Manga School with Selena Lin: Draw Your Own Manga

Distributor:  Tokyopop

Artist:  Selena Lin

Suggested Retail Price (SRP):  8.99

Number of Pages:  128

ISBN-10:  N/A

ISBN-13:  978-1-4278-1023-6

Reviewer:  Rich (Webmaster)


There's quite a lot of books that claim to teach you how to draw manga or manga characters, but so far few have them have really hit the mark as far as I'm concerned.  The characters featured in the book rarely look authentic and the problem with step-by-stop drawing guides is that the finished drawing is unoriginal.  However, Manga School with Selena Lin is something different.

Originally released in Taiwan, the guide is unusual amongst those I have read in that it doesn't try to teach you how to draw in a manga style, it assumes you are already an artist.  Instead of showing you how to draw faces and bodies, it teaches you how to lay out a comic and advanced drawing techniques such as using screentone and Photoshop.  Lin herself chips in with tips and advice throughout, whilst step-by-step guides describe how to apply general techniques to improve your artwork and composition.

The book is laid out in five illustrated lessons, bookended by a cute comic strip at the start which mixes photos of Selena Lin and crayon artwork to tell the story of her average day, and a gallery of her artwork at the end.  The first lesson covers tools and supplies, detailing the

kinds of brushes, pens, