Self Publishing Manga and Comic Artists Tips

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DraconianRain's avatar
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I've self published using MangaStudio EX4 and other programs and every so often I get asked questions from starting out artists. I get asked a lot of questions by BOTH Comic and Manga artists. The biggest question I left at the bottom. I get asked that the most and it will have the longest reply and explanation so thus being at the bottom.

  • Is it worth self publishing? 
Yes and no. Yes if you have a good fan following and get reviews it can turn out to be something you could earn a living off of. There have been many self published artists we know and love that start out on lulu.com without a penny to their name and now their books are movies. Most of them had low expectations but left their book up for sale. No if you have no fans and no one has read your book. It's very hard to make any sales if no one knows you, your work, your stories, your skill level and even harder without reviews. It's best to gain a fandom first. Easiest way to do this is start a webcomic on places like Tapastic, Medibang Creators, Smackjeeves, Drunk Duck and here on DA. Start posting to one place as a beginner and when you're ready to grow your fandom, post your comic EVERYWHERE to spread your story to as many people as possible. There's an audience for every type of comic so don't be to shy or scared and always remember to ignore trolls.
  • How do I get fans so I can sell my book well?
As I mentioned above, start out as a webcomic. Post your story online. And always remember to sign all of your pages. If you use MangaStudio EX 4 you can have your signature automatically printed for you on each page.
  • What if someone steals my idea from my webcomic?
I'm sorry to say this but if you publish your book there is still a chance that someone will take your idea as a fan and make something. Also if you post your work, the dates and time you posted it shows that you had the idea first which means you have solid evidence to fight back with if someone should steal your ideas or work and keeping all your original drafts showing how you got to your idea will also support you should this occur. This goes for any online posting of work publicly. Anything you post online has potential to be taken and used the wrong way. This is why it's important to sign and watermark your work.
  • Are webcomics more profitable than a printed book?
For some of us, yes. Honestly if you have your own website and are using adsense and or project wonderful, and you get daily traffic in large amounts, you can earn a living just from allowing ads. Some artists find it more profitable having their comic free to read and generating and earning from ads on their pages. But this isn't for everyone. If you have a small fandom say 100 fans or less, you would probably only make about 5 cents a month. 

The other way artists can sometimes make money from their webcomic is having a donations button on their webcomic's home site. Sometimes the donations alone get them through to costs and expenses it takes for them to make their work and have enough left over as profit. But again, it's not for all and doesn't work for many.
  • Why are ebook versions good to sell?
eBooks are affordable. Anything affordable will sell. Period. The other reason is how portable they are. You can enjoy your favourite ebook on almost any platform. Phones, kindle, ereaders, ipad, laptop and PC and so many other OS and devices I can't even name them all. It's instant, it's affordable and you can take it everywhere. An ebook version is always worth while. It's also easier to have a PDF than going through a webcomic archive. My point is, ebooks are good to sell because they are easy to access, just about anyone can use them and they are usually selling for a price that most of us can buy. Eg $1-10.

  • Where should I self publish?
This one is hard but here are three places that I recommend and I suggest you google and research it as well as print a carbon copy from each and decide for yourself. It's honestly a personal preference. These places I recommend because of their royalties, payment threshold and quality printing as well as copyright protection:
  1. Lulu.com is the absolute best place to go. It has you in mind as the creator, your rights and the royalties are more than fair. Selling is fairly straightforward and you will be able to reach a worldwide audience and never have to handle any shipping unless you order them yourself. You also get your own online bookstore for free attached to your account.
  2. CreateSpace by Amazon.com I've heard about as many good as bad. Personally I've never had any issue but the distribution of your book should help you sell to a wide audience.
  3. Kablam Printing. Pretty good. Cheap options availible. You get what you pay for in most cases. Other cases the artist (no offense) gets greedy and the asking price isn't worth the book paper and binding cost. You really need to test, order and decide with Kablam. I've been a customer and a seller. I wasn't happy but I would recommend it. Especially if you are on a budget and just want to get your story out there and ready for a comic con quickly.
These publishers shipping can vary depending on your country. Another reason why you should order from them for yourself. I personally prefer Lulu.com. I also prefer it because I am a not so popular artist, the $5 payment threshold has helped me get paid each time I have made sales which is something to consider.
  • What to look for in a selfpublishing site?
YOUR copyrights! YOUR IP! YOUR royalties! You did all the work, make sure you get paid fairly and still OWN your book. Some publishers and selfpublishers will try to take away all of your rights and give you 5% or less royalties. Which is wrong and unfair. Some will try to own your IP (intellectual property). Read everything carefully!! Read every TOS. If the big words don't make sense, look it up. DO NOT SKIP A THING! Yes paper, printing, cost, shipping, shipping worldwide are all important but none of that matters if you loose your rights to your OWN creation!
  • What programs should I or can I use to make a comic or manga?
Ok now that MangaStudio EX5 is out my answer will change a little for about MangaStudio but not much.
[MAJOR PROGRAM UPDATE! Added extra great programs!] These program are either paid or free!

