One of the best things about the world of Manga is that there are an endless amount of styles and stories. While western comics gravitate towards creating an overarching narrative, manga tends to focus on the story behind the individual character. Most artists who illustrate manga develop a strong personal style and technical skills to tell these character stories, and they increasingly use social media to share their work with us.
So, whether you are an artist or just a manga lover, I have created a list of the top mangaka you should follow to get inspired.
1. Sarajean Chung @theonewithbear
Sarajean Chung, or TheOneWithBear on Instagram, is a freelance illustrator based in Canada. Sarajean illustrates both traditionally and digitally. She primarily uses Clip Studio Paint on a Wacom Cintiq pen display for her digital work. Her online fanbase started to grown exponentially after she borrowed a Wacom Intuos 3 from her friend and started streaming on Twitch. Today you can find her name at trade shows, seminars, and conventions, and she regularly streams her art process to connect with her followers, often offering advice to aspiring artists. If you are starting, I highly recommend the eight-part CSP tutorials that Sarajean has made for Wacom, explaining all her favorite features, and her live drawing session on Japan Online Week 2020.
2. Mitsuhiro Arita @mitsuhiro_arita
Mitsuhiro Arita has been working as a freelance artist for over 20 years. His first project was for the Pokémon Trading Card Game, which he has been illustrating for since its inception. He has also created artwork for many other card games, such as Shin Megami Tensei, Monster Hunter, and Super Sentai. For eleven years he provided illustrations for Final Fantasy XI and has produced numerous other publications. Despite all his credits, Arita does not have a formal background in the arts and studied electronic engineering instead. He taught himself how to illustrate by sketching every day, particularly when on the train. The thing I love about Arita’s art is the dynamic use of perspective and his use of watercolor.
3. Laia López @itslopez
Laia López is a Spanish illustrator from Barcelona, whose work has captured the hearts of millions around the globe. López is said to have developed her signature art style while studying fine arts at the University of Barcelona. She also has explained how her work has been heavily influenced by Disney films and anime. Her dreamy illustrations effectively portray the emotions of her characters, capturing the essence of their personality. To find out more about López’s creative process, I suggest watching her Japan Online Week 2020 workshop with Wacom.
4. Tenjin Hidetaka @tenjin_hidetaka
Tenjin Hidetaka is a Japanese mecha anime artist and science fiction illustrator. He has always been interested in robotics, majoring in mechanical control systems. When he became a freelance illustrator, he began designing the box covers of toys and model products, specializing in aviation illustration and robot box art. Hidetaka has also worked on several sci-fi anime productions, such as Macross Zero, Gundam Evolve and Macross Delta, and is an experienced voice actor and narrator. During Wacom’s Japan Online Week 2020, Tenjin Hidetaka held a workshop showcasing his unique fighter aircraft detailing.
5. Lars Degenhardt @laovaan
Lars Degenhardt, known as Laovaan, is a German visual artist, famous for his YouTube videos and tutorials. His popular time-lapsed videos have earned him 734K subscribers on the platform. He specializes in watercolor art, which was the main focus of his channel when starting out, but is no stranger to digital art. In fact, one of his most-watched videos is his review of the Wacom Intuos tablet, with more than 1.6 million views. Since 2019, most of his content showcases his digital art and how to draw manga and web-comics, so he’s our go-to channel for tutorials.
PALOW. is a character designer and illustrator. He is best known for his character design work in the League of Legends 2018 animation, HAL Tokyo’s 2016 TV commercial, and the Mushi Mecha Musume Series. He dived head-first into the highly competitive illustration industry at the age of 20, working with influential artists. However, it took him a few years to live a life outside of work to hone in on his talent, before becoming the successful character designer and concept artist he is today. Palow was also a part of Wacom’s Japan Online Week 2020 and held a workshop on Theory on Deform in Anime-Art with NAJI Yanagida.
7. NAJI Yanagida @naji0w0
NAJI is a freelance illustrator and member of the SSS by Applibot. He graduated from a vocational school and joined an animation photography company soon after, working in illustration production. As a freelancer, he has been at the head of card illustration production for smartphone games, character design, item design, animation production, and a lot more. He is best known for being the artist of the light novels Reincarnated as a Dragon Hatchling, Bonze Meets Girl, and Jii-sama ga Iku. NAJI posts a lot of his artwork on Twitter, where he has 45k followers and counting.
8. ISSSAI @i_sss_ai
ISSSAI, also a resident artist of SSS by Applibot, is a freelance artist who focuses on character design, monster design, and concept art. He was involved in the illustration production of FINAL FANTASY XI and his credits include the monster design of Final Fantasy Type-0 and the original animation of Kurohyō Ryu ga Gotoku 1 and 2. His illustrations, which he often posts on Twitter, are filled with beautiful detail work. ISSSAI has also given an insightful presentation on the History of Japanese Art & Art Culture, which I highly recommend to anyone interested in manga art.
9. Bunbun @bunbun_plus
Bunbun is a Japanese freelance illustrator and character designer for light novels, games, and anime. Some of his most notable works include the Yuusha de Aru series, character drafts for Sword Art Online, Sakura Quest and Yuki Yuna is a Hero. Bunbun is also known for his popular YouTube channel, where he hosts live paint sessions, documenting his illustration process from start to finish, sometimes even lasting up to nine hours long. However, if you don’t have nine hours to commit to his videos, you can watch his presentation Walkthrough on drawing anime-art, in collaboration with Palow and Mai Yoneyama.
10. Mai Yoneyama @yoneyamai
Mai Yoneyama is a Japan-based animator and illustrator, best known for the character designer of Tanabata no Oto, Eve: raison d’etre, Kiznaiver, and Hill Climb Girl. Since 2007 he has worked as an animator, working mainly in 2D animation. His illustration work is full of color and it is where you can best observe his masterful talent in using light and shadow to create shapes. Mai also runs a successful YouTube channel, where he films his creative process when creating illustrations and short animations.