You’ve got a great idea for a Manga, but one rather important step in the creation process stops you in your tracks. You can’t draw. But is that really a problem? Do you actually need to know how to draw to create a Manga?
No, you don’t need to know how to draw to make a Manga. Several famous Manga were created by a collaboration between a writer and an artist. However, such instances are rare. You can pull it off, but it won’t be easy.
The vast majority of Manga are written and drawn by a single person. There are collaborations like the pairs that created Death Note and To Love-Ru, but both creators were already professionals brought together by their employers.
You can hire an artist, but this has its own share of problems. And while there are other methods to create your Manga without any drawing ability, they aren’t any simpler.
That said, if you’re serious about your project, it’s not impossible. Let’s take a look at some ways you can create your Manga despite a lack of drawing skill.
Hire a Manga Artist to Draw Your Manga
The obvious solution to your problem would be to hire someone who can draw. There are plenty of Manga Artists (Mangaka) looking for work at any given time. And you can find them anywhere from the internet to your local college’s art department.
However. Depressing as it is, writing is seen as ‘easy’, while drawing is seen as ‘hard’. This is false; it’s easy to write or draw poorly, but hard to write or draw well. But, alas, the stigma has already been set in stone and writers are treated as a dime a dozen.
And even worse, this appears true on any internet hiring board. There are a million and one writers looking for artists, but very few artists interested in working with an artist. They say: “why don’t I just write it myself?”
That said, the stigma isn’t totally wrong in regards to Manga specifically. The work of the writer is miniscule compared to the vast amounts of drawing the artist must do. If you hire an artist, you’re effectively telling them to do 90% of your project.
You can negate this issue by paying them extremely well, but then you’d have to pay them extremely well. And if you’re reading an article like this, I get the feeling you’re a bit strapped for capital.
So, you could offer to split the profits you gain from your Manga with your artist. If you do all the writing, marketing, graphic design, and everything else it takes to bring your Manga to market, then a 50/50 split wouldn’t be unreasonable.
However, you’d be promising a whole lot for potentially zero results. Unless you can convince your artist that you’d be able to make X amount of profits off your Manga, they’d have to be out of their minds to take such a colossal risk by spending so much time on your Manga.
This problem could be circumvented in two ways:
- Be an insanely good writer and craft a script and some storyboards that would convince an artist to take a chance on your Manga.
- Hire someone you know personally so the relationship isn’t purely transactional. A close friend would be more willing to take a risk with you, plus it can serve as good practice for both of you.
Both cases have their pros and cons, but regardless of whether you pay them upfront or arrange a 50/50 split of profits, there are several issues you’ll have to deal with in hiring someone:
- You’re going to have to wait a LONG time for the drawings to be finished. Depending on the artist’s workload, your Manga could be way down on their list of things to do. And even if it’s the only project he’s working on, drawing a Manga is not something that can be completed in a couple hours. Check out this article to see how long it takes to draw just one page of Manga.
- You’ll need to maintain friendly relations with your artist. It’s hard enough putting a project together; human relations are even harder. You’ll have to learn quite a bit about drawing Manga to understand just what you’re asking of your artist. Ask too much or make unreasonable requests and you risk ruining the entire project.
- There’s always a risk your artist will quit or outright disappear. Anytime you work with people, especially those online, there’s a chance they just won’t want to work on your Manga anymore. The only ways to prevent this is by getting a good work contract in place or making sure you can trust them before paying them.
In case you haven’t figured it out yet, hiring an artist for your Manga is rife with potential problems. But it’s still the best avenue for creating your Manga without being able to draw.
I’ve hired three artists for various projects. Two are strangers to me from different countries, but they delivered exactly what I asked for, listened to my comments and concerns, and delivered the products in a timely manner.
Conversely, the third was someone I actually knew and he basically took my money and ran without delivering anything useful…
Your mileage will vary, but hiring an artist can be a wonderful experience if you outline every detail of your project in advance. The best artist is one that’s on board with your ideas and goals.
Here are a few resources for finding and hiring Manga artists:
- Artstation (Find one you like and send a personal message)
- DeviantArt (Find one you like and send a personal message)
- Fiverr (Freelance Hiring)
- Upwork (Freelance Hiring)
- Guru (Freelance Hiring)
- Pixiv (Japanese, but Google Translate works better than you think, find one you like and send a translated personal message)
You can also ask around your local colleges, leave hiring ads on Starbucks bulletin boards, and so on. If you’re serious about hiring a Manga artist, you’ll find one.
But what if you don’t want to go through all the potential heartache?
Use Software That Makes Manga for You
Not being able to draw doesn’t prevent you from creating a Manga all on your own. There are plenty of resources both paid and free you can use to ‘draw’ your Manga.
Essentially, you use software loaded with premade assets that you can rearrange to create your own Manga. All the assets might be predetermined, but you can change the details of each, so it might not be totally original, but whatever you make will be unique within the context of that program.
Usually, the paid programs allow you to use your Manga for commercial purposes. So, you can actually profit from your creations.
The free resources, however, almost always require some sort of accreditation or outright restrict commercial use. They’re great for experimentation, but don’t expect to be able to use anything you make using free assets.
Personally, I can’t condone this method. ‘Creating’ something that you didn’t create from scratch somehow offends my artistic sensibilities. However, such resources are great for exploring your ideas.
Hiring a Manga artist is a huge investment. So, it’s good practice to experiment or storyboard with such software before pulling the trigger on your project.
There are a million and one resources that will make Manga/Comics/Webtoons for you, but here are two made specifically for Manga:
- Manga Maker Comipo! (Official Website or Available on Steam)
- Kumakuma Manga Editor (Available on Steam)
Both are basically 3D modeling programs loaded with a ton of premade assets. You can use them to create your own unique characters, settings, backgrounds, special effects, and so on.
If you decide to use Manga-creation software, great, but I’ll leave you with a final warning—each will require a major time investment to learn how to use the software.
And, quite frankly, all the time you spend creating Manga that you technically didn’t make (in terms of original assets), could have been spent learning how to draw.
But if you still don’t want to draw, there is a more time-efficient avenue.
Consider Writing a Light Novel Instead of a Manga
If you can’t draw—don’t. In fact, don’t even try. If your talent lies in writing, then put all your effort into it.
It doesn’t make sense to force yourself to learn how to draw only to become average at it. Instead, put all your efforts into writing and become great at it.
And by that, I mean: why are you so determined to create a Manga?
If it’s because you know your story must be conveyed through the unique art form that is Manga, then by all means, do everything you can to make a Manga.
But if it’s just because it’s popular or that’s what you’re used to, then why bother?
In terms of story tropes, character archetypes, and settings, Manga and Light Novels are basically the same thing. Both are huge parts of Otaku culture. The only real difference is their presentation.
You’d still have to hire an artist, but you’d only be paying for a handful of illustrations versus the hundreds you need for a Manga. The exact number of which you’ll find detailed in this article about Light Novel illustrations.
This was my exact thought process when I created my Light Novels. Both could’ve been conveyed through Manga, but based on my skillset and budget, I decided the Light Novel format was the best avenue.
I won’t tell you not to create a Manga, but make sure it’s what you really want to do in the first place.
And if you do—
Learn to Draw
I know. That’s not what you want to hear. But if you’re dead serious about telling your story through the medium of Manga—there must be art.
You can hire someone, but it’s expensive and not guaranteed to go well. You could use premade assets, but could you really call it ‘your Manga’? You might write a Light Novel instead, but is that what you really want?
If none of the above options sound appealing, then you have no choice but to learn how to draw your own Manga. I won’t tell you that doing so is easy, nothing worthwhile is, but it’s not impossible by any means.
There’s a million and one resources available to learn how to draw. It just takes convincing yourself that you can do it. And you can. Drawing is a learned skill. No one is born with the ability. No matter how good someone is, they only reached that level via practice and consistent effort. Here, I wrote a whole article on why it’s never too late to start learning how to draw.
And you know what? Even if you suck, you can still create a Manga.
Even If You Can’t Draw Your Manga, Do It Anyway
Plenty of now-famous Mangaka started out with rather poor drawing skills. Their first works were hardly comparable to a professional, published Manga, but they didn’t let that stop them.
Two of the most famous examples are ONE, creator of One-Punch Man, and Hajime Isayama, creator of Attack on Titan.
ONE published his work as a webcomic at first. And despite having subpar art, he gained many fans because of how compelling his writing was.
Soon, he was offered a chance to have his work professionally published. Another artist was found to draw his Manga, but he was still able to make it big by the power of his writing.
Isayama paved a similar path, but never gave up on drawing. His writing got his foot in the door and he continued to practice drawing despite seemingly having no talent for it. And today, both his story and art are worthy of praise.
And in case you need more examples, both creators of the Touhou Project series and the Higurashi series still made it big despite their abysmal drawing ability. Rather, the ‘bad’ art gave both series a lot of unique charm and personality.
Not being able to draw like Da Vinci is no excuse to not start working on your Manga right now. Great art usually can’t carry bad writing, but great writing can definitely carry bad art.
You Don’t Necessarily Need to Know How to Draw to Create a Manga
You have plenty of avenues available to create a Manga without ever touching a sketchpad. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t learn something about art.
The beauty of Manga is that it’s a thoughtful mix of story and art. If you don’t fully understand how to use both, then your work will suffer.
Whichever path you take, just know it won’t necessarily be easy, but never lose sight of your goal—it’s not an impossible one.