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Manga Basics: Free Brush Set & Drawing Tutorial

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Even with 160 default brushes for SketchBook Pro members and 50+ free brush sets here on our blog to download and add to the app, we felt like something was missing. We needed some brushes made specifically for drawing manga. So we created the Manga Basics Brush Set. We’ve released a lot of fun stamps and textures in the past (like these) for adding details to manga, but manga illustration requires straightforward tools for line art and coloring. We studied up on manga-specific drawing tools from a variety of other apps people regularly compare us to (including Clip Studio Paint and PaintTool SAI) and created our own version of manga brushes and placed them all in one convenient brush set.

What’s in This Set

This set includes 22 brushes that are grouped into three categories. My go-to brushes in this set are the Manga Draft Ink Pen, Manga Line Art Ink Pen, Manga Digital Watercolor, Watercolor Square, and Soft Airbrush.

Manga Basics Brush Demo

A Step-by-Step Tutorial on How to Draw Manga Illustrations

First, use a Drafting Pencil or Rough Pencil for your preliminary sketch. Sketch out the general pose and body shape. (Don’t add clothes yet!) Don’t focus too much on the on the details. I sometimes use a darker background in this step so I can see every little detail. A white background sometimes makes it hard to see lighter strokes.

Screen Shot 2017-03-03 at 11.06.28 AM

I then use the Manga Draft Ink Pen to create a more defined sketch. I turn off the dark background until the coloring stage so I can see my line art. This stage is where I decide on her final pose and clothing. You can see I played around with the arm placement here; one pose felt more natural than the other. I also resized her a bit with the Transform tool to make her proportions more manga-esque.

manga sketch 2

Turn the sketch down to ~25% opacity and line the artwork with the Manga Line Art Ink Pen. I heavily used the Predictive Stroke tool to make sure my lines were smooth and clean.

manga lineart

Next, turn the sketch layer invisible. Use the magic lasso tool to outline where you’ll color in. Designate one layer for each block of color. Once you have selected the area you want to color in, use the Manga Fill Brush to paint in the area. At this point, you’ll want to turn on a darker background so you can easily see your lighter colors.

magic lasso tool

base layer

Then, turn on Lock Transparency for each layer and use the Manga Digital Watercolor brushes to add shading and highlight effects. I mainly used the Watercolor Square brushes to paint the skin and hair. I used the Blur tool to sometimes blend colors together.

manga girl closeup

After you’re done coloring in, add a layer of white highlights on the skin and loose strands of hair. This will give your character more dimension.

adding highlights

Finally turn off the dark background and decide what to do from there. I thought a cloudy afternoon sky would suit her color palette.

Manga girl transparent cropped

I used our previously released Clouds Brush Set to paint the clouds. For the foreground, I used the Dust Motes brush from our previously released Sparkles, Neon, and FX Brush Set and the Speckled brush from our default Texture Essentials Brush Set to add more dimension.

manga girl sunset

And there you have it! If you need inspiration, check out the Japanese art community website Pixiv, where tons of amazing artists post beautiful manga illustrations every day.

Installing the Brush Set

Being able to share and install these weekly free brush sets in the desktop app is one of the features for SketchBook subscribers. If you’re using the latest desktop version of SketchBook, simply double click on the .skbrushes file, and it will automatically install. Check out this article for all the details about brushes and legacy versions. If you haven’t tried the subscription, you can download a free trial and unlock Pro membership for 15 days (no credit card required).