10 Tips to Remember for Manga Competitions
I make no claim that getting chosen by Yen Press editors transformed me into a professional manga artist overnight. In fact, as you can read here the best part about “winning” the Yen Press Talent Search was getting editorial feedback and that was it. However, I think it’s a good exercise to review some best practices and share them with others who may be interested in joining contests similar to Yen Press’ in the future.
The first five tips involve thinking, research and planning: all of which are helpful in giving yourself good strong material with which to marry your artwork. The last five involve the actual production of the comic and make the work more dynamic.
1. Take the time to work on the story.
Think about how much time you think it will take you to create a story right now and triple it. I’m serious. The most important element in creating a comic is usually taken for granted. When executed well, a storyteller’s work can come across as effortless, easy to replicate. An artist with a story to tell does it justice by working at it, rewriting it over, seeking feedback for it and making it the best it can be.
2. Familiarize yourself with resources available to you.
Good resources can speed up your process and make you an efficient creator. If you’re lost just reading the competition rules (specs? DPI? resolution?), do your homework. If you want to create tones digitally, it’s possible to do on Photoshop or Manga Studio or Comicworks – look into which one fits you best. Things will go smoother if you know and have what you need when you start your project.
3. Create a schedule.
Creating a comic is an exercise in getting your ducks all in a row. Organize your life, give yourself plenty of time to work and don’t procrastinate and leave things off at the last minute! The more things you can do on the front end, the better. Maybe it’s getting the dialogue right so you don’t have to re-type them in a rush. Or making sure you have your pages inked by a certain date to give you enough time to tone your pages. Give yourself buffers because you’re not going to get everything right the first time!
4. Work on characters.
Think about what makes an interesting character apart from how they look and why you root for them in the first place. A book on story suggests that interesting characters: 1) have had something bad happened to them 2) are funny 3) are really good at something. (Bonus points if he/she is all three!) Then, what? What do they go through and how do they come out of it? What makes this character’s story worth telling? These are all good questions to ask and the pursuit of answering them is what separates good storytellers from terrible ones.
5. Design interesting characters.
Good character design can help emphasize character traits and clue in the reader to what kind of person they are instantaneously. Costumes and fashion are important but so is the way characters behave themselves through gesture and facial expressions. These are actually pretty fun to figure out and tweak so go crazy!
6. Thumbnail everything out.
Thumbnailing pages in advance helps you get a grip on the story’s pacing. It’s also where you can figure out how to maximize the impact of moments in the story. You can thumbnail on paper or on photoshop where you can just cut & paste, resize and move panels faster.
7. Create and arrange speech bubbles effectively.
For the love of BOB, find a good comic font! Cut down on wordy speech balloons by rewriting dialogue or break it up into different ones to pace it differently. Panel composition in the thumbnail process should take speech bubbles into account so you don’t block important elements of the art. Keep the visual flow of the speech bubbles in mind so readers don’t read bubbles in the wrong order.
8. Pay attention to line weight when inking.
Pick up your favorite comic and observe how the lines detailing characters, props and background elements vary in length. Steady lines come with practice and experience but strive to create smooth, confident lines. The way ink is applied can be incredibly expressive, it’s an art unto itself.
9. Vary up your tones/Learn color theory.
Tones are the way to flesh out the characters and environment in manga so brushing up on the dos and don’ts of this trade is a must. Use a range of tones so pages have a mix of black, white and shades in between. If you’re planning to color your comic, review color theory so your choices can express the story’s mood and atmosphere better.
10. Pace yourself.
I often get burnt out towards the end of a project and usually, it shows in my last few pages. Try to compensate for that by just keeping your energy levels up. Take breaks to give your wrists and back a break. Avoid all-nighters ’cause they’re bad for you and you need your body running at peak performance. This isn’t a race, it’s a marathon.
Finally, always remember to save and back up your work regularly and often!!! Your work and efforts are precious and with high stakes and deadlines looming, you can’t afford disasters. Good luck to you and I hope these were helpful. If you liked this post, please share the word using the buttons above or below!