So your kid is spending a lot of time drawing characters from or inspired by their favorite Japanese or Japanese-style Anime shows or Manga books. This is a good thing, I promise you. It’s a great creative outlet that may just be for fun or may lead to bigger things in the future. Either way, drawing and being creative have a knock-on effect for other types of learning while being fun and rewarding. You do want to encourage them, right? I thought so. After all, if they’re drawing, they’re not glued to the TV or playing video games.
Below are some suggestions of not-too-expensive ways to get your kid on the right track.
Most books on the subject of drawing Anime and Manga cover the same material with varying levels of quality. There are a ton of these books, so I’m going to limit myself to a few:
- For beginners: Draw Manga by Bruce Lewis. A non-threatening book with drawing lessons, as well as information about putting together Manga books and promoting yourself. (update: this may be out of print)
- For beginners: How to Draw Stupid by Kyle Baker. A marvelous introduction to cartooning by one of the masters. It’s very funny, as well.
- For more advanced artists: How to Draw Anime and Game Characters by Tadashi Ozawa. A great guide to drawing characters in many different styles, with plenty of helpful tips and encouragement. The whole series is worth checking out.
Developing artists do not need expensive materials. Skip the expensive imported Manga paper (like the pros use, we’re told) and expensive Copic markers (for around $5 a piece, that’s a huge investment for even a basic set). Instead, here are some supplies that I recommend:
Paper: Buy the cheapest printer paper you can find for practice sketching. A dedicated beginner should be free to experiment, start over, wad up failures and simply fill up page after page. You can buy larger paper (8.5 x 14 or 11×17) for doing comics work, but buy it at the office supply store, not the art store.
Pencils: Don’t buy the cheapest pencils, those nasty yellow school ones we all know. Instead, go to the art or hobby shop and get a range of drawing pencils. The pencils vary from very hard to very soft, with H being hard and B (go figure) being soft. 2B is the most commonly used, but get some 2Hs and some 4Bs as well. Consider picking up some Col-Erase erasable colored pencils in light blue or red. These are great for creating a rough drawing that is easy to work over in pencil or pen later. And buy a good white eraser, the pink one on top of the pencil is useless and adds pink streaks to drawings.
Pens: Your kid may not need these right away. When the time comes, the Pigma Microns are nice. Whatever the brand, get ones with waterproof ink. A 2mm pen is nice for lettering and thin lines, a 5mm is a good all-purpose inking pen and an 8mm is nice for thicker lines. You can also buy brush pens, which have a brush-like tip: if your kid is really progressing, they’ll enjoy playing with one of these.
A Sketch Book: Any art teacher will tell you that carrying a sketch book is invaluable, because you can practice wherever you go. Drawing every day is the key to getting good. But I’ll add that you should get your kid a sketch book that is private. Artists need a place to experiment and fail and not worry about other people seeing. Fear of what other people will think of every drawing holds artists back. I’ve seen parents walk in, pick up their kid’s sketch book and start rifling through. Please don’t do this. If they want to show you a page, that’s great. But give them a place to draw and not worry about what others will think.
Software and Accessories
I’m always surprised when parents are unaware that kids are eligible for big discounts on software. Students at any accredited institution can get educational licenses; generally, these are full versions of the programs but limited to educational use. Google educational software and you’ll find many suppliers, or ask your school if they recommend a company.
Photoshop: This is the most popular graphics program out there, and despite the name it is not limited to photography. It can be used to color scanned art, letter comics, draw from scratch and add special effects (and that’s just scratching the surface). Any student interested in graphic arts will need to learn this program eventually.
Painter: Not as versatile as Photoshop, but this program makes it easy to emulate real-world drawing tools, from watercolors to pastels.
Manga Studio: This program is designed for the creation of Manga/comics. It aids in setting up comics pages, lettering and adding the screen tones that are common to Manga. The screen tones are what really set this program apart, and if your kid really wants to create comics this is both an inexpensive and useful program. There are pro (EX) and basic versions, the basic version being quite cheap for a student license. The pro version adds more tones and more advanced tools.
Anime Studio: An easy to learn and inexpensive animation program. What sets this apart is the ability to create simple skeletons for your characters. Once a character has a skeleton (or rig) set up, you can animate by moving the bones. Even better, if you grab the hand and move it, the arm will follow along. While the program has limitations, it’s a great program for beginning animators. There are basic and pro versions: the basic version costs under $30 for a student. Beginners will not need the extras that the pro version provides.
A Wacom tablet: Pronounced “walk-em,” the Wacom allows you to draw with a stylus on a tablet rather than trying to draw with a mouse (which is like trying to draw with a brick, really). With practice, the tablet becomes very easy to use, and the pressure sensitivity (the harder you push, the thicker the line) in supported programs mimics real-world drawing tools. The Wacom Bamboo Fun, for around $100, is a bargain as it also comes with Photoshop Elements
and Painter Essentials (it seems the latest versions do not have Painter Essentials, sadly, always confirm what software you’ll receive with a tablet). These are stripped-down but very usable versions of the full programs described above.
Classes, Clubs and Conventions
Art classes are great. Cartooning classes, sure, but also other classes covering the basics of drawing. Even if they want to be purely cartoonists, they’ll benefit from learning the basics of more realistic drawing and from being exposed to different styles. I teach at the Austin Museum of Art’s Art School, and if you’re near Austin, TX, you’re lucky to have such a great facility. But I’m guessing you’ll find good art classes for kids and teens almost anywhere.
While you’re at it, look for Anime and Manga clubs at school or the local library. They’re a great place to share interests and find other like-minded kids.
There are Anime conventions held all over the country. These usually take place in a hotel, and feature panel discussions, guest artists, a dealers room to empty your wallet and rooms that play Anime 24 hours a day. These can be great fun and kid-friendly, though you’ll most likely want to accompany your kid. Don’t worry, you won’t be the only bewildered parent in a sea of people dressed as characters you don’t recognize.
I hope you found this helpful, and that you’ll continue to encourage your kid to draw and be creative. I’m always open to questions and suggestions, as well, feel free to leave a comment.
Square Bear is currently unable to take on new students for personal tutorials.