Medibang Paint Pro
Freeware- Perfect for comic artists! Has everything. Has features like Clip Paint Studio only it's free and comes with free cloud storage. Has page management, rulers, symmetry brush, screentones and it colours and paints very well as well as public access to community made brushes. To my knowledge you can import FireAlpaca brushes but I could be wrong on that one. I recommend trying this over any other paid software FIRST! It should suit everyone except for vector artists. You might find the transition to vector bothersome. You also need to be very wary in raster programs of your DPI when publishing and if you are set to RBG or CYMK. This is what makes Medibang Paint so good to use since it's aimed at artists. It has all you need and more and is always updating. It's also very lightweight for all of it's power and runs smoothly with online and local backup files should it crash.

Medibang Paint rarely lags or crashes. Because it's so frequently updates, bugs usually don't last long and are addressed which is really something you want in a digital art program. Especially when you are starting out. Just be sure to check their site regularly and sign up for an account.

FireAlpaca
Freeware- Extremely lightweight, very simple and a great first timer program. Lots of tools and brushes and rulers. It reminded me of Deleter comicworks and Paint Tool Sai with it's simplicity. It pairs up well with Medibang Paint Pro. It's also ideal for colour artists and colourists. Because it's so small, it never lags or crashes.

MangaStudio EX4
Paid- For those with access to MangaStudio EX4 still, this program is intended for black and white comics only, it can colour but only very basic like cell shade. Blending is hard and not to attractive. It's most built to use and create screentones. It's quite a heavy duty program and has all the tools you need for black and white toned comic/manga art as well as organisational features that photoshop does not have. It's a program build to make books and pdf's. This is most suited to artists that only want to create black and white ink and or screentone work. It's not style specific! This means you don't have to be a manga artist only to use it, or a comic artist only to use it. Buy it if it suits your needs for inking and screentoning. Absolutely try to get a trial and test it before you buy it. It might not suit you.

Manga Studio and Ex5
Paid- It does everything EX4 does and more and better plus colouring is far better in EX5. I used it when it was in beta. The original Japanese one I mean. The colouring is much like paint tool sai and photoshop. It's a complete package. You don't need to be a comic artist to use it. It's not style specific, so you don't have to be a comic/manga artist to use it. You can be an illustrator or a painter and you will very likely thoroughly enjoy using this program to paint and draw with. It is aimed at digital artists, made by artists for artists. You could easily create beautiful art like you would in photoshop or paint tool sai as well as screentone and ink like you would in MangaStudio EX4. Yes I recommend MSEX5, yes it is worth it. But as always, try before you buy. Everyone is different, you might hate it. There's only one way to find out though.

If you're an advanced and heavy user, buy EX5. Save up for it, or sign up for smith and micro newsletter and wait for a coupon. It has perspective rules like it's older sister MSEX4 only they are improved, still has page management and panel creation, cutters and organisers. It will cut down your need for multiple programs. The improvements are fantastic and unfortunately it's very different so you may need to learn it pretty much from scratch. It's been designed so you'll only need this program to do all your art in. Whether that be painting, inking, drawing, doodling, screentoning or just simply having fun. As far as comic and manga artists, colourists and illustrators this is probably the most suited drawing application on the market today.

Photoshop
Subscribe- Photoshop is worth it. It does not screentone as well as you would expect. It's capable of creating them but the distortion while zooming makes it very hard to judge and screentone properly. But it is possible. Inking is lovely and it has a path/pen tool for users wanting perfect lines or those who can only ink by mouse. It's a great program for black and white comic artists.

As far as colouring and painting, it's the ultimate tool for comic colourists or any coloured comic for that matter. Perfect for illustrators. With the combination of MagicColor Picker plugin there's almost nothing you can't do or colour in photoshop. The added benefits has to be textures. Some coloured and black and white comic artists love textures. They love to use them to give their work flare. Photoshop applies textures the best. I'm sorry if it sounds bias at all but after using so many programs, this comes from experience.

