teenagers
  • Seinen for (young) men
  • Josei or “Ladies’ Comic” for (young) women 

The ABT PRO series for even, streak-free coloring

The ABT PRO is an alcohol-based marker with two tips. A brush tip made of flexible nylon has a particularly elegant sweep to it and the chisel tip provides for a wide variety of strokes. With the markers in the ABT PRO series you can paint streak-free surfaces. The slim and ergonomic shape of the pens ensures a great feel. In addition, the series with 107 different colors offers a huge selection. It is perfect for achieving the finest gradations between the individual colors as well as tone-in-tone works and color gradients!

The blender – and how to use it

I like to use the blender to make the color pigments ‘float’.

Chen-Long Chung, mangaka and illustrator

The ABT PRO N00, also called blender, is ideal for lightening all alcohol-based colors, creating patterns or adding accents. For example, if you want to make soap bubbles or ornaments for your manga, take the blender and paint over the color. It works much like an ink eraser: the color pigments detach from the paper and you can create great effects. However, the colors are not completely erased, just lightened.

Some artists use the ABT PRO N00 as a primer to get colors to flow better and make them look like a watercolor painting. The color pigments are detached from the paper by the primer, making it easier to paint color gradients.

An important element of your manga equipment is good, robust paper

It is best to use very smooth paper if you work with Brush Pens. After all: the nylon tip is sensitive. Rough, conventional copy paper is therefore less suitable. To protect your pens and also get very good results, paint on high opacity smooth writing and drawing paper such as the Tombow Bristol Paper.

Your manga will simply look so much better on high-quality paper. Due to its high strength, Tombow Aquarelle Paper is particularly suitable for water-based pens. Paper is an important element and on this paper, you can erase your sketches without damaging the page. You can also draw outlines using a very fine fineliner without piercing the paper – and if you use the ABT Dual Brush Pens, you can apply color without tearing the paper. With the right paper, you’ll get clean results and this makes the whole process twice as much fun!

Step by step guide to creating a manga – at a glance:

  • Get hold of a piece of decent paper that suits your colors. Smooth paper with a high level of opacity for alcohol-based markers and paper with high strength for water-based pens.
  • The script: Develop a story and characters and make some sketches.
  • The storyboard: Try to draw your story in panels – i.e. Individual images – that follow a logical sequence.
  • Draw in more detail and create outlines. Erase your sketches.
  • Get your Brush Pens and paint the surfaces. Try your hand at color gradients and shading.
  • If you opt for color, start with light tones and then the darker ones.
  • Create effects using the blender.

Have fun – and stay creative!


2 products

MONO graph 07

MONO graph 07

The popular MONO graph mechanical pencil now available with 0.7 mm lead in 6 bright neon colors
Available in various colours