Introduction: Let's Draw Manga! Lesson 1: "My Own Enemy"

Hello, everyone! A while back, not long after I began drawing in manga, I drew a picture of the early Ember (then called 'Mocha') titled "The Real Me". It is probably the best manga art that I did during that year and I still rather like it; but I've improved and Ember has changed, so I figured that I needed to update it. This is the first in a four-tutorial series on drawing manga scenes. These tutorials will walk you through the process of creating each scene, but leave enough wiggle room for you to make something all your own!

I know that this 'ible doesn't show the technique for the semi-smooth cell shading like shown in my icon, but I'm not sure I want that part getting out yet (actually I forgot to do it until after I merged the layers). In my next manga tutorial I should show how to make it (and get onto me if I don't). And if you're wondering why all of my manga tutorials feature a backlit Ember at night, I'm still trying to figure that out myself. The next one should be at least a little different.

Step 1: Things You'll Need

Here are the things you will need to complete this scene. Note: if you prefer to use Photoshop, you will probably have to use a graphics tablet to get the tapered lines. I'm going to teach you how to do the digital version; but for those of you who are unable to do the digital version, feel free to follow along with the traditional methods for making manga. A digital canvas size of about 2400x1700 works best.

Digital Version:
A basic knowledge of GIMP
Light blue colored pencil
Mechanical pencil or school pencil
Camera or scanner

Traditional Version:
Paper (preferably something sturdy like Bristol)
Markers, Watercolors, and/or Ink

Step 2: Sketch

When I do a sketch for any digital art, I do it in pencil on paper, then transfer it to a computer via a camera or a scanner.

To begin, do a quick drawing with your blue colored pencil. The reason to use a blue pencil is because it doesn't distract from the more complete pencil drawing. Speaking of which, go ahead and go over your initial drawing with your pencil or mechanical pencil; but this time, make it more detailed. Take a picture or scanning of this and open it up in gimp.

Before we can really start the picture, we need to tidy the sketch up. After using the curves tool to add contrast and converting the sketch to greyscale, use IWarp (filters>distorts>IWarp) to make minor changes. If your sketch is heavily distorted, you can use the perspective and cage deform tools to your advantage.

Step 3: Night Sky and Moon

Make a new layer and fill it with very dark blue. Go to filters>noise>HSV noise and adjust the settings to your liking. Use the scale tool to resize the layer and make it bigger. Go to layer>layer to image size to make the layer the same size as the image. Use the curves tool to get rid of excess stars and brighten the more visible ones. Use colorize to lighten the sky and give everything a blueish hue.

The moon is in total eclipse in this scene, so choose an orangey-red color and use a large, hard bush to place your moon on a new layer. Next, go to the gradient panel or gradient tool settings and choose the BG to FG gradient. Press "D" on your keyboard to change the colors back to default black and white. Set the tool blending mode to whatever you want. I'd use either overlay or grain merge. Choose "radial" from the drop-down menu and try dragging the gradient in different places on the moon until you find something you like. Go to filters>decor>coffee stain. Uncheck "darken only" and choose how many stains you'd like. I chose nine. Arrange your stains, merge them to one layer and resize it. Go to filter>distort>apply lens and drag the coffee stains over the moon. Click the "lock alpha channel" button on the layers panel and fill the layer with black. Set blend mode to either "grain merge" or "darken only" and merge with the moon layer. Make another new layer, and, using the smoke and cloud brushes, add details to your moon (use dark grey for best results). Crop the layer, making the center of the layer on the center of the moon. Once again, use the "Apply Lens" filter to make it rounded. Set the blending mode to "Grain merge". If you are satisfied with your result, merge this with the moon layer.

Merge the sky and moon layers together and blur them slightly, but make sure they are still distinguishable.

Step 4: Ground and Water

Select the area that you want the bank (as in shore) to be at and fill the selection with a medium brown. Use the smoke brush (set to something big like 200-300 pixels) with the blend mode on overlay and gently add details. Use the curves tool to adjust contrast to your liking.

Tip: Make the edges where the water and the ground meet a bit darker than the rest of the bank.

For the water, make a new layer and go to filters>render>clouds>solid noise and fiddle with the settings until you find something you like. Hide the layer by clicking the eye next to it on the layers panel. Duplicate the night sky layer and go to filters>map>displace. Choose the solid noise layer for both maps, and once again, play around with the settings until you find what you want. Make the noise layer visible again and turn the opacity pretty low. You don't want too many highlights. Duplicate this layer and darken it in curves. Now, back to the bank... select the very edge of the bank and feather the selection (selection>feather) to about seventy pixels. Delete this and deselect (selection>deselect). Go to filters>noise>pick, then sharpen with filters>enhance>sharpen. Lighten the bank slightly with curves; then make a layer underneath the bank. Use the "blend" tool set on radial with the FG to transparent gradient and make two or three 'circles' under the bank. Set the opacity to 75.

