Why Is Manga Printed in Black and White and Not in Color?

If you’re an avid Manga reader, you no doubt noticed that nearly all Manga is printed in black and white, not color. But why is this?

Manga is printed in black and white because: it is cheaper to print, faster to draw, and does not require as many people to be involved in the production process. All three are meant to keep cost down and maximize production speed.

Black and white coloring also lends itself to the unique art form of Manga. Many argue that monochrome colors are far more evocative and aesthetically pleasing than if those same scenes were rendered in color.

That said, many other forms of Manga-style comics such as Mahnwa and Webtoons are released in full color.

So, exactly why is Manga still drawn in black and white?

Why Is It Cheaper to Print Manga in Black and White?

The following is in reference to Manga printed in Magazines where they are first published. The printing process for Volume releases is much different.

The practice of publishing Manga in black and white (B&W) can be traced back to post-war Japan. Despite a struggling economy, many classic Manga were released in the 50s and 60s. But because of it, Japanese companies were forced to cut costs wherever they could.

Printing Manga in B&W was and still is an effective way to keep costs down for both producer and consumer. A 500-Page Shonen Jump Manga magazine costs a mere ¥290 ($2.20), as of 2023.

And why? Because Manga is designed to be as cheap to produce as possible. For three reasons:


Manga published in magazines are typically printed on 印刷せんか紙 (Insatsu Senka Kami) which roughly translates to: Low-Grade Recycled Paper. It is made from about 30 to 40 percent recycled paper from various sources, usually newsprint. The rest is made up of leftover clippings from the floors of printing houses.

Once collected it must be dyed to hide the various colors leftover from the recycled material. But it’s impossible to completely obscure them. You can actually see residue left from the original material with a magnifying glass.

This gives Manga magazine paper a distinct feel and appearance. The paper is extremely thin and flimsy. The slightest tug will rip the paper.

Needless to say, using this type of paper is extremely inexpensive and allows publishers to print enormous amounts of paper and still sell it at a low price.

However, such paper is useless for color printing. The colors leftover from the recycled material would distort and ruin an image printed in color. Thus, Manga must be in B&W to be printed on such cheap paper.


As you likely know if you’ve ever gone to have something printed—printing in color costs more than printing in B&W.

Printing a Manga in B&W usually requires only a single plate to be prepared for the printer. Printing in color might require three or more plates to achieve the full range of colors on each page of Manga.

Each page and plate also needs to be checked by someone specializing in color printing.

More plates = more work = higher cost.

And as alluded to above, a much higher quality of paper is needed to print in color. This is usually referred to as ‘Magazine Paper‘ and is much thicker and stronger. And—

Higher quality paper = higher cost.

Such paper is necessary to bring out the delicate lines, color gradation, soft shadows, and so on present in a full-color illustration. But it’s much heavier, which leads us to the next point—


Despite being about three inches thick, Manga magazines are very lightweight. The cheap paper it’s printed on is extremely light as it’s made as thin as possible and basically see-through.

Conversely, a full-color magazine is much heavier due to its thicker, higher-quality paper. Even though it has five times as many pages, a B&W Manga magazine weighs about as much as a full-color one.

The issue here lies in how much it costs to get those magazines to readers.

More weight = higher shipping cost.

Manga publishers need to move literal tons of magazines all across Japan and want to do so as cheaply as possible. B&W is a must to be able to use the cheap paper that allows for a lower shipping cost.

Why Is It Faster to Publish Manga in Black and White?

Publishing Manga in Japan is all about speed. Countless series are published in hundreds of magazines every single week. And to meet that high demand, corners must be cut. So, the first to go is that which takes longest to create and costs the most to produce: color.

Japanese Manga publishing practices are completely different from those of western comics. The Japanese are focused on getting the best possible product out as quickly as possible. Conversely, westerners also aim for high quality, but aren’t too concerned about getting the product out fast.

The majority of Manga published in magazines released either Weekly or Monthly. Each series is released in Chapter format, which contain different amounts of pages dependent on their release schedule. Here are the averages:

  • Weekly: 15-20 Pages, 18 is the Average
  • Monthly: 30-50 Pages, 42 is the Average

And the average time is takes for a Professional Manga artist to draw a single page of manga is about 4 hours. You can read more about how long it takes to draw a single page of Manga in this article.

In order to meet her weekly deadline, a Manga Artist (Mangaka) must draw approximately 72 hours in a single week. Manga is drawn in B&W because there’s simply not enough time to render them in full color. And drawing in B&W is always faster than in color given the limited color palette.

