Hello everyone, I am Toni Caballero, illustrator and comic artist. Along with screenwriter Sergio Hernández, I draw the artwork for a manga called BACKHOME for Planeta Manga and Planeta Cómic.
In this tutorial I will show you the process of making one of our pages. From the composition of the initial sketch to the finished page, I will explain each of the many stages that make a comic page work, both visually and narratively.
So without further ado, let's go!
2. Page composition
The page size I use for this manga is always indicated by the publisher. In this case, for Planeta Manga, I use 17.5 x 25.5mm. I add a 5mm bleed in each border so the art is not affected if a small printing error occurs.
Set the resolution to 1200 dpi, since the final format will be monochrome. Despite that, all the work before the conversion to monochrome is done with the [Basic expression color] set to [Color].
Once the new canvas is ready, I sketch the frame order and the composition that I have decided with the screenwriter, Sergio Hernández.
As you can see, everything is drawn based on shapes, in order to establish their positions and to check if the idea is working. Then I brush up the previous drafts until I get a final sketch I can work with. Then I will start inking the page, tracing over the finalized sketch.
In terms of the visual narrative, I have used certain elements to make the reader's view focus directly on the subject that interests me as a creator:
In the first panel there is this creature that will cause our main characters trouble, a Shadow (as they are called in the manga) steps into a room from right to left, in line with the reading direction. This is essential, as it leads the reader’s eye to the next panel.
In this one, our protagonists, Ann and Eiden, are moving away from that previous point, changing the characters’ sense of direction. Unconsciously, the reader knows that they are on the run, or that they are in trouble, since the narrative does not flow the same direction. I reinforce the eye movement towards the frame below with the panel frame.
On the third panel, you can see how Ann and Eiden move away from the first point. These vertical lines of the trees get larger and give way to the panel just below.
To capture the hesitation that the characters feel when it comes to taking their direction, I get help from their body language. If you look closely, Eiden looks towards one point and Ann looks in the total opposite direction, representing indicision to the human eye. This is a technique that works organically, naturally and, more importantly, the reader understands it immediately.
In addition, when reading the comic, the reader arrives there downwards from the panel above, and from right to left, so they see Eiden's face then Ann's, to subsequently reach that of the Shadow in the next panel. All of this is reinforced by the vertical lines that I pointed out before.
In the fourth panel, we have a close-up of the Shadow that we saw at the top of the page. I influence the visual reading towards the next panel by tilting the perspective to the right and reinforcing it with an extreme close-up of the hand, which takes us to the fifth panel.
For this fifth panel I have used the same technique that I used in the first one.
Which leads us to the sixth and last panel. In this one, I make the reading direction focus on the left, and stress the movement of the eyes towards the first panel of the next page, following the trees' angle. This is a very useful technique to create rhythm in your narrative.
3. Page inking
Once this step is finished, it is time to start inking the characters. This is the part that I personally enjoy the most. It's where I usually put the most effort to make sure that everything looks great.
- Gutters and panels
To carry on with the process, I add a full panel to match up with margins of the page at a thickness of 25 px. Then I divide the entire frame into panels with the [Frame border] tool. (You can find a full panel in the [Materials] palette > [Manga material] > [Framing template]. In my case, I placed that folder inside the Speech Bubble folder and then renamed the folders, because this is the only preset panel template I use and it's easier for me to find it this way.)
Once all the character inking is done, I add a blank white layer and merge them. Finally, I binarize the layer so that the cutting can be perfectly done. (You can find the [Binarization] tool inside [Edit] menu > [Tonal Correction].) Now I remove the inner part of the frames using the [Auto select] tool. This results in a single layer of all the gutters, separated from the rest of the canvas.
- Brushes and character inking
I add a new layer, fill it with white and decrease its opacity to a low level. This works similarly to a light box.
I also add one more layer, which I will use to draw the lineart for our characters.
For the lineart, I use the [Real G-Pen] tool, with a medium smoothing, to make it easier to create strokes and gradients of lines/hatching (this blends very well with the graphic aspect of this work), and that when it is binarized, gives a more organic effect than doing it directly with a brush in monochrome or without smoothing.
Without further ado, let’s get to inking.
I add detail to the external border lines of the characters with the [Real G-Pen] brush. Since the Shadow uses a lot of black, I use cross-hatching brushes to achieve a traditional inking effect.
Specifically, these two brushes:
I polish every tiny detail and add detail to the rest of the inking right upto the hair. For hair, I usually use a combination of white and black inks, and the [Textured pen] brush in order to achieve more depth and realism in every lock of hair. It is a bit more difficult and takes longer, of course, but the results really stand out!
Once my characters are inked, I use the blank layer that I used as a light table. I change the opacity to 100% and merge it to the inked layer.
Once they are together, I binarize the new layer and the resulting is this monochromatic page, ready to be cut precisely, as I did in the frame layer. (This step will be repeatedly performed throughout the tutorial on many elements.)
