You can’t draw unless you have the proper materials. Here we’ll go over some basic, necessary, and optional materials you may want to try out or get for yourself.
~Must Have Basics~
Everyone needs a pencil to start off drawing. Most people like to use the #2 or HB pencil. It’s standard and it’s affordable.
Artists pencils are classed based on the lead used. B refers to soft lead and tends to easily smudge while H refers to hard lead. H pencils are less likely to smudge but are more prone to making indents on your paper. These types of pencil are optional and ranges up to 5, meaning the softest/hardest type of lead.
Another option from the common pencil is the clicky pencil aka mechanical lead pencil which saves you from constant sharpening by just replacing the lead. If you draw a lot, it’s best to get a clicky pencil with a cushion. If you can’t get one with it already attached, you can buy the grips separately. Grips generally are foam but if you can find it, I highly recommend the gel cushion which is much easier on the finger because it’s so soft.
For those using regular pencils, you can extend the life of your pencils by using a pencil extender which tends to be metallic and looks like the end of your pencil sans eraser. Just attach and screw it to the end of you pencil and you’re good to go. The down side to this is that I’ve only ever seen the pencil extender being sold at stores like Kinokuniya, Sanseido, and Japanese stationary stores.
2) 8.5″x11″ Paper
The most cost effective paper to use is regular printer paper. For one ream with 500 papers, it’s a deal at about $3-4 each. For that amount or more, you can get only one sketch pad with about 30 pages +/-. If you’re really tight on budget, use printer paper but I would recommend you eventually get regular sketch and doodle pads. The paper in them are thicker and can handle erasing more than printer paper. Not to mention, if you like coloring your work with markers and so forth, sketch paper won’t warp and bend as much.
Sketch and Doodle Pads come in various sizes. Choose a size that will work for you (i.e. handle markers, size is easy to transport, etc):
You may also notice that papers come in different weights. The higher the weight, the better and thicker the paper. The lower weighted paper around 40lbs are your standard printer paper and are good for general doodles, sketches, and so on. For artwork you are intending to sell, you’re best off working on paper ranging from 100 lb and up. Thicker paper lasts better (doesn’t bend as easily, for example) than thinner paper and can also handle colorings better from markers and so on.
Another thing to note is that there are recycled paper and non-recycled paper you can choose from. It doesn’t really matter which you choose but from what I’ve seen, recycled paper tend to be on the browner side. That can affect your art if you’re planning on selling it.
Last but not least, be sure to get paper that is acid-free. That means that 10 years from now, your drawing will not deteriorate as much as it would if you did use a non-acid-free paper. I highly recommend you use acid-free paper for any artwork you sell.
3) 12″ Ruler
Standard ruler. You’ll need one if you want to draw things – especially buildings and items with straight edges. It’s also useful for setting up perspective lines.
I highly recommend that you get a ruler that is clear and see-through. This way, if you’re drawing your background, you can see what’s behind it and get a better idea of what’s where than if your ruler was a solid color.
4) Work Space
In order to work properly, you need a place to draw your stuff. It’s best to draw on a desk but worse comes to worse, floor space is all you need. Some people specifically buy artist’s desk called drawing tables which slants and may have additional features such as pencil holders and so forth. If you’re tight on budget or space, an ordinary computer desk or table will work just as well.
You can’t draw without an eraser to fix your mistakes. The most common eraser is the pink one (aka Pink Pearl) but personally, I prefer the white erasers. When you use the pink eraser, it tends to leave a pink mark especially if you rub it really hard on the paper. Avoid that by getting the white eraser.
For ease of use, some people use the clicky eraser. Like the clicky pencil, the eraser can be refilled as you use each stick up. Other erasers include the kneaded eraser which is like handling putty or clay. You basically put it over the parts you want to erase and it’ll pick it up. To “clean” it, you just need to knead it (i.e. pull it over itself like dough).
~Manga Purposes: Starting Off~
1) Inking Pens
The are various “inking” pens and the most basic of those that are in pen form (i.e. it already has ink in a tube and is just like using a pen). Whether you used refillable inking pens or not, they all come in various tip sizes. The tip is what determines the size of the line that is drawn. Sizes include: 0.1, 0.5, 1.0, 2.0, etc. Some inking pens include Copic Multiliners, Sakura Pigma Micron’s, Pigma Sensei Manga Pens, and PITT’s Artist Pens.
2) Light Box
The light box is a useful tool to have when you need to re-do an image. It comes in handy when doing manga, pin-ups, clothing designs, and even if you’re into animation. Light boxes may be bought at the store for about $20+ depending on it’s size.
The poor man’s light box is to use outside light via the window or use a glass table and shine a light underneath. You can also build your own light box using a wooden box, a glass or plexi-glass, and a bulb. Just visit your local hardware store for the materials, take the time to assemble it, and viola! – instant light box.
