Ever wondered how to create a manga chapter?
In this blog / video, I’ll share the exact process that I’m using for my manga Illustrated Fairytales. Let’s go for useful mangaka tips to create your manga! 🥰
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Script & Preparations
Little disclaimer, please note that this is a manga project based on a script, so there is no extra work to create a universe, historical research or anything else. However, although IllusFairy is a personal project, it’s exactly the same procedure I use for manga commissions with clients, who come to me with a defined story, and where my role would be to represent the whole thing visually.
First step, very basic, I read the text in one go. I have the whole story, and I want to get a general idea. When there are descriptions of the universe, the settings, the physical appearance of the characters, or even important scenes, I underline them or add notes so that I can easily find everything when needed. Once the story is understood, we can move on to the more creative side!
In general, the first thing I do after reading the texts is to create the character designs. What will the characters look like? For this, I take into account the text descriptions if there are any, but also draw according to my feeling of the different scenes and how I understood the character’s actions while reading.
Sometimes, there are characters for whom I have an immediate very clear vision after the first reading, and it only takes one or two tests to get their design ready. Other times, it takes a lot more.
For Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid”, I imagined a curious but dreamy young woman, naturally beautiful without the need for any lavish outfits or jewellery. I got her overall design pretty much straight away, and the biggest job was to tweak her expression to have soft, dreamy eyes that look sad sometimes, fitting her desire to be part of the human world and to be noticed by the prince she loves but who doesn’t love her back. She’s such a tragic character, really.
The character creation always varies with every new protagonist, but the goal is really to see the character in front of me:
- with his design
- his expressions
- his gestures
- basically seeing the character “move, talk and react”
When I can see them moving in my head, that’s when I know that the character is alive!
A very time-consuming part but the most important of all: transcribing a story into visuals.
- Even with a pre-written script, it will always be necessary to change several elements:
- cut or add dialogues
- imagine the panels and layouts, the rhythm of the story’s progress
- which emotions the reader should feel, …
Here, I take simple sheets of photocopy paper and divide them in two columns, to create my pages face to face. This allows me to create more dynamic panels, to know where to place double pages, to layout a coherent and dynamic narrative to encourage the reader to turn the page. I usually work scene by scene. To keep “The Little Mermaid” as an example, I subdivided the scenes with:
- introduction of the mermaids
- the protagonist swims to the surface and sees humans for the first time
- the storm and the rescue of the prince.
I try to run these different scenes through my head as if it were an animated movie that I’m watching as a spectator, trying to see the sequence, the angles, the dialogues, the emotions I should feel, …
Once I have my scene in mind, I quickly write the texts on the side so I don’t forget all the dialogues. Then, little by little, I replay the scene in my head, this time visualising the more exact visuals that fit with my texts, and I do the layout.
At the same time, I draw some pretty stick figures to help me visualise the poses and proportions. This is the part that adds a bit of joy to the whole serious process, because honestly, this is the part that makes me struggle the most, because it takes lots of energy and concentration.
creating a “skeleton” for your story with all this work is important!
Once you have that solid foundation in place, it’s much easier to concentrate on the drawings.
I do all my sketches traditionally, on A4 paper, 110g, with a simple HB pencil or H lead pencil, depending on the details. Now, the goal is to take all the storyboard drafts, and to transcribe them onto the right format. This is the basis on which I will draw afterwards.
- I draw a border of about 1cm all around the pages for the bleed edges in print format
- I place the right sizes of bubbles and boxes
- I rewrite all the texts by hand to see how it looks overall: it may require to readjust the size of the bubbles, sometimes I notice that they need to be a bit bigger, or can be smaller and thus free more space for the drawings
- I add my very glamorous stick figures again to remember what I wanted to draw – but they’ll be erased afterwards.
It’s slow, but I need to have all this to draw afterwards, and to reread my pages regularly while I’m in the actual process of drawing, to get into the mood of the story.
Do chain work without interruption!
Once you get into the rhythm, you advance much more quickly.
And then, finally, the real drawing process can begin!
- I gradually erase the stick figures panel by panel
- And redraw cleanly over them with all the details, proportions, etc
- These are the final sketches, as they will be inked for the real book!
After the traditional part, I move on to digital inking. The main reason I switched to digital last year is that it allows me to go into much more detail, because I love drawing every single hair and zooming in on the little details that nobody will ever see ~
Here too, I work do line work in one go be more efficient:
- scan all the already drawn pages
- colour them with a little adjustment on Photoshop: more practical to ink with black on colour, rather than on grey pencil
I started inking on a computer-connected XP-Pen 15.6 Pro tablet, and for the past few months I’ve also been inking on a Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 Lite. Both work with Clip Studio Paint, which allows me to switch between the two if needed. The advantage being that the Samsung tablet can be used anywhere, at conventions, or in the living room. Honestly, from a lineart point of view, you can’t tell the difference between the two tablets, which is amazing.
These are the big steps on the creative side, but there is still a lot of work besides to publish a manga, not directly related to a specific process but important for the whole project:
- retype all the text on the computer into a simple Word document
- proofread to correct any mistakes
- inserted the dialogue into the panels
- export the final pages
After that, even though I work on a production line to be more productive in most cases, the different parts are not always done in one go. There might be a week where I’m working simultaneously, let’s say for instance, on the storyboard for pages 20-30, sketching pages 10-20, and inking pages 1-10. But still to keep up the pace and work more efficiently, I keep blocks of time where I focus on one single aspect: for example, 2 hours of storyboarding in the morning, then 4 hours of inking in the afternoon. The hardest part is often getting motivated, but once you get into the mood, it comes much easier, so take advantage of it!
Anyways, that’s my manga creation process. Now about you – how do you proceed?
Do you have any mangaka tips? Share your experience in the comments to inspire other aspiring manga artists!
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