The importance of backgrounds, part I

Your skills as a shoujo mangaka will be determine by something you might have not first thought about - landscapes.


Most artists I know, even great, knowledgeable and high-selling mangakas don't want to focus too much on a landscape.

If you want to stand out from the crowd, I way: go for powerful landscapes. Make them characters! They breathe, they live, they're part of your storytelling just like your main character(s).  

Never rush doing a landscape. It's like the soundtrack of a movie: if not done properly, people will notice it at once. A beautiful landscape is never looked at twice by the reader, because it's already part of your story. 

Here is a concrete example of a landscape. I wanted to draw a town, show a train and mountains. I looked up the Internet and found gorgeous towns photographs of Czech Republic. They inspired me to start drawing Ellesia, the capital city of the island Metis where my story sets. 

It doesn't have to be precise to start with. I will even go further and tell you NOT to make it too precise for your first draft. No need to spend time redoing something that was beautiful but ultimately won't fit with the other elements in your page.

Unless extremely comfortable with drawing landscapes, never start by the elements further away.

The closest elements to the landscapes are crucial to set the mood. If you want to draw the sea or the ocean, you need to give an emotion to it: dark, calm, tumultuous, etc. 



I added some contrasts on the hills & mountains despite them being further away. I wanted to create something dark. Play with rules too!

One long and difficult part of landscapes is how much elements and details you want to draw. I want mine to be precise, so I take time designing more accurate buildings. 

I start designing bit by bit the buildings. I like to make it right in the middle of being precise and a bit blurry. 

I found it daunting to draw trains, but then I started practising and I got better and better. You can start by something small like the tracks, and add elements little by little.

I've always liked drawing the ocean or the sea. If it's something you're not comfortable drawing yet, look at pictures online, add the one you like as a principal layer & add another one where you will reproduce & copy.

© CF Smith, manga & illustrations - All Rights Reserved