Step 5: Lineart *Graphics Tablet FREE*

Now we will begin working on the lineart. Anyone who has used a graphics program before will probably tell you that, to get tapered lines with varying thickness, you'll either need a calligraphy tool or a graphics tablet. Well, I'm going to tell you another way you can create this effect. Go to the dynamics tab and click "new". A new tab will pop up. In this tab, simply click the box next to "size" and under "fade". That's it! You can choose the fade length, too! To do that, just scroll down on the tool options panel for the airbrush until you see a little bar that says "fade length" and adjust that to your liking. Other things you can do are setting the opacity to fade and velocity. Play around with different dynamics settings. You might be suprised at how many things you can do with it!

For the lineart itself, quick, fluid movement works best. Check the smooth stroke box on the tool options panel and it will almost completely eliminate 'mouse shake'. Choose a hard, round brush with the size set to three or a soft brush with a radius of seven pixels.

Step 6: Coloring

To fill in your lineart quickly, duplicate your lineart layer and open curves. Set the curves to alpha and drag the middle of the diagonal line to the bottom. Where the line begins to curve back up, drag it to the top. When you do this, it hardens the edges of your lineart (for best results, repeat this process once or twice). Use the fuzzy select tool to select the area OUTSIDE the lineart. Invert the selection (select>invert). Delete the duplicate lineart layer and make a new one underneath the original lineart layer. Fill the selection on the new layer with the color of your choice. Another way to do this is by manually selecting the base with the free-select tool. This is the most effective method for base coloring. Ember is a dark tan.

Now, on a new layer if you like, add any details you want i.e. stripes, patches, scars, and birthmarks. The easiest way to do this is to select the marking, then go to the base coat layer and choose layer>transparency>intersect with selection and fill in the selection.

Step 7: Eyes

The eyes are hard, so I decided to dedicate a whole step to them.

To start, block in the eyes with the basic colors. Ember's eyes have a yellow base for the iris and a dark brown for the pupil. Remember to NEVER use black for the pupils! Cats pupils are very reflective, so be sure to add some color to them. Next, choose the dodge/burn tool; select a soft brush; and make the settings like in the screen-capture above.
Note: you absolutely have to raise the brush spacing! If you don't, the edges will be hard, and that doesn't look very good...
Now, begin burning the top edge of the eyes until you get a vivid orange. Lower the spacing a bit and burn the edges of the iris four or five times. Raise the spacing again and dodge the lower part of the eye. Switch back to "burn" and lower the brush size. Burn a shape like this: ( ) around the pupil and burn four or more lines radiating from it. Dodge the lighter areas again. Using the smudge tool, make circular motions around the iris (make sure you lock the layer's alpha channel before doing this). Next, dodge and burn little squiggly lines around the iris. Using short, spiral motions, smudge it a bit.

Whew... that was a mouthful... and all for one eye! That's right! If you didn't keep up and do both eyes, you've still got one more to go, so let's get to it!

Step 8: Facial Features

I like to put the facial features on the base layer, but you can put them on a new layer if you like. The colors you use for the eye whites, eye lashes (if you are making your cat a girl), nose, nostrils, mouth, teeth, inner ears, etc. are completely up to you.
The colors I use for Ember are:

Eye whites: light orange
Eye lashes: very dark orange
Tear ducts: grey-brown
Nose: brown
Nostrils: dark brown
Tongue: dark pink
Mouth: maroon
Teeth: light yellow
Inner ear: light brown
Whiskers: white

To do the highlights in the eyes, chose a hard brush and the "basic" dynamics setting. The best places to put the highlights are in opposite corners of the eye and maybe one in the middle. Don't over-do it or make the highlights too big. Just the opposite can be unappealing, too.

The best way I've found to do the whiskers is by using the "color from gradient" dynamics setting with a custom gradient. I'm not sure how to attach files, but the FG to transparent gradient with the repeat setting on "triangular wave" should do the trick.

Step 9: Highlights and Shadows

Select the areas you want to lighten. In my version, the moon is high in the sky, so Ember's reflection is back lit. Try different light source angles and see what different effects you can get. Different colored lighting can also make dramatic changes. Since the moon is red, Ember's highlights are too. When you select the highlights, changes are, you won't keep it completely on your cat; but that is okay, fill it in anyway (make sure you are on a new layer in between the colors and the lineart). Click the base color later to make it active and go to layer>transparency>alpha to selection. Activate the lineart layer and click layer>transparency>add to selection. Invert the selection, press delete and, ta-da: clean, sharp edges! Repeat these steps for the shadows. To select the shadows, simply invert the highlights selection. Easy, huh? Make sure you put the highlights and the shadows on separate layers. The shadows are light purple (also known as "lavender"). Set the layer mode for the highlights to "addition". Making the shadows and the highlights opposite or "complimentary" colors enhances the overall dramatic impact of the image.

