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!


  • I'm just curious, but have you ever considered having an online assisstant to help you streamline your work process? It seems like some steps like filling in areas with precision can be done by most people, so you can spend more time doing stuff that requires more skill like sketching?

    Just wondering if this suggestion would help. Thanks for the interesting tutorial. :)

    • Thanks for the thought! I have considered that but the hassle in outsourcing parts of the process makes the act not worth it for both myself and the helper involved. It takes less than 20 minutes for me to clean, fill and letter every page, especially when I do them all at once, and it would take just as long for me to send/receive the files to someone else, clarify any ambiguous parts to them (eg. I don't mark my script and pages very clearly where borders should be and which bubbles receive what text in what font; which specks to clean and which to preserve, since I manually add in dots for dust effects etc sometimes; correction of any mistakes made by the helper), and this is already considering that I give the helper no compensation at all.

  • Bonnie

    Sorry for asking a silly question, but are tones the same thing as screen tones? And, when would you use screen tones? Thank you in advance!

    • yes, they are (: I use them when I see they can enhance the look of a panel to what I want. It's hard to explain exactly all the situations that I would use tones instead of gradient, and vice versa

  • Kelly

    How do you not smudge while your sketching and doing line art?? Do you use a cloth??

  • People say the tones make the image too busy? Personally, I love all the tones used in your manga. It makes each panel look like a beautiful work of art and adds dimension to the characters, I love how finished everything looks XD (then again, I'm used to reading CLAMP's manga, which is also very tone and effect heavy, so all the tones in your manga don't really bother me in the first place *laughs*) Thank you for sharing this, I love the "behind the scenes" look at how you work :D

  • Lydia

    How often do you get art-blocks? I keep getting them nowadays…
    Are there anyways to get rid of them?

    btw ur art is sooo cool!!! •w•

    • I don't get them because I don't have time for them. But if you get an art block, do/look at something different (: draw if you feel like but don't draw if you don't want to, since you'd just be wasting your time.

  • Vivelda

    Can I ask what font you use for the dialogues?

  • Evil Jim

    Wow nice guide! Thanks I think this is going to help me a lot :D

  • You're so awesome. This process/tutorial will help me a lot in my own efforts! Btw, what size paper do you draw on?

  • Liphea

    That was very helpful! I also like your thoughts that you mention – it makes the tutorial more ..brisk? to read :D
    I was really surprised that you use a pencil, I really thought you always use a pen! :)

    Thank you for sharing!

  • omg that's osm D:
    I always ink my comics before scanning them, I didn't realize I could've done this the whole time xD
    But my sketches aren't nearly as neat as yours, so if I used this technique, there'd be this awful blotches everywhere D':