Templates come in various shapes and sizes. The most useful of the templates are shape and curved templates. Shape templates have pre-cut shapes stamped into the form such as circles, ovals, squares, diamonds, and rectangles. Instead of wasting your time in measuring and perfecting these shapes, the template saves on time and effort.
The other useful template to have are curved tamplates which are used for making motion and action lines.
You can get more templates such as lettering and other fancy designed outlines but the shape and curved templates are the most important templates to have on hand.
If you can’t use a pre-sized template, the next best thing is to use a compass. It’ll come in handy when you’re doing motion lines such as arcs and bigger round shapes. There are two types of compasses:
a) one with a point on one end and a clasp for pencils on the other
b) one with two claps on both ends so you may put pencils on both ends
Compass A is the easiest compass to get a hold of than B. Either one will work just as fine so no need to sweat it if you can’t get B. If you’d rather not waste money on a compass, then you can use a thumbtack and string to make your arcs and circles.
5) Blue Pencil
You’ve probably seen a pro’s work sporting some blue lines. If you don’t know already, that’s what’s called non-photographic blue. Not just any blue pencil will work – it has to specifically say “non-photographic”. Artists use this special pencil particularly when doing roughs and sketches. They’ll then go over their drawing with permanant black ink. When their work is photocopied or printed out – the blue lines will not show up but the black lines will. Be careful though! If you push the blue pencil hard enough, it will show up on the final product. The trick is to not draw too heavily. It’s also easier to erase on lines drawn lightly.
This is very useful for those of you interested in animation.
6) Bendable Ruler
The bendable ruler is a flexible piece of material that you can bend to almost any curved shape you desire. If the compass and template can’t make it, then this baby can. It’s very useful for those weird wavy lines that will take several steps on a template or compass. You can save on materials by not getting this but as always, your time is the trade-off.
The T-square is a long ruler with a 90 angle at one end. It’s primarily used for that right angle for backgrounds. Now that you’re starting out as a manga-artist, this will come in handy for all the backgrounds that you’ll be drawing. If you haven’t gotten to backgrounds yet – stop avoding it and get it over with. Learn how to draw backgrounds with this thing and it’ll make things easier for you… or would you rather measure things all the time? You can do without this but it’ll eat away on your time.
8) 18″ Ruler
This will come in handy for those papers that are bigger than 12″ – and when you start working on submission papers for your manga, the specifications tend to have one side above 12″ (particularly when you’re submitting to a comic book and not graphic novels). Instead of using a 12″ ruler back to back to measure your stuff, an 18″ ruler will get the job done without that extra hassle.
9) Doujinshi Paper
When you’re starting out, doujinshi paper or “fan-made” paper is the way to go. Doujinshi paper are pre-lined and numbered which makes it easier to draw your lines and where to confine your drawings. If you’re short on cash, you can use standard drawing paper and draw in the lines yourself. If you don’t have the time – just spend that extra money and get the doujinshi paper. Drawing a comic layout is very time consuming!
~Manga Purposes: Advanced~
The brushes is mainly used to apply the correction fluid (aka white out). You can also use it for inking in large areas of black background. It’s best to get a thin brush so it may be used for tight areas as well as larger areas.
Tones are used to add depth and interest to a manga. Styles vary from dots, lines, cross-hatches, and things like feathers. You can get actual sheets of tones or you can use digital tones. If you can’t find it on the net, you can also make your own tones by using stippling and cross-hatching techniques.
3) Manuscript Paper
Unlike doujinshi paper, this is the real thing that pro’s use to submit their work. Japanese ready-made manuscript paper tend to be on the smaller size compared to comic book paper which is about 11″x15″. When submitting your material to publishers, make sure you check out their specifications and get the appropriate paper.
4) Cutting Board
A cutting board is used to protect your workspace (i.e. your desk) from the cutting knife. It’s usually a clear plastic piece but if you can find something that works just as well, then use it.
5) Cutting Knife
The most reason you will use your cutting knife for is for the tones. To cut and to scratch it to make effects. Otherwise, really no need for you to get this item if you’re not using tangible tones.
6) Paper Cement
Paper cement is used for one purpose: to attach your tones to your manga. It’s very sticky so be very careful when handling and attaching tones to your work. If you stick something to it accidentally – good luck prying it off.
7) Correction Fluid (White Out)
White usually comes in small bottles or in pen format. What mangaka’s usually use come in a bottle with a wide rim to easily dip in a brush.
Ink is what you need if you’re using old fashioned pen and nib. It comes in big and smaller bottles. I suggest you get the small bottle and just refill it with the bigger bottle. The best ink is one that is waterproof and fadeproof. Waterproof so your ink won’t run if it gets wet and fade-proof so that your ink stays the same color even after X amount of years.