Step 10: Touching Up

As some of you may have noticed, I completely forgot the dew-toe on Ember's right paw (smacks forehead). Other little things I've changed/added are more fluffy things to Ember's "Chest" and added some shadows to the highlights on Ember's upper leg. I also blurred the upper leg slightly to make it seem closer and made the bank slightly larger. If there are any coffee stains or patterns that you decided that you don't like on the moon, you can use the healing tool to fix it.

Step 11: Repeat

Repeat the steps for Swallowtail (the cat in the upper corner). Because he is looking up more, the highlights cover more area. Don't forget to blur him a little, because he knows Ember enough to keep a little distance from her when she's upset.

I must admit, I had the hardest time choosing which of Ember's friends to put in the background. I decided on Swallowtail because at the time, he was probably the closest to Ember both physically and emotionally.

Step 12: Water Effects

Now we will enhance the feeling by giving Ember some tears. Make a new layer and select the bottom edge of her eye. Use the blend tool with the FG to BG gradient and drag it at an angle from one side of the selection to the other. Repeat for the other eye. Set the layer mode to either "overlay" or "grain merge". Merge the cat reflection layers together (the best way to do this is by making a layer group, duplicating it, and compressing it). Go to filters>map>displace and choose the tear layer for both maps. Make another new layer and put little highlights on this layer to make it look more watery.

For the drop that is falling, select a water drop shape and fill it with grey. Accent the top left edge with black and bottom right edge with white. Either choose a layer blending mode or lower the opacity of this layer. Make a new layer and put two or three highlights over the tear drop. Duplicate both layers, flip them, and put them "in" the water for a reflection. To make the droplet look like it's falling, use the motion blur filter set on zoom with "blur outward" unchecked.

For all we know, that water drop could've come from some hidden cloud, so let's make a tear trail on Ember's cheek. Just select a curved line coming from the middle of the eye, fill it with black, and lower the opacity. Simple, yet enhances the image quite a bit!

The last water effect is to make some ripples around the edges of the water. Use black and white to make the ripples. Activate the reflection later and displace (filters>map>displace). This makes the reflections look like reflections.

Step 13: Finishing Touches

Now, all you have to do is add a black border and text. Try using different fonts to liven things up. The screen-shot above has a generic font, but in the end I chose a nicer looking one.

Step 14: You're Done!

Here it is! Sit back and admire your piece. When you finally catch your breath after all of that hard work, show it off!


lurgundoflonk made it!(author)2015-07-04

I absolutely love your instructables. They are so helpful and you are such a great artist. I'm quite jealous and I also liked your Casting Crowns reference too. :D

aartcritique made it!(author)2015-07-12

Thank you very much, lurgundoflonk! I firmly believe that anyone who can hold a pencil can draw. The problem many people have is not with drawing, but making the drawing look good. Like one famous artist said many times: 'draw what you see, not what you think it should be'. Using a reference photo can also help you out.

Here is something you might want to try: get out a piece of paper, a pencil, a timer, and a reference photo or two and try to draw a very quick outline sketch as fast as you can. You can use a marker lid, craft stick, or some other small, long and thin object to measure proportions on the reference picture. A grid can also be a great help, and at one time, I couldn't draw without one.

A book that really gave me a jumpstart in the art world is Lee Hammond's draw real animals. While her art it isn't the most realistic in the world, many of the tips and tricks she uses really do work with incredible results (though I'm not a big fan of the way she shades)

I know that this is a manga 'ible, but if you start out with realisms, you will more likely produce good looking manga.

Sorry if I'm rambling ;)...

aartcritique made it!(author)2015-04-30

Yes, I love them too! Them and MIKESCHAIR are really good. Both bands have strong, original songs. Even their takes on traditional Christian songs are so unique!

mazzy+mitchell made it!(author)2015-04-30

Wait, wait, Casting Crowns the christian band? I love Casting Crowns!

amberrayh made it!(author)2015-01-30

This looks great! Thanks for the thorough instructions!

aartcritique made it!(author)2015-04-25

No problem, I enjoy teaching art and other skills. Thank you for checking out this instructable!

mazzy+mitchell made it!(author)2015-04-02

Awesome. Don't have that gimp thing though. NUAHH

aartcritique made it!(author)2015-04-25

That isn't hard to fix. GIMP is free for all, so once again, here is a link to the official download page, if anyone needs it: .

kandieman made it!(author)2015-02-02

Great work. I learn more about digital art every time I read your instructables. Keep up the good work.

About This Instructable



Bio: I try to make the details simple and the simple detailed. I also do semi-professional pet portraiture. All of my instructables are certified parent approved.
More by aartcritique:How to Draw Manga Lesson 4: a Thousand MistsHow To Draw CatsHow to Draw a Cat Eye (with video tutorial)
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