You’ve decided that you want to become a manga artist. Maybe you’ve been drawing on and off or have never even owned a sketchbook. Either way, you’ve read a ton of manga and want to share your story and art through the same medium.
But you hesitate. You reflect on all the artists you’ve ever known. How they talk about how they started drawing before they could even walk, how they spent every bit of their youth with a pencil or paintbrush in hand, and how they put in thousands of hours of practice.
You think about all the time you haven’t spent drawing and are forced to ask yourself: am I too old to become a manga artist?
No, you will never be too old to become a manga artist. As long as you can see and hold a pencil, you can become a manga artist. Drawing is a skill that anyone can learn at any age regardless of talent or prior understanding of art.
There are plenty of examples of artists who didn’t start drawing until later in life (Monet, van Gogh). Whether you’re 15, 50, or 95, you can still become a manga artist. And unlike professional sports, drawing doesn’t require much physical effort, so age can’t hold you back.
But you’re still probably wondering if it’s too late for you. There’s so much to learn, so many hours of practice ahead of you, and other such excuses you might invent that keep you from achieving your dream.
So, let’s confront each one and learn how you can become a manga artist no matter how old you are.
You Know More About Drawing Manga Than You Think
One of the biggest hurdles to learning a new skill is well—learning it. To master any skill, you need to absorb a ton of information. In regards to drawing, this information is readily available to anyone via college education, how-to-draw guides, personal tutors, and so on.
And you may benefit from pursuing those avenues, but should first ask if you actually need that many of them.
While you must study the fundamentals of drawing (anatomy, perspective, composition), mastering them may not take as long as you imagine. For two reasons:
One, you aren’t technically starting from nothing. You’ve likely picked up tidbits of drawing knowledge from books, people, or even television. Everything you’ve ever seen has contributed to your overall understanding of how things look: their shapes, sizes, proportions, colors, shadows, and so on.
All of the things you’ve experienced in life be they 2D or 3D are stored somewhere in your brain and can be used as reference material. Compared to a child learning from zero, you’ve got a leg up. Learning how to draw later in life might actually be more efficient because you only need to gain skill, not necessarily knowledge.
And two, if you’ve decided to become a manga artist in particular, you’re probably an Otaku. And as an Otaku, you’ve likely read a million manga, watched twice as many anime, and spend a lot of time gawking at fanart of your waifus/husbandos.
So, in regards to the unique anime art-style, you already know tons about popular characters designs, how to arrange panels on each page of your manga, what is or isn’t visually striking, and on and on and on.
If it takes an equal amount of practice and gaining knowledge to master a skill, then why worry about your age? You’re already halfway to becoming a manga artist.
But, what about that first thing you said? Practice? How much practice…?
How Much Time Will It Take to Become a Manga Artist?
The primary difference between a manga artist who started learning early and one starting late is how much practice he’s had. You might be able to learn the fundamentals of drawing quickly, but the only thing that can make up for practice is practice.
And if you’re starting late, you have to wonder just how much time you’ll spend practicing before you can become a manga artist. Unfortunately, there is no real answer to that question.
Many claim that 10,000 hours of performing a skill is necessary to become a master. And while I believe this is true, you don’t actually have to put in 10,000 hours to become a manga artist. The second you draw a single page of manga, you are a manga artist.
That single page might be the most horrendous piece of art ever produced, but it’s still manga. Whether you put in 1 or 10,000 hours of practice, you can become a manga artist. And even just 10% of that 10,000 is more than enough practice to produce a decent manga.
The only difference between a skilled artist and an unskilled one is practice. And you can make up that difference by practicing. It will be discouraging at first, but remember that all master manga artists once sucked as bad as you will when starting out.
You’ll see your peers doing better, people half your age doing better, toddlers doing better, but that’s OK. They got to their skill level by practicing and so can you.
Besides, drawing as a skill is ultimately simple and totally visual. You don’t have to be some kind of genius to learn how to draw. Despite a lack of knowledge, children pick up drawing lightning quick. Coming up with unique designs might require some extra thought, but learning the basics of drawing isn’t difficult from an intellectual standpoint.
Do your best to not get discouraged and keep your nose to the drawing grindstone. With enough practice, you can become a manga artist no matter your age.
Sure, you say, but I want to go professional. It must be impossible for me to become a professional manga artist when I’m only just now learning how to draw.
Is It Possible to Become a Professional Manga Artist if I Start Late?
Before we can answer this question, it’s important we define ‘professional‘.
- What most people think when they hear the word: a master of a certain skill.
- What you probably mean by the word: someone who is paid for their skill.
You can become both regardless of age, but if you only have so much time each day to put in the necessary 10,000 hours of practice, let’s stick to achieving that second definition.
And the trick to doing that is by changing the way you think about your goals.
In regards to manga artists, a ‘professional’ is typically thought of as someone who has signed on with a major publishing magazine like Shonen Jump or Shojo Beat. She has an agent, editor, and marketing team behind her to bring her manga to the world. And she is paid for her work, which makes her a professional.
Reaching that level of ‘professional’ is difficult for anyone regardless of when they started learning how to draw. If that’s your definition of ‘professional manga artist’, then I’m sorry to say you’re not likely to achieve that goal anytime soon.
Not only are you behind on the necessary practice, if you’re reading this article, you likely aren’t Japanese, making it even harder to be published in a Japanese manga magazine.
It’s by no means impossible. I once met an American in her twenties who had her manga published in Japan. And, he has the advantage of being Japanese, but here’s an inspiring story of a man whose manga wasn’t published until his 60’s.
But you’ve got enough to worry about, so let’s just wholesale abandon that definition of ‘professional manga artist’. Instead, let’s change the way you think about this goal of becoming a professional. In two ways:
- Keep your goals realistic.
- Lower your expectations.
You might not ever be published in a major manga magazine (few people are), but you can still self-publish your manga. The first is unrealistic for most manga artists regardless of starting age.
The second is totally realistic and can be accomplished by anyone willing to put in the work. You can publish your work online or even print out copies of it to sell all on your own.
Just keep your expectations low. Because you’re starting late, it might take much longer than you’re willing to wait to become a professional. But that’s no cause for worry.
If you make even one dollar from your manga, you are a professional manga artist. And that knowledge in itself will serve as inspiration to become just as famous as someone published in a magazine. You might even end up richer considering you get to keep most of your profits…
It’s Never Too Late for You to Become a Manga Artist
It really isn’t. You might not even be as old as you imagine. I came across an 18-year-old asking if they were too old only to have someone in his 40s scoff at him and tell him he has all the time in the world.
It’s easy to feel left behind when you see manga artists much younger than you at a professional level. But that’s no reason to give up on your dream.
You need only put in the practice, apply the knowledge you already have, and keep your goals realistic. When it comes to a skill like drawing, age really is just a number.
Even if you put in just one hour of work per day for the next year, you’ll have practiced 365 hours. And that’s more than enough practice to start working on your manga. A manga you can easily profit from by following advice online or right here on Otaku Create.
You can become a manga artist no matter how old you are. You can even become a professional. But if you want to make it happen fast, you’d better start soon. And you can by checking out this guide on how to jumpstart your career as a manga artist.