9) Pen and Nib Inking Pens
These are the traditional inking pens that uses a nib. Much like calligraphy, the tip determines the width of the line. There are all types of tips and just as many makers. Find and use whats best for you and remember to wipe clean your nib from ink after each use. And dry it off so it lasts longer and doesn’t start to rust.
These are optional materials you can use if you’re interested in making pin-ups, colored covers, and other handy things to have.
Tortillions are paper wrapped up in a spiral. It’s used to blend pencils and create that smooth looking transition between black and white. It’s a nifty tool to have if you like doing black and white images.
2) Colored Pencil
Colored pencils are one of the most cost effective materials to own if you want to color your drawings. Most colored pencils have hard lead but you there are soft leaded colored pencils as well. If you can get your hands on them, I’ve found that the most vibrant colored pencils to be made by Prismacolor. They’re a bit pricier than the other brands but the results are fantastic.
3) Watercolor, Watercolor Pencil
Watercolor is a good alternative to oil paints and acrylics. Watercolors come in tubes, in palettes, and in pencil format. The watercolors that turn out the best colors are Prang. Others tend to turn out flat in the end.
If you want to get into painting on canvases, acrylic is the best way to start. Ventilation is not needed unlike oil paints.
5) Oil Paint
Oil paints is one of the traditional methods of painting on canvases. If you want to use these, make sure you’re in a well ventilated area – the fumes are bad for you.
If you’re not picky on what to color your drawings with, then use crayons. They’re easy to get and you probably have them already. They’re like soft leaded colored pencils.
There are two types of markers: acid and oil-based.
Airbrushes create a different effect from other materials because of their spray. Aside from drawing on paper, air brushes may be used to color other things as well such as shirts.
These are those wooden modeling dolls you see all the time at art stores. They help depict certain poses you may have trouble picturing or drawing. It’s a lot handier than getting someone to pose for you or you just can’t pose on your own.
There are three types of figurines: male, female, and non-gender specific. Non-gender specific is the most versatile of the three and offers a basic figure between the two sex’s.
10) Color Chart
If you’re heavily into coloring your drawings, a color chart is highly useful when you want to make a certain color. It helps to keep colors consistant if you mix your paints on your own instead of buying that particular color.
11) Portfolio Wallet
A portfolio wallet is basically a big folder that you store and carry your artwork in. Typical portfolio wallets are made out of paper and have a string to close the folder. More modern wallets are made out of plastic and close with velcro. Some may even have a handle at the top for easier carrying.
Other storage devices include boxes; in paper or metal; and wooden storage units – vertically or horizontally inclined.
~Computer Related Materials~
1) Photoshop, Corel Draw, GIMP or similar graphic software
If you want to CG your works properly, you have to get a decent graphic software which has the ability to work with layers. Layers allows you to work with certain parts of your drawing one at a time without affecting other areas. Use whatever software works best with you be it Photoshop, Corel, PaintShop Pro, etc.
There are artists out there who use various softwares and even use photo-editing softwares for some neat filter effects. Most graphic software has a trial period – look around and try them out!
2) Drawing Tablet
If you CG artwork on a regular basis and is close to getting carpal-tunnel syndrome – then get your hands on a drawing tablet. If you’re on a tight budget, you can get tablets for under $100 but if you have no limit – a tablet can run to the $1000′s. The cheapest tablets are Wacom’s Graphire and Bamboo series which make an excellent starter tablet.
3) CG Illust
This software is specifically for CGing and Anime artists. Created in Japan, this software has nifty features like the other graphic softwares mentioned above. This software also happens to include some CG tutorials from various artists.
Made in Japan, this software is made specifically for the manga and comic creator. It has all the features you would want on a manga software from tones, fonts, and more.
5) Comic Creator
Endorsed by Tokyopop, Comic Creator is another manga and comic creating software. It doesn’t have tones but you can use artwork from some Rising Stars of Manga series. It also has the usual balloons, lettering and usual manga creating features.
6) Manga Studio
The most popular manga creating software, it has everything you need from tones, balloons, paneling, lettering and so on. There are two types: Debut and EX with the latter being the “Professional” version, costing more but sporting more tones and 3D models. We actually have tutorials on how to use Manga Studio so check those out if you would like to see what this program is all about.
If you prefer drawing by hand rather than drawing straight into the computer, then a scanner is a must! Scanners turn your drawings into digital formats so you can easily edit it on the computer. It’s the best way to get digital versions of your work. Taking a digital picture or your art does not compare.
Scanners range in price from around $50 and up. The more expensive models ranging in the thousands or near there are large scanners than can scan larger pieces like 12×18 papers. For the average person, though, stick with the cheaper models for standard 8.5×11 to legal sized papers and make sure to get a flatbed. There is another type of scanner out there that scans papers via a feed which, in terms of versatility, is not as wide-ranging as a flatbed. These feed-like scanners can only scan papers. Flatbeds can scan books, papers, old photo film strips, and basically anything you can press down on the glass of the scanner.