Photoshop is worth buying for both black and white screentone comics and coloured comics and illustration. If you do use it to screentone, be prepared for a lot of problems, crashing, headaches and frustration. It's best to get a screentoning program to make screentones. Also the fact that photoshop has folders and batch export makes it very useful for comic artists. You should be able to create anything with it and not be slowed down to much. It is hard to make perspective drawings though.

MangaLabo
Paid- Absolutely worth it. Doesn't lag even half the amount MangaStudio does. Does everything you need it to, organises files, screentones beautifully, easy to use, clean interface. Good for beginners and advanced. Good enough to make large series with. MangaStudio does have more features and more to offer but MangaLabo has everything you could possibly need to make a full comic. It is worth the money and faaaaar cheaper than MangaStudio. It has line correction for your strokes but it's not as advanced or strong as manga studio. However it does go high enough for most users to draw comfortably with.

It can colour and paint but it's very basic. Feels alot like early OpenCanvas. Like OC 1 early. It has rulers for perspective drawing and the ability to add 3D objects to use as references and guides. A decent text tool and a light weight vector layer. It's possible to draw very complex ink and tone art with this program.

OpenCanvas
Paid- It's like a light photoshop, it has screentone brushes and can screentone like photoshop. It does an ok job at screentones. I don't like to tone with it but quite a few other artists like it. Easy to make stamp brushes and custom brushes, easy to use. Colours beautifully and some colourists seem to enjoy this program more than photoshop. It's very light, hardly lags and can create large images. Has some what of a natural paint feel and has some auto line correction. Not as strong as MangaStudio. It's cheap but very much worth the money. It's a good choice for black and white comics, light screentone work and very good choice for coloured comics.

Paint Tool Sai
Paid- Only good for sketches and colouring and painting. You can't do text in sai. If you're making a coloured comic it is capable of stunning painting. It is a fantastic program to ink with. You can make screentone brushes but it would take a great deal of work to create them. If you were going to use paint tool sai for comics you need something like GIMP or Photoshop to do post work in such as text, fine tuning panels, perhaps extra clean up etc. You could always import in screentones, place them in a selection area and use masking to screentone you work in sai but this is tedious and can make sai crash if the tone image is very large.

Sketchbook Pro
(I think sub now)For coloured and inking yes, sure why not? You can't make screentones or really use them unless you were to import them in and erase the edges. This is much like my answer to Paint Tool Sai except that Sketchbook Pro can create text.

Illustrator
Subscribe- You can do both, black and white and coloured comics. You can screentone. Bit hard to set up if you're a beginner. Not for people looking to paint. Vector coloured comics can be very stunning and beautiful. Just make sure you research vector art and trying out a trial before committing to using something like Illustrator. Vector art is not for everyone and takes a lot of work but to answer the question about if you can or should use it for comics/manga, sure, if you enjoy vector art there is no reason why you can't use it.

Corel Painter IX, X, XI, XII, XII
Paid- Corel Painter 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13 would be great for colourists and coloured comics, sketching and inking but not screentones and toning. Like photoshop you could make screentone patterns, stamps or paste it into selected areas or use masking. But it's really not suited to tones or making them. It's more about painting and giving a natural media style to your digital work. I have seen this as a preferred choice for coloured comics though. Many artists like the way the paint handles and creating watercolour and oil painting effects for their background art and colouring of their characters. It's also quite favourable for inking. Best to get a trial before committing. It now has perspective rulers. If I remember right, since version 12.

[Update]
It's even more ideal for colour and it is possible to create your own screentones with the repeating pattern function. It would take time but it's worth it. It's still better for full coloured comics or art book creation.

ArtRage Pro
Paid- Fantastic for colouring especially if you're looking to imitate watercolour and oil paint. Cheaper than corel but lighter to use. It does a lot of styles similar to corel but it does not have as many features or options as corel painter. Very easy to use, beginner friendly. Very natural media like. I like this for watercolour comics since I never have money to buy real paint. This is good for coloured comics, colourists and illustrators. It inks very well, very smooth and sketches beautifully. You can get realistic looking pencil lines. However, no tones. No way to make tones. If you wanted to use it to tone, you would have to import it in, erase the edges or drop it into a selected area. It's more of a painting program focused on natural media look. It has stencils and rulers and is quite useful but I wouldn't recommend it for overly complicated comic work since it does tend to crash with large amounts of layers. One of those programs you really have to try for yourself to see if you like it.

