Professional Manga : Digital Storytelling with Manga Studio EX book cover
1st Edition

Professional Manga
Digital Storytelling with Manga Studio EX

ISBN 9780240810287
Published June 17, 2008 by Routledge

USD $28.95

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Book Description

Combine high-end manga storytelling theory and advice with the tools for digital creation in Manga Studio, guided by expert professional manga-ka.

You'll discover manga storytelling techniques, from speed lines to technology, from toning to big sound effects. Steve Horton and Jeong Mo Yang then show you how best to accomplish these techniques using the leading manga art creation program, Manga Studio EX. Every ounce of theory is backed up with step-by-step manga illustrations and Manga Studio screenshots that show how these illustrations were created.

See the techniques in action in The Other Side of the Tracks, a new manga short story in the book centerfold which demonstrates at least one example from every technique described. You can also follow the continuing story as a webmanga available at

And there's more! The downloadable resources include trial version of Manga Studio EX along with high-resolution image files from the book.

Smith Micro has also included a coupon for $100 off the full version of Manga Studio EX.

Table of Contents

Professional Manga
Short Table of Contents and Synopses

I: The Building Blocks of Manga
I. Line Art
Here are tips from the artist on how to draw lines smoothly. Also, here's some instruction on how to draw thicker lines in the foreground and thinner lines in the background.

II. Shading & Textures: Basics
This is an introduction to shading as a replacement for color. Most manga is black and white and uses grayscale tones and shading to give weight and balance to the elements of a page. Manga Studio comes with premade textures, but the best artists create their own. Here's how to do so and how to apply a texture to an element.

III. Shading & Textures: Advanced
It's important to know how to use the light source, the camera and other "directing” knowledge to help you shade a scene properly. Also, it's critical to shade at a specific resolution so that details and "moiré patterns” don't develop when the page is reduced for print.
Also, don't overuse textures. Sometimes none are called for and the art needs to be left open.

IV. Speed Lines
In a lot of manga, characters can move fast or express a lot of movement within the space of a single panel. Since a comic panel is a single snapshot in time, how best to express that movement? One solution that manga partakes in frequently is speed lines. Speed lines can be straight or circular, parallel or concentric, depending on the kind of motion that needs to be expressed in a panel.
Speed lines are also used when a character comes to a realization or epiphany.
Here's how to correctly apply the right speed lines to your panel. Manga Studio has this functionality built in, but advanced users will want to tweak the settings or even create the lines manually.
Like the other techniques, it's critical not to overuse them. One panel per page at most is a good guideline. Pick the fastest or most critical scene on the page and go for it!

V. Blurring
An alternative or a companion to speed lines, blurring is another way to show motion. Since the advent of photoshop, blurring and other digital tricks have become more prevalent in manga. Here's how it's done.

VI. Backgrounds
Beginning manga artists often lack the skills to render backgrounds well. These artists want to skip straight to the characters and the action and skimp on buildings and other boring stuff. This is a pitfall. Backgrounds are just as important as the rest of the page, and it's important to both concentrate on them and know how to render them correctly in Manga Studio.

VII. Technology
There's a juxtaposition between the simplicity of a manga character and the complexity of the technology that might exist in their world. The characters are meant to be iconic, but the technology is specific. This is often where most of the detail and time is spent. Here's how to make technology look like it is supposed to.

VIII. Sound Effects and Lettering
Special effects can often depend on the creators' country of origin. Despite the language in which the book might be translated or presented, the sound effects stay in that original language. Brian Yang prefers to render sound effects in Korean. Korean characters look cool and different when drawn large. Also, manga sound effects tend to morph and change with the action, often becoming part of the scene! Here are some tricks for creating and manipulating SFX so they stand out.
Lettering is often glossed over in much translated manga to its detriment. There are a few simple tips to know when lettering manga. Here they are, and here's how to pick a good font and letter the right way.

