The importance of backgrounds, part IV
A simple background can have as much as an impact that a complicated, elaborate one. It all depends on the mood you want to set.
It is true that the mood you set for your manga will have to be consistent throughout; that means your background can't change from being very clear and pure, devoid of detailed cluster, to a intricate landscape full of buildings whose windows are painfully drawn one by one.
The backgrounds set the atmosphere as much the characters - even more in some cases.
Which cases, you would ask? Well, if you take a manga such as Full Metal Alchemist, the landscapes are key to way the Elrick brothers are. The whole universe created by Hiromu Arakawa is extremely precise (look at all the maps references!) and she created the landscapes that would fit her storyline beautifully.
Another striking examples would be City Hunter by Tsukasa Hojo. The whole atmosphere is really dark, almost all resolutions of the cases are set at night, and daylight is just for the fun moments.
You can't just decide what your characters are going to look like or what they are going to feel. The background can be a masterful key to triggering strong emotions.
On the very first illustration, I decided to focus on Alexandrina, her pulling away from the world while trying to hold on to her humanity (yes, profund, isn't it...). I wanted a background that would not overwhelm the feeling I created around the character, but I couldn't leave the whole page blank behind her.
Vertical lines and colours matching the hair and her clothing were the ideal element to bring everything forward.
Word of warning, though - by creating an uncomplex background, the main feature of your illustration has to be striking, even if their pose is simple.
The second one is a manor I created for one of my online videos entitled Rose. I need the building to have a dark, worrisome atmosphere, and a striking contrast with the snow. The whole landscape had to have that Edgar Allan Poe feeling I got from reading The Fall of the House of Usher. Here, you can see I have similar intentions as per the first illustration, but ended up with a completely different result because of the choices of colour and the atmosphere I wanted to project.
Work with a theme and collect information around it. The more photographs you have of that theme, the better you will get.