I just need to get rid of everything that are not characters in that layer, again, with the automatic selection tool. The result is a separated layer just for the inks, just like the one with the gutters.
I follow the same process with the Shadow's hand. I keep it on a separate layer to blur it afterwards to create a sense of depth in the panel.
4. Panel backgrounds
On this page I will use perspective drawing as well as photographs that will help me define the background and give a boost of realism to the rest of the drawing.
Let me show you how to achieve this effect.
- Background with realistic effect from scratch
I will start with the second frame. To ink this panel, I will not use any photos as a base. However, with the help of a few brushes downloaded from Clip Studio ASSETS, the image will be polished to a result which is practically identical to what we would categorize as a realistic image.
After inking the window frame using the [Milli pen] marker, I paint everything with large strokes using the [Real G-pen] brush (large size). This makes the edges of the brush rougher, creating a rust effect on metallic surfaces. Then I erase and add strokes with some cross-hatching tools. These two:
Later, I finish up the broken glass in different layers to create a certain transparency between them. Just as the effect of real glass.
Finally, to finish this window frame, I merge it with a white layer and trim the same way I have done with the character and the gutter layers.
Using a custom brush with a tree texture effect, I add detail to all of the tree trunks. After that, I will fill all these trees using a leaf brush. Experimenting with various shades of grey brings realism to the image.
At this point I just need to add a couple of layers in [Multiply] mode to get a night effect to the scene, blur the set of layers of the window frame ([Filter] > [Blur] > [Gaussian blur]), and add effect particles to the scene to make it snowy.
I also blur some particles with the same blur tool to play with the perspective of the frame.
- Photo-based Background
The background of the panel where the Shadow steps in the room will be drawn using a photo.
I place the photo below the character layer. Once I get it adjusted to the angle I had in mind, I duplicate the photo layer and add an unsharp mask that makes all the invisible lines in the photo much more noticeable: [Filter]> [Sharpen]> [Unsharp Mask]. I duplicate this layer two more times, and binarize each one to a different degree of light and shadow - from lightest to darkest.
After that, I erase the parts that are less defined in each layer. By doing that, I make it so the ones on the lowest layer are more visible, since those lines are better defined. All of this, with the help of layer masks to make the job much easier.
I repeat this process until I reach an optimal point where most of the lines are visible.
To give this step a traditional style effect, I use cross-hatching brushes again. This time, I cross-hatch using parallel lines as well as using [Real G-Pen] with transparent color (to erase).
To conclude with the inking of this background, I redo the lines that have been lost in the photo-processing and finish the shards of glass and exteriors the same way I did in the previous panel.
I use the first layer of the photo to create the basic shading for the background. I switch the photo to greyscale, and, after editing the different tones, I apply [Posterization] to limit the number of grey tones to 6. ([Edit] > [Tonal correction] > [Posterization])
After that, I set the upper layers to [Multiply] mode. (Both the line art ones and new ones that I add to create the same night effect of the previous panel).
Finally, I will be just following the same steps that I have carried out in the previous panel, also to keep aesthetic consistency.
5. Final details and screentones
- Sound Effects
I place the page elements with a new layer (that I will delete once I have them placed and designed).
I start with the sound effects and the speech bubbles coming from the Shadow. For this, I use the same brush that I used to draw the snowy grounds on the rest of the page. This one:
Once it gets binarized, the line around the stroke will appear rustier, and this looks great on a sound effect - I will remove it from the Shadow's speech bubbles, though. These balloons will be cut and pasted on another layer to separate them from the sound effect folder.
- Speech bubbles
I got these speech bubbles from Clip Studio's materials gallery.
They can be edited however you like, and they also have a fantastic G-Pen effect. Once they are all placed, I organize them inside a folder.
The last step of this tutorial is here! Time to apply those distinctive manga screentones.
I merge all visible layers into a new layer, hiding the sound effect and speech bubble folders first. Right click on a layer > [Merge visible to new layer].
This way we can have the entire graphic section of the page in a single layer, allowing us to convert all elements to screentones all at once.
Once I get my merged page, I raster the entire page/layer by pressing the Screentone button in the [Layer property] palette. This button that you see here highlighted in blue:
This automatically converts the layer into a screentone.
Since Planeta Manga, the magazine where BACKHOME is published, uses a larger page size I need to set the screentone dot density to the maximum (Tone settings). This is the best setting to match the inking of characters and backgrounds.
Look at this! The page is completely finished and ready to be published!
So, what do you think? Personally, I think it looks great.
I hope this tutorial has helped you get to grips with the actions within Clip Studio Paint to help you create a realistic-style manga page from scratch, like the ones you find in BACKHOME.
For me, it has been a great experience to work together with Clip Studio to create this tutorial. I am sure we will meet again soon!
Before I say good-bye, here is my website and my social media accounts:
Goodbye, everyone! It has been a pleasure to share how I work with you all!
See you in the next chapter of BACKHOME at Planeta Manga!