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Drawing Manga - Which Pens?

Updated on November 24, 2012

The extra-special pens for those extra-special art-styles!

There's no doubt that your favourite manga artists are talented with pens and ink. But did you know they vary which inking tools they use, for different tasks? That some of the most unique styles in the manga are in part because of use specialist pens like the 'brush' pen and 'Maru' pen? What are these weird pens? Where can you get them? And what do they do that's special?

I've always been interested in trying to draw with these different sorts of pens, and while I have my favourites, I'm going to list and explain those which are most commonly used, and for what.

Manga Artists and Their Pens:

Examples of the different ways that manga artists use different pens for visibly different styles.

  • Kubo Tite - Artist of Bleach: Inks the characters with a 'G' pen. This is a huge part of his style. He uses brush pens to draw effects and explosions.
  • Hideaki Sorachi - Artist of Gintama: Inks characters with a felt tip or steel tip pen, and does their outlines with a 0.8 fine line pen.
  • Yoshihiro Togashi - Artist of Hunter x Hunter, Yu Yu Hakusho: Uses Kabura pens for his illustrations.

Fine line pens:

Fine line pens are pens with moderately hard, porous tips which are kind to most surfaces and give exact, black, straight lines. When using fine line pens, you need to use multiple sizes, or combine them with the use of other pens, as fine line pens that do not change their width at all.

Steel Tipped Pens:

A kind of pen with a small, shaped steel tip. The shape of steel tipped pens vary a lot, and these shapes give very differing results. Most of them need to frequently be dipped in an external ink source, and the pen is designed to keep a small 'reservoir' of ink in its tip while you draw. Steel tipped pens are usually composed of a penholder and replaceable nibs, which need careful cleaning after use.

'G' pens

G pen nibs are highly versatile (it is more sensible to call them nibs, as the nibs on some brands are interchangeable) they respond a lot to different levels of preasure, so you can adjust your lines between very thin and very thick with very little effort, and create dramatic effects and lineweight which brings focus to a character's features. It can easily produce thin lines, too, more suited for background lineart.

'G' Pen in Profesional Hands

'Saji' Pens:

Including Spoon, Kabura and Turnip pens

A medium pen nib, which is flexible, although not nearly as flexible at the G-pen nib. It achieves less dramatic, more stable artwork.

'Maru' pens

Also known as 'mapping' pens.

Are the least flexible and the thinnest of the nib types, it achieves thin lines, though can create thick ones too when you press hard. It's most suited for drawing fine details, such as hair, clothes and eyes. It seems to give the best 'contrast' to the other two types.

China Ink:

or 'India' ink.

All tools that have no ink source (such as brushes, and steel tipped pens) will instead need a separate supply of China ink to be dipped into. China ink is a lot cheaper than ink refills and new pens, so it's a great choice for the budget concious--- but care does need to be taken while using it, as it can dry onto pen nibs and brushes and it takes longer to dry than the ink out of ink-supplied pens. Also, there's the slight risk of spilling it everywhere. So my advice is buy it- but not for your 4 year old nephew!

China ink is very dark, rich and water resistant, and comes in many colors- but those needed for manga are black, or white. Black for lines (and possibly filling in black areas) and white for correcting mistakes, or adding highlights on top of other inked areas.

Brush pens:

Or 'Fude' pens. These pens have either a compact brush or a long felt tip, and they don't need to be dipped in ink constantly, because they have their own ink supply. They are very flexible and very popular for inking both manga and comicbooks. They're especially good for sound effects. Brush pens with bristles can create lines full of streaky gaps, which can be a neat effect for explosions and dramatic scenes.

Felt Tips and Markers:

By 'felt tip' I mean the cheap kind of markers you get as a kid. They (unbelievably!) can be used for manga, especially when you are drawing your image very big, and a fine line pen is too small to see. They're also very, very useful for filling in all the large black areas that are so common in manga, and writing sound effects. High quality markers have a similar use, but have widers tips and very dark, opaque ink.

Now you know!

So, now you know the most popular, advanced pen types! They're popular for a reason- I have to say. Each of the types I've listed are a pleasure to use, all in different ways, and suit different artists. Which are you most eager to try out?

Which pen do you most want to try?

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    • craftycollector profile image
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      craftycollector 4 years ago

      @slatedredger: Thanks, we do try!

    • profile image

      slatedredger 4 years ago

      Very helpful lens