You’ve decided to create your very own manga. You know it’s going to take a long time to draw an entire volume. But how long does it take to draw a single page?
Manga artists can take anywhere from 4 to 16 hours to draw one page of manga depending on their skill level. Beginners often take more than 10 hours, while professionals can finish in 4 hours, perhaps even less. That said, the average drawing time per page is between 6 and 8 hours.
Does that sound like a long time? I always thought each page a manga must’ve taken a ton of work given the beautiful characters, backgrounds, and attentional to detail.
But 16 hours?! Then again, drawing one in 4 hours is just as surprising. You have to wonder how some manga artists are able to publish a new chapter every week.
How long does a chapter take to draw? How about an entire volume? And just how are some manga artists able to work twice as fast as others at the same skill level?
Let’s take a deeper look.
How Long Does It Take to Draw One Chapter of Manga?
Manga are primarily published in manga magazine in two ways:
- Weekly: Published every week and containing 15-20 pages. 19 pages is the average.
- Monthly: Published every month and containing 30 to 50 pages. 45 pages is the average.
Lets say the average time it takes to draw a single page of manga is 8 hours. If so, a manga artist would spend this many hours on each chapter:
- Weekly: 19 Pages X 8 Hours = 152 Hours / 24 = A little over 6 days of drawing
- Monthly 45 Pages X 8 Hours = 360 Hours / 24 = 15 days of drawing
That doesn’t sound quite right, does it?
If a manga artist treats his job like most and works 8 hours a day, it’s impossible for him to publish on time in both scenarios.
- Weekly: 152 Hours of Drawing / 8 Hours a Day = 19 Days
- Monthly: 360 Hours of Drawing / 8 Hours a Day = 45 Days
The first is nearly three weeks, while the second is a month and a half!
Something isn’t adding up. As mentioned earlier, skill level is the primary difference between artists ability to produce pages quickly. But even if they drew twice as fast, could they still meet their deadlines?
- Weekly: 19 Pages X 4 Hours = 76 Hours / 24 = A little over 3 days / 8 Hours = 9.5 Days
- Monthly: 45 Pages X 4 Hours = 180 Hours / 24 = 7.5 days / 8 Hours = 22.5 Days
Monthly manga artists barely survive, but once again, a normal work week’s worth of time is unable to meet the weekly deadline.
The most popular answer to this dilemma is that manga artists push themselves to their absolute limit sacrificing sleep and health to deliver their work on time.
And while that’s certainly true and many manga artists have been hospitalized for overwork, it doesn’t provide a full explanation. No manga artist can sustain a constant state of overwork every single week of every year.
So, how are they able to draw so many pages of manga so quickly?
Why Are Some Manga Artists Able to Draw Faster Than Others?
I know I built this up, but the answer to our dilemma is no secret.
Professional manga artists are able to draw so quickly because they have a team of assistants doing part of the work for them.
Plus, in regards to bringing their work to readers, they have an entire publishing house backing them. All the editing, printing, marketing, and so on is out of their hands. All they have to worry about is writing their manga and drawing it. And part of that process is also out of their hands.
Thus, while meeting weekly deadlines is undoubtedly difficult and stressful (many manga artists are said to churn out 3 pages a day), it’s not as impossible as our math suggests.
At least for professionals. You, dear artist, do not have access to the same resources and therefore must abide by the math. Math that changes drastically depending on a variety of factors.
Factors we will soon discuss, but first, we must ask this question:
How Long Does It Take to Draw One Volume of Your Manga?
On average, manga volumes contain anywhere from 180 to 220 pages. So, basing it on weekly and monthly chapter releases and an average page count of 200, how many chapters are in a volume?
- Weekly: 200 Pages / 19 = 10 to 11 Chapters per Volume
- Monthly: 200 Pages / 45 = 4 to 5 Chapters per Volume
However, for published professionals, the question of ‘how long per volume’ isn’t worth asking because they’re not worried about it. A volume of her manga is released by her publishing house whenever she draws enough chapters. So, she only focuses on getting each chapter out by the deadline.
But we’re talking about you now, so let’s see how long it’s going to take for you to release one volume of your manga. You probably don’t have a team of assistants, let’s say you can draw a page of manga every 8 hours. If so:
- 200 Pages X 8 Hours = 1600 Hours / 24 = Rounded Up, 67 Days
Yes, on average, it will take you 67 full days to release just one volume of your manga. But that’s scary, so let’s look at it in terms of work hours:
- 1600 Hours of Drawing / 8 Hour Work Days = 200 Days
Look, I just gave you 165 days off for the year!
What? You have a day job? Family obligations? A spouse? You can only spare a one or two hours a day?! Fine, let’s run some more numbers:
- 1600 Hours of Drawing / 2 Hour Work Days = 2 Years, 2 Months, and 10 Days
- 1600 Hours of Drawing / 1 Hour Work Days = 4 Years, 4 Months, and 20 Days
…Oh. Wow. Sorry. I didn’t know it would…woops. Well, good luck with that. Bye!
Just kidding! Wait, come back! I still haven’t told you that these are just average numbers! You could finish your manga much faster
or slower depending on the following factors.
What Factors Decide How Fast You Can Draw One Page of Manga?
