Monday, June 30, 2014

Inspiration from Ai Yazawa

Do you feel like your graphic novel is lacking a sense of style? Do all of your characters wear the same t-shirts and pants? Then maybe you could get some inspiration from taking a look the work of Ai Yazawa, the creator of the popular shoujo titles Nana and Paradise Kiss. If the pages of Yazawa’s works could talk, this is probably what you would hear:

Be Stylish
George loves wearing hats.

Each character has a different personality, so why should they dress the same? In Nana and Paradise Kiss each character has a wardrobe that works along with who they are. Sometimes thinking up something different for everyone to wear can be challenging. While working on the plans for my next graphic novel, I’ve found a possible solution. Try assigning a clothing brand to each character.

For example, one of my characters looks like she would love shopping at Forever 21. So I went on over to Forever 21’s website to choose pieces that she would wear or even designed clothes that look similar to what they are selling there. Try this out and and let me know if this method works for you!

Say Bye to High School

Countless manga series use high school as a main setting. Using the same same setting over and over again can lead to the same plot lines common to that setting being repeated over and over. You know--that story about an after school club that shows the unimaginative and sarcastic protagonist that there is more to high school life. Or the story about the school president who cleans up a school that has been taken over by a bunch of

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with using high school as a setting. High school is used as a setting in Paradise Kiss. The difference is that high school isn’t the main setting. Most of the action takes place outside of school and doing that can make a high school manga not feel like just another high school manga.

Let Your Unique Art Style Shine

Yazawa draws characters that do not completely conform to the standard idea of manga style. What stands out the most to me is the way she draws eyes and lips.

Years ago, I actually read a manga drawing tutorial somewhere that discouraged drawing manga characters with full lips because it “looks strange.” I’m so glad Yazawa didn’t get the memo. 

When drawing in manga style, don’t try so hard to conform to "The Style" that you lose the little drawing quirks that makes your art unique. If you draw hair and noses differently from the way that the How to Draw Manga guides say that you should, and it still looks good--go with it! The things that you do differently are what creates your voice as an artist. Don’t correct it to conform. Embrace it instead.

The way that Yazawa doesn’t shy away from her style makes her one of my favorite artists.

Are there any manga artists that you have learned from through reading their work?


  1. I'm so happy I found your blog! I love Yazawa's style and you're completely right, she doesn't conform to some of the unspoken 'rules' of manga drawing. Which makes her manga unique!
    I actually struggle a lot with the individual fashion of characters. While I try to give each and everyone a style of their own, it's still my own taste, which makes some of the designs overly similar. :/

    1. Yeah, making an individual style for each character is difficult.

      With my latest manga I took some time to make Pinterest boards to get a general feeling of the fashion styles for each of the characters. That has helped me a lot with giving each character a unique look of their own, and I'm hoping this time around each of my characters will have more of a signature style. ^_^

      Thanks for the comment!