II: Center Section: Manga Short Story "The Other Side of the Tracks”
This is an original creation of the author, written by Steve Horton and drawn by Brian Yang.
This manga uses all the storytelling and Manga Studio techniques used throughout this book and acts as a coda for all the lessons learned. A high-res version of this story is included on the pack-in CD, still in its original layers, so students can peel away the elements and examine exactly how each technique ticks.

III: The Storytelling of Manga: Putting it All Together

I. Panel Layout
Just like with Western comics, the layout and placement of manga panels is important. Time passes between panels, so more panels means time slows down, often to focus and highlight specific moments. Fewer panels means that things are moving quickly. The shape of panels can also change the storytelling. Depending on the artist, the writer may dictate the number and size of panels, or he or she may ask the artist to determine this him or herself.

II. Shadows and Mood
Building on the shading lessons in the first half of the book, here's how to use shadows and light to change the mood of the story, from lighthearted to grim and gritty.

III. Setting the Scene
Called "mise en scene” in French, setting the scene is critical. Where are the characters? Where are the objects? What are people doing? Most people tend to do something else while they talk, even if its just gesturing. A neat trick is to show someone fiddling or performing a menial task while carrying on a conversation. Manga Studio lets you move things around in a scene if it didn't come out right in the pencil stage.

IV. Writing Conventions: The Three Acts & Rising Action
Most stories have three acts. Roughly, in Act I the characters are introduced and the problem or conflict appears. In Act II, the characters run up against the problem and fail or are given a setback. In Act III, the problem is solved and things are resolved.
Rising Action means that the action in a given story should rise from beginning to end, leaving the most explosive climax toward the end of the story.
An entire 180-page manga digest may have several sets of Acts 1-3 and several examples of rising and falling action, depending on how many stories are contained within. The digest may contain one Act 1-3 and one rising action. Or, the acts and the rising action may occur across multiple volumes.

V: Combining Drama & Humor
Breaking up dramatic tension with a humorous moment is common in manga, and using the chibi in Part 1 is a good way to do that. Alternatively, a humor book may have several moments of dead-serious drama, also often undercut a bit with a tension-breaking moment. Here's how Manga Studio can help you do this.

VI: Formats & Sizes - Serial Anthology, Digest, Comic Book
Manga is found in multiple volumes over in Asia and here in the western world. Here are the most common types, and here's how to correctly format your work in Manga Studio so as to not lose any detail. Also, before even starting on your manga, you might want to determine how long the story is. Is there a chance it could continue in multiple volumes, or is one volume enough to tell the full story, beginning to end?

VII: Now that it's Done: Pitching & Selling
To conclude, here's a short chapter on taking a completed manga story and bringing it to one of the several original English language publishing houses. Using the tools in this book, your chances for acceptance can be greatly magnified. Also mention that agreements in writing from publishers are important. Also, information on where creators can go to protect their interests.

IV: Index & Glossary
A full index and glossary of terms.

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Steve Horton has years of experience writing for and about comics. He co-created the manga Strongarm with Dave Ahn for Image Comics, one of the biggest mainstream comics publishers in North America. He also co-created the long-running webmanga Grounded Angel with Vivi Erlanita at the invitation-only webcomics collective Steve also publishes downloadable PDF comic books as Smashout Comics ( on the free e-book site Wowio (
Yang's first recorded manga was created when he was 8 years old. He was one of the winners of Rising Stars of Manga Vol. 5 (Modus Vivendi; publisher: TokyoPop) - and has had the privilege of drawing part of TokyoPop's Star Trek: the Manga. His recent work includes his own manga (Dyoz; Publisher: TokyoPop), which is now being created as an online comic. Yang is also a traditional storyboard artist for commercials, music videos, and TV shows.


"Horton and Ahn deliver great action, crazy technology, and hot girls, but that doesn't cause it to read like some manga fan-fiction. The plot thickens almost as quickly as the action moves, and leaves you with a cliffhanger I dare you to say no to." Tim Demeter, editor, Graphic Smash ( on Strongarm