Manga tools- What you need to get started (with options for limited budgets)

Creating manga is a tough job on its own, so it is always good to know which tools to use, which tools to avoid, and which tools or supplies can make your work way easier. I am a professional manga teacher, and today I will be giving you my premium tips on tools when starting off your own manga. Since I am also a manga artist, I managed to find out exactly which tools are used by the manga masters in Japan, got to use them ,and then found out even more approachable and affordable tools to us living outside of Japan.
The place where most of us start off from is of course the good old pen and paper. There is a huge misconception throughout the past decade or so, that manga is suppose to be drawn with a regular pencil, even using a soft pencil for shading. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Manga is only drafted lightly with an HB pencil, a technical pen, or a colored pencil, and then the lines are drawn in black ink. This black ink can come in many forms: it could be black ink drawn with Zebra G pen nibs, or it can be any type of fineliner, and even a waterproof cheap CD marker. Its always good to use waterproof CD marker or fineliner, in case you wish to color in pages with watered down ink or watercolors.

Staedtler Mechanical Pencil:

Pilot Futayaku Double-Sided Brush Pen:

Uni ball fine liner:

Let’s not forget the eraser, since it can be a big part of the artwork. Erasers with patterns, several colors, and silly shapes, are usually poor in quality and can make a smudged mess of your art. Try to use pure black or pure white erasers, preferably plastic ones if you don’t like the eraser residue  forming on the table.

Paper on its own can be tricky, so I always suggest using any smooth paper that is thicker, starting from 170 gsm or 170 g/m2 (you can find paper thickness mark on every sketchbook cover ) , just in case you wish to apply water (we will mention why later). If you choose to later on color your pages with markers, I have found that a pack of smooth laser color printer paper will do the trick and be way cheaper than buying expensive , and useless plastic marker papers. What is important regarding papers you work on is: a) make sure the paper is big enough to fit in your scanner, and b) paper SHOULD NOT contain any lines or patterns

 Paper good for markers/pencils ink/light watercolors:

Copic Blending Card:

Coloring, if you choose to do so traditionally, has several options, but first lets mention shading your manga page. In japan, manga authors use a special semi adhesive foil to shade gray or textured areas, these are called screen tones. Since they can be pricy and hard to find, few drops of any generic black ink in a glass of water , can be applied with a brush to your page to create shaded areas. Coloring on its own is usually done by watercolor, or colored markers, mostly refillable alcohol based markers. Recently, there has been a new series of water based markers on the market for manga makers, since alcohol based marker tend to have a very strong smell, so an alternative is available. Water based markers and alcohol based markers are able to blend between each other to create more of a painted work.

Van Gogh Watercolor:

Winsor & Newton Cotman Water Colour:

The last, but definitively not least, is the use of splatters and white outs in manga. Splatters of black ink are important for effects of blood, splattering dust or liquids, and you can use cheap regular black ink for these effects. As for white outs, there we have several variations of tools, but its important to mention what they are used for. White out tools are essential for special effects of sprinkled snow, white lines and edges, stars in a night sky, fixing imperfections and mistakes. As a cheap solution ,a regular thick white paint from art class will do the job, and you can apply it with a brush or an ink nib, but you may need to water it down. I personally warmly recommend the White Gelly roll, for fine lines, Graphmasters white acrylic marker for white areas,although you will need a thicker white paint for bigger areas. In Japan ,artist use white ink or different varieties of white out thick paint, but they are all quite pricey, and tend to dry completely out if not used up within a year or so.

Sakura jelly roll:

Graphmaster Acrylic Paint Marker – White:

Speaking of misconceptions, in the surge of digital age  of comics and illustrations, it is often overlooked how real manga comics are still being printed and created in black and white, so there is no need to invest into expensive markers, since the colored pages are only the one cover image, and sometimes maybe a few pages to start off the story. In that case, with today’s super affordable graphic tablets, its more cheaper to invest in one and color digitally, then to buy expensive sets of markers. I always recommend Wacom and Bamboo as reliable non-screen affordable brands of tablets.

Wacom Intuos4 Small:

Bamboo tablet:

 If you wish to create manga the old fashioned way, as it is done in Japan, then you will also need a scanner, for which there are many scanner-printer hybrids to choose from at an affordable price. And also, if you wish to keep your pencil sketches without erasing them, you can use a light table to trace over them in ink on a new sheet of paper and keep them as an archive in a presentation book. This way you will have everything organized and in place

Tattoo light box/tracing pad:
Presentation book to store your art:

If you wish to create digital manga, you can always grab your tablet and try some useful software like Paint tool sai, its more manga oriented brother Studio Paint Clip Pro, or the famous Manga studio. These programs feature a lot of useful tools, pre-made brushes, backgrounds, textures, 3D models and all with a click of the mouse.  If you cant afford professional manga software, GIMP is a free solution for digital illustration. If you have a regular screen tablet you can draw on with a stylus, you can use an app called “Comic Draw by plasq“, with a free trial.

 Hopefully, you have found all the answers to your manga making needs, I tried to include all the options for each level of tool availability , budget and skill level. All I can do now is wish you happy manga making!