Page drawing process

October 3, 2010 1:03 AM

I remember doing a manga page process way back when I still do everything with pencil (and badly to boot) and all I did was scan it in. My method changed a lot since then but as always, I made it up to work for myself so it’s really lacking in the professionalism area and it’s probably got a fucking ton of wrong ways to do things. I also do a lot of weird stuff with Blackbird pages that I would not do if I were drawing another manga; I don’t know why but it also makes parts of my procedure unstandard. Lastly, I think it’s too difficult to capture work process because all I can do is show what the work looks like and not really show how to do what I just did. So, I never made another tutorial for a long time. I decided to make one today anyway, and tried to make it as detailed as I could, (at first I seriously could only think of like 3 steps) hopefully it’s somewhat useful!

Here’s the finished page first, and the full process is under the cut (:

Plan the page! It’s best to thumbnail the whole chapter, or at least scene, before this stage so that your page count is consistent and your storytelling flows much more nicely, but for some reason I decided to not do that with Blackbird… I draw out as little as possible but as much as I need to understand where things would go, and since I’m not working with anyone else, the sketch ends up looking like a mess of lines that probably no one but me can understand (some worse than others). I also draw very lightly because I will need to erase this easily later, and since I use a pencil for inking, I will need to carefully erase unwanted lines. This scan in particular is adjusted in photoshop after scanning because it barely showed up since it was so light; all other scans are left in their original scanning condition.
also, marvel at my amazing writing

Final lines! SEE WHAT DID I SAY ABOUT NOT BEING ABLE TO SHOW HOW I DO THINGS LOL… I do the lineart based on the sketch above with a 0.3 pencil, trying my best to erase off any excess sketch lines from sketch stage. Stragglers will be taken care of after scanning.

I highlight certain outlines so that figures stand out better. Mostly I emphasize the entire figure’s outline, but if the figure is big like the huge bust of Iriel in the middle, I will emphasize body parts/clothing articles too. I use a 0.3 or 0.5 pencil depending on how big the figure is; I could use some thicker pencils but I’m too lazy to go out and buy them.

Adding some shading in clothing folds and object shadows, as well as speed lines or zoom lines (if necessary). I really should do a lot more of these and rely less on toning make the page look more manga style, (eg: completely blacking in certain areas) but for the sake of style consistency, I can’t do it for Blackbird. The latter two are a pain in the ass to do traditionally because if I don’t make it perfectly, it’s really evident in the final product and it looks like I’m some noob who don’t know how to use zoom tones. But this is also the biggest reason why I don’t draw Blackbird pages digitally: the effect/texture that a fast moving pencil or pen create is even harder to replicate digitally.

Scanned and adjusted in photoshop with levels!

Levels doesn’t get rid of all the unwanted leftover crap, and it also makes some parts of the line art blotchy. So I roughly go over these parts with the dodge and burn tool. Dodge gets rid of light greys and burn turns dark grey lines into more solid, pen-looking lines. I don’t spend a lot of time on this so the final lineart still don’t look as perfect as digital lines or lines drawn on huge canvases; I stop at “good enough”.

Borders and texxttttt

Filling in tones. In Blackbird, I just use a solid grey instead of tones. I only use 2 or 3 different greys because the gradient I do later makes any more levels of grey difficult to distinguish anyways, so I thought it would be a waste of time to use more variation.

Skipping over a step for now, I put in some background effects. This page has a lot of speed lines going on, but for other pages I try to not use the same kind of effect for every panel. I also try to keep it not too complicated, but I struggle a lot with that due to my CONSTANT NEED for adding too much crap. I either use a tone directly, or fill an area with some grey and erase parts of it away with the shape of a tone. Most of the tones I use come from Psychobob

STEP 10:
Adding shading on the characters. This is pretty much an unnecessary step that I do for Blackbird just because I can’t suddenly drastically change the style in the middle of the manga. A lot of people feel that it’s too much, it takes away the manga look, makes the page too busy, or even confuses the eyes. When I started doing it, my reason was if this takes so little time digitally and–in my eyes–adds to the visual effect, then why not? So I did it just because I could. I think the flat tones (I would still gradient them though) is equally pleasant as the shaded version; they’re not better or worse, just different. I probably would’ve chosen to do more flats and rely more on inking to create dimension in the art if I could choose now, just because it looks a lot closer to authentic manga. Right now Blackbird is like some hybrid lovechild between manga and american comics.

STEP 11:
Adding sound effects and white speckles to the line art. And we’re done!


  • Alasta

    Hello! Thank you for this tutorial; it has really helped me stick by my decision to continue working in pencil. After all, if one of my favorite artists for the past ten years can do it, why shouldn't I? Anyway, I looked all over for an answer to this question and couldn't find it, so I apologize if I'm asking you to repeat yourself; what margin measurements do you use? Even roughly, if you don't use any specific one. I have trouble regulating how far from the page edge to draw so that scanning and regulating aren't difficult later. All of your pages seem delightfully uniform and beautiful!

    • the usual bleed margin these days is 3mm for metric countries, and 1/8" inch for empirical countries. usually there's an extra .5 inch "safe zone" within the bleed (0.625 inch total) that where nothing is cut off, but is best that no text or crucial visual information falls into that area

  • Hi. I loved the process you used. You are very talented!

  • Whitty

    I have a question about the actual process of designing panels… how do you go about paneling them and did you learn from tutorials /classes how to panel effectively or are you just naturally good at designing panels? For me the most difficult part is designing the page as a whole, mostly with arranging panels. My level of illustration is high enough but my knowledge and experience with paneling is preventing me from creating sequential art effectively. Are there any tips, sources, or lessons you could share with me regarding this?

    • sorry for the late reply! I didn't learn it from any class and most of what I do is intuitive, but it helps greatly to do some reading on storyboarding and composition, especially the former for animation. Once you get the feel of how sequential art is tackled, the actual arrangement of the panels should come naturally to you because well paced stories easily flow a certain way.

      Arranging panels shouldn't be too difficult to come to you, if it is then you are trying too hard to make it a point to have "unique" panel arrangement without actually contributing to the flow of the page. normally placed boxes like in any shounen manga are fine, and that's where you should start from. There is always a focus of each page, an important point in which one panel is larger and dominate over the other panels, unless it's a lengthy procession that is leading up to something. This way it helps your story to have solid anchors in its flow, and helps you consider how to pace each page so that the reader can read fluidly.

      If you want it to go towards more a more shoujo style (more collage like), you can go from those normally placed panels above, and move certain panels so that they overlap–but it has to be in a way that flows with the eye. You should be able to draw a line visually going from each panel to the next across a page to the next in the end with "fancy" paneling, because otherwise this "fancy" paneling serves no purpose but to actually distract from what a standard page of panels and achieve.