Deleter ComicWorks
No Longer Sold- I LOVED this program. I tried it when it was still being used by many and I was impressed immediately by the trial. But by the time I had the money for it MangaStudio came out and I got that instead. When I used it, it was fantastic. MangaLabo functions are very similar to it, except MangaLabo has more and better tools. It's tones where magnificent. The work was clean but it was good when I was a beginner. Now that I am more advanced, it was a bit lacking when it came to things like panelling and the need for rulers and perspective drawings. But it was a great program and it did the job and did it well. I'm pretty sure I owned it at one point, I can't remember since it was years ago. But this program is only good for inking and toning because that is what it was built for. To ink and tone and create comics.

MangaLabo is very similar to ComicWorks in both design, user interface and toning and inking. Most of the main and popular Deleter tones from ComicWorks are in MangaLabo. You can still buy ComicWorks to my knowledge, but only online. And I am pretty sure you can still buy Deleter Screentones for ComicWorks. A lot of these tones, maybe even all of them I'm not sure, are in MangaStudio EX4. I'm not sure about 5 since I haven't used it. This is one of many reasons why I bought MangaStudio instead.

Artweaver
Great little program. Has a free version. It works a lot like OpenCanvas and paints similar to Corel painter. Very powerful and has screentone filter. It's also very cheap for the full version. Well worth the cash. It's easy to edit your page sizes and layouts. Highly recommeded

Krita
Free- In the past I would never recommend Krita. Since version 3.0 the team has done an amazing job. The main thing that put me off was the lag. Now, it could easily compete with Photoshop and Clip Studio Paint. You would likely need to use GIMP still for a few tweaks but after a few more updates to come, you could do just fine with Krita alone. It can now as of writing this [31st Dec 2016 AU] create screentones through a filter and as a pattern. I would recommend you learn how to use masking if you choose Krita. It would also make an excellent tool for creating full colour webcomics and artbooks.

Affinity Designer
Amazing! Does painting AND vector! Actual vector, not vexel. It is capable of vexel as well. This would be particularly good if you need very precise measurements during book creation. It's also an ideal program for creating book covers. With Photoshop and Illustrator the two programs are very slow and heavy to work with. Affinity designer has the effects of both in the one program and is quite fast with work with. It also features artboards and all major exports. I don't recommend this for screentoning artists yet. But I do for colour artists, colourists and vector artists or anyone wanting to create magazines.


To sum things up, use what is most comfortable to you. Use the program you feel cosy in that does everything you need it to do for you. If you need organisation such as folders and page layouts, absolutely go for MangaStudio. It can't be beat in the "keeping everything organised and clean and easy to find" department. It even saves everything in folders for you! If you need perspective, centric, vertical and horizontal rulers badly to the point where you can't go on working without them, use Manga Studio or MangaLabo or OpenCanvas. If you don't need to be organised, you're happy to put things in folders yourself, and you don't need rulers coz your a pro at drawing your own perspective drawings, you just want to draw, ink or do whatever you feel like get a trial for the program that interests you most and test it out.

At the end of the day it's a matter of preference and comfort. There's some false rumours or myths if you will that programs like photoshop or MangaStudio will automatically make things for you or make your work amazing. That's not true, you have to make it yourself. There's no magical auto draw button and if anyone says "I should know, I used it myself and it did all the work for me" is full of crap. It doesn't exist. You still have to work just like any other medium be it pencil or computer.

Whatever you choose, you will have to learn the program, how to draw with it and how to use it's tools properly and effectively. But each of these programs have features that can make long hard and large work, less burdensome. There is no right or wrong program for comic and manga art. Some programs are more suited to certain styles because of their features but it's up to you and what you're comfortable with.

This is just my opinion since I've used all of these programs. Literally I have used them all. I haven't gone to the website and given you guys a summary based on their info at all, this is just all from my experience as a user. I've bough all but MSEX5, I'm not ready to upgrade, not sure I want to since I have so many programs that can do what it does but I may if it cuts down my need for other programs. I'm cosy with what I have. Most of them I bought on special at Christmas >w> But I do multiple types of art and some of these programs are more suited to certain types of art and handle certain tasks better than each other.

[UPDATE]
Have bought Clip Studio Paint EX, used to be called Manga Studio 5 by Smith and Micro. I bought mine from Celeys the creators. No I don't use cracks and no, you can't have my serial.

Yes for real, have been asked that.

No you can't have mine. Take commissions or save up.
© 2013 - 2022 DraconianRain
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HeartandVoice's avatar
Its ironic, for me you got the lulu and ka blam descriptions backwards. Lulu was by far the worst company to work with for me. I think they deserve the "you get what you pay for" quote more because it is cheaper but with terrible print quality and even worse customer service. A couple friends and I all had terrible experiences with lulu. I had the exact opposite experience with ka-blam though. Beautiful print quality, helpful/friendly staff, quick turnaround, but not cheap.