Many Mangaka work with a small team or alone, so going from storyboard to finished product is nigh impossible to pull off in a week to begin with. There’s little chance they could ever deliver a high-quality color version of their manga under such time constraints.

And while you might assume a series released Monthly could easily be colored, the math isn’t in its favor either. It would take 21 8-hour work days to reach the 42-page average. The remaining 9 days likely wouldn’t be enough time to color every page. And neither the weekly or monthly schedules allow for a single day off!

In fact, many Mangaka don’t meet their deadlines and have to skimp on much of the finer details of their Manga art. The Manga published in a magazine can be very different in terms of quality compared to when they touch it up for the Volume release.

In order to meet the demand of readers and publishers, Mangaka have no choice but to draw their manga in black and white.

Drawing Manga in Black and White Doesn’t Take as Many People

Another reason why Manga isn’t drawn in color is because doing so reduces the amount of people the publisher has to employ.

While Mangaka are plenty capable of drawing in color, it simply isn’t their expertise. Western comic series often employ a robust staff in which each element of the comic is handled by a different person. One person draws while another does the coloring.

To color a Manga, someone specializing in coloring would be needed to ensure a high-quality product. And it wouldn’t be enough to hire just a colorist. The publisher would need to hire more people who specialize in editing color or doing quality checks on color. Editing and quality assurance for color are different than black and white.

And even if they did hire all that extra staff, they would be under the same insane time constraints. There’s little chance they would be able to decide on the color scheme and style, color it, edit it, and check it in the short amount of time they’re allotted.

In short, rendering a manga in color would basically double the necessary time and staff. And—

More employees = more paychecks = higher cost.

Something Manga publishers are clearly bent on avoiding. Presumably, the money to be made from coloring Manga likely wouldn’t match the cost required to produce it.

Are Any Manga Drawn in Color?

The vast majority of Manga pages are drawn in black and white. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t any Manga pages drawn in color. Here are a few instances where Mangaka will draw in color:

  • The Front Cover of a Magazine – If his series is famous enough, a Mangaka might be chosen to have his series featured on the front cover of the magazine it’s published in. If so, he has to draw a full-color illustration in addition to the rest of his B&W pages. I’m not sure if the honor is worth the agony…
  • The First Few Pages of a Chapter – Sometimes, the first few pages in a Manga magazine will be in full-color. But it’s typically only 4 pages.
  • Special Occasions – If the Mangaka is celebrating a special occasion such as a milestone (100th Chapter) or anniversary (1 Year Since Publication), she might include a full-color illustration alongside her B&W Manga chapter.
  • Volume Release – When enough chapters have been published, they are collected and released in Volume format. The front and back of the volume are always in full-color. On occasion, the first few pages of the first chapter are redone in color. And you’ll also find special, new illustrations in the front or spaced throughout the volume all in full-color.
  • Special Editions – If popular enough, some series will be rendered entirely in color and re-released in a special ‘Full-Color’ edition. Shingeki no Kyojin and Highschool of the Dead are a couple examples of this.

Those are the instances in which a B&W Manga might have some color. However, there are a few Manga that rendered in color from the start. But they are very rare and have a limited audience because of the cost to print them in large quantities.

However, that is only the case for print. Full-color Manga are very popular online, but the way they are drawn and produced can be very different from traditional B&W Manga.

Much Cheaper, Much Faster

Now you know exactly why Manga are Black and White. Cost and efficiency. Perhaps if the Japanese Manga market had evolved similarly to the western one, all Manga might be rendered in full-color.

But that ship has long since sailed. So, black and white Manga are here to stay. And I daresay that is for the better.

You may be wondering if it’s better to draw your own Manga in black and white or in color. I myself vastly prefer black and white Manga, but many would disagree. You can find out why by checking out this article on the pros and cons of drawing in black and white or in color.

Regardless of which you choose, you’ll at least know what you’re getting into in terms of cost and time investments. Black and white Manga is cheaper and faster than color no matter how you look at it.


Hey, my name's Azuma. I first dove deep into Otaku culture in 2010 and never quite grew out of it. After a million different anime, light novels, manga, and visual novels, I learned a lot about each art form. Knowledge I want to share with you from writing advice to drawing tips. I'm also the Author of two light novels series, Garden of PSI and On Creating the Ultimate Weapon. Happy creating!

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