How Long Does It Take To Produce A Manga?

Facebook is a fantastic tool for illustrators, comic creators and all sorts of creatives to talk to others involved in the industry. Recently, a group I was in had German artist, Olga Rogalski, make a post about how long it took her to produce a manga novel.


(The following post was taken from the Facebook Group “Manga Artists” with the permission from Olga Rogalski, the original poster, to repost here).


I think a post like this might be helpful to some.
Here is some background info about me: In the past I worked for several publishers and drew manga and illustrations for a living. I did it full-time for several years and I did it part-time for a while, even after I started university or later got a job.

Reading the posts in this group (especially the requests for teammates) I get a feeling that a lot of people underestimate how long it takes to draw a manga. A lot seem to think about Bakuman when thinking about manga creation or take Naruto as reference for project length (and since they plan out their project much too big, they want to have it drawn quickly).
But, unfortunately, things do not work like that. If you are not in Japan, having one of the biggest publishers backing you up and paying you enough so that you can afford all kinds of luxuries, including assistants that take care of some mundane but time-consuming part of the work, that you can send out to make photos if you need some reference and so on, creating a manga may take quite a big amount of time.

Especially if you want to do it correctly.

Thing is, you just can’t pick up a pen and start drawing. (Well, you can but you really shouldn’t .) Manga requires a LOT of planning. Not only do you need the characters, the backgrounds, the outfits, the accessories, the weapons, and the research for all kinds of stuff to think about, there are basic things like knowing how many pages your project will be. Or how many volumes. That requires having a finished script ready, having a name and having at least the thumbnails down, before you start the process of penciling those sweet manga pages.
If you do not do these steps, chances are great that the project will have to be abandoned eventually, after it has tangled itself in the swamp of loose ends and confusion.

So let’s say you have all the prior steps down. How long does it take then for a single artist without assistants to draw up one volume of a manga (with 160 pages, for example).

Based on my observations of the German manga market (we have had artists and publishers bring out their own projects since about the turn of the millenium) it takes on average between 6 and 12 months. Some people are quicker (I know a girl who did a book in 4 months but she has a simple style and worked on it non-stop), but most are slower. Especially those who have a very detailed art. In my case I needed about a year to create a volume, when working as an artist full-time.

So let’s say you have a month to do 30 pages. When working for a publisher, you think you will just do a page a day? Wrong! If everything else is pre-approved (like the script and the name), you have about a week to draw the pages out, then send it to the editor, wait for his feedback, make corrections based on his feedback, send it to him again and wait for his OK to start with the inking. By that time you have about a week to do the inking and about a week to take care of screen tones and whatever is left to do the cover and prepare for the next chapter. Which means you have to do at least 4-5 pages a day during the sketching, inking and toning process. Otherwise the deadline needs to be moved farther a way. That might work for a full-time artist. However in a lot of cases the artists have school, university, a regular job or family matters and only a few hours a day to draw. Which, in turn, means that it takes longer to produce the pages.

There are some process steps that people underestimate in terms of how much time it takes to do them. For example:

– Erasing the pencil lines. Ever tried that on a chapter? It takes hours (if you don´t want to ruin the paper and want to get rid of all pencil lines) and it puts a great strain on the elbow, so you probably won’t be able to do any drawing after that.

– Scanning: It can take hours to scan and edit everything correctly.

– Lettering (needed for self-publishing): I have made the observation from my own experience, from friends and from participants in contests that it takes far longer to letter than people think. And that can be a real stresser when dealing with deadlines. (For example when you need to submit something for a contest or need to send your stuff to the printer so that it arrives in time before the convention.

– Creation of a master copy for the printers (needed for self-publishing): It takes quite a lot of time to make the book ready to be printed. And even if you do not run into troubles with the layout (I have friends regularly bitching about it before conventions, when the printing company refuses to accept their files), even setting it up might take a whole day, depending on the number of pages.

I mean, in rare cases, when push comes to shove you can work on a higher speed. But in those cases you have to forsake sleep and other stuff, so it’s not healthy, at all.

For instance, I once had applied screen tone to 38 pages (I did not sleep for 2 days), or in another case, I colored 20 pages with markers (I did not sleep for 3 days and by the end my lungs were burning). And there were other instances. I would not recommend to go that way. It ruins your body and you can even die. Especially if you keep yourself up with energy drinks and enormous amounts of coffee.

So forget about doing a chapter a week and certainly don´t expect someone doing a chapter a week for you. Without a publisher that pays you a fortune for that kind of madness and an army of assistants that can take care of some of the work, it is a certain way into an early grave!

Kay’s thoughts:

I thank Olga for allowing me to repost this on MCA Studios – I hope, as she does, that it helps out artists, and the future upcoming generations.

This post reads as though it could be a warning statement “DO NOT DO MANGA!”. I disagree – I find that forewarned is forearmed, and coming into the industry, or even creating manga and comics as a hobby, you need to be aware of what could go wrong, what could sap your energy, and how to get around that. Olga has addressed some of these points wonderfully.

If you would like to see Olga’s work, please click HERE and support a terrific creator.

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