The speed at which manga artists complete each page of their manga varies quite a bit between artists. And while it’s tempting to say its a matter of experience, there are several factors at play. Each plays a role in determining how fast you can draw one page of your manga.
And in knowing what they are, you can manipulate each in order to release your manga far faster than what our above math suggests. So, let’s go through each.
The Drawing Process
The process of drawing a page of manga from start to finish has several steps requiring different techniques and tools. Because of that, no two steps are equal and require varying amounts of time. So, assuming 8 hours a page, about how long does each step take?
- Storyboarding: Panel alignment – 30 Minutes
- Sketching: Basic sketches of each panel and their contents – 1 Hour
- Inking, Toning, Effects: Finalizing the lines of your sketches – 5 Hours
- Detailing: Adding fine details for hair, clothes, small objects – 1 Hour
- Touch-Up: Adding whites, dialogue to speech bubbles – 30 Minutes
And that’s assuming you’ve already done all the conceptual work like story outlining, characters designs, and worldbuilding. The actual time one artist spends on his manga could be far greater than what the averages suggest as they only account for time spent drawing.
The time you spend on each step might not perfectly match your experience, as they were just my own approximations. Based on my research, everything but step 3 varies heavily between artists. But pretty much every manga artist agrees that Inking takes the greatest amount of time.
That said, with those averages in mind, you can identify steps where you might be spending more time than you should. Give special attention to developing your skills in those areas and you’ll be able to shave more time off each page you draw.
No matter how you slice it, the more skilled you are as a manga artist, the faster you can churn out pages. The only way to resolve this issue is through lots of practice.
But make sure you’re practicing the correct skills. Aimless general practice might make you a better artist, but only practicing the skills necessary to become a better manga artist will increase your manga drawing speed.
Level of Detail
Every page of manga is unique. And the panels on each page are unique from each other. The time spent on each panel and consequently each page can vary wildly depending on the level of detail in each panel. Consider:
- The number of entities in the panel: One or multiple characters? A character and a detailed background? Only a building?
- The size of the panel: Small, medium, large? The entire page?
- The number of panels: Just one or several?
- The level of detail in the panel: A character with a white background? A historically-accurate Tiger Tank?
Determine how much detail you want in each panel before starting to better determine how long each page will take. And if you want to reduce that time, consider whether your manga will actually benefit from the amount of detail you intend to draw. Sometimes, white backgrounds are plenty powerful.
The most famous manga artists have typically been drawing the same series for several years. So, they’re plenty familiar with what they’ll be drawing each day. They:
- Already know how to draw their characters
- Are well versed in their chosen art style
- Are familiar with the aesthetic of their setting and how to represent it
There’s no guesswork or need for experimentation, so they have zero hesitation when they sit down to draw. This, of course, makes them able to churn out manga pages fast.
Much faster than an artist who just started a new series or one who hasn’t been drawing for long.
Unfortunately, the only way to get faster at drawing your particular series is to keep drawing it. It might be tempting to work on multiple series at once, but if they have totally different aesthetics, doing so can hurt your overall speed.
Black and White or Full Color
While the vast majority of manga are rendered entirely in black and white, full color manga are gaining in popularity (mostly in the webtoon scene). How long one artist will spend on one coloring method or the other will depend on how familiar with it they are, but it’s safe to say full color will take longer.
You need only worry about monochrome colors in the first case, but you have a literal infinite number of colors to choose from in the latter. Making each one mesh with and compliment each other is a totally different skillset from just drawing.
If you’re just starting out, you can save time by sticking to black and white.
Traditional or Digital
Manga is still drawn using traditional tools and techniques, but younger artists are tending toward digital drawing. And it’s easy to see why.
Digital drawing can greatly reduce the time you spend drawing given all the extra, easy-to-access tools you have at your disposal. From auto-correcting your lines to importing premade assets, you could potentially cut your drawing time per page in half.
Like the last point, this will depend on the artist’s familiarity with each medium. Experienced traditional manga artists can work much faster than beginner digital ones and vice versa.
Stick with whichever you prefer, but consider which one will allow you to draw faster.
How Long Will It Take You to Draw Your Manga?
Each page of your manga will likely require a normal work day’s worth of work. No matter how you slice it, 6 to 8 hours per page is the average. But that’s for quality work. I could easily churn out a page an hour, but I doubt it’d worth the paper I scribbled it on.
If you’re just starting out as a manga artist, don’t be too discouraged if it takes you over 10 hours to draw a single page. That’s perfectly fine if that’s how long it takes to produce a quality manga. Once you’ve acquired the skills to create quality work, then you can worry about speed. Quality takes skill. Quality plus speed requires even greater skill.
The keys to achieving that are practice and focus. One thing I wondered while researching this article is how much time manga artists actually spend drawing.
It’s easy to say you spent 8 hours drawing a page of manga, but how many of those hours did you spend actually putting pen to paper? How much of that time was spent hesitating, daydreaming, or outright browsing Twitter?
The key to quality is undoubtedly practice, but making a point to focus everything you’ve got on drawing can drastically improve your speed.
Don’t think about all those scary numbers above. Even if you only have an hour to draw a day, you can still draw your manga with enough dedication and focus.
So, go on and get drawing that one page a manga. You’ll have enough ‘one page’s to release a whole volume sooner than you think.