Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Recommended Reading for Aspiring Manga Artists

No matter how long an artist has been creating graphic novels and comics, there is always new stuff to learn and old stuff to learn again. An artist should never stop learning. In view of that, here's a list of books I've found to be very useful and influential. Since I'm a manga artist, some of these books are related to that style, but they all have helpful points regardless of your drawing style. Add these to your library if you don't have them already!


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How to Draw Lifelike Portraits from Photographs by Lee Hammond 

No matter how cartoonish your style, knowing how to draw from real life is essential. I found this book extremely helpful when it comes to learning about shadow and light, especially when comes to how light works on the human figure. Also graphic novelists often have to look at reference photos to get a general idea of how to draw certain objects, so learning how to draw realistically from photos is a needed skill. And when this book is used properly, you'll learn how to become more than just a copy machine. You can see how to learn new techniques from copying and use them in your own original art.

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Fashion Illustration: Inspiration and Technique by Anna Kiper 

Clothes are very important in graphic novels. What a character wears says volumes about their personality. I like this book because it shows how to draw a wide variety of fabric textures and the way that different types of fabric tends to drape on the body. Very useful.


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Shojo Fashion Manga Art School: How to Draw Cool Looks and Characters by Irene Flores 

 There are very few "How to Draw Manga" books that I like, and this is one of them. It goes along well with the Fashion Illustration book. This book contains very helpful tutorials on where to start when it comes to drawing clothes on characters. It also has great advice for drawing characters with different hair textures. When creating manga-style graphic novels it's so easy to draw just straight hairstyles. This book really took the mystery out of drawing curly hair for me. Knowing how to draw a variety of hair textures enables an artist to create a variety of original characters.

Digital Color

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Manga: The Ultimate Guide to Mastering Digital Painting Techniques (ImagineFX) by ImagineFX 

This is my favorite book about doing digital coloring for manga so far. Following the tutorials seriously helped me to improve the quality of my digital work. Even if some of the tutorials required software that was different from what I owned, it was still possible to learn the general concept. 


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Ready, Set, Novel!: A Workbook by Lindsey Grant, Tavia Stewart-Streit and Chris Baty 

Although this book is designed with novel writing in mind, it is surprisingly useful for planning manga and graphic novels as well.  It makes coming up with story ideas, characters, and cohesive plot lines very easy. The best feature of this book is how it keeps all of the stages of story planning organized. It also combats flat, stereotypical characters by forcing the writer to come up with things that makes their characters different and unique. 

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Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga and Graphic Novels by Scott McCloud

This book is a classic. Every comic artist must read this. It covers topics from plot writing to character design, and it really breaks down the anatomy of comics and graphic novels.
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Shoujo Manga Techniques: Writing Stories by Mako Itsuki 

This is the best book on writing manga that I've read so far. It says shoujo, but it can apply to a variety of graphic novels. I love how this books tells the graphic novelist how to give their stories heart.  It's more than just plot. It's about feeling, motivation, and having a core theme. I have to confess, this book really had an impact on the way I write, and it gives great advice on how to add deeper layers to your graphic novel. 

Deeper layers means, make the story more than just the plot that the readers will see. Make the plot that the audience is reading the result of a deeper conflict that may not be mentioned in the speech bubbles, but that might be noticeable in the art. 

This pretty much wraps up my list of favorites. Are there any books that you've found helpful that aren't on the list? If there are, leave a comment to let me know what books have inspired you and helped you to become a better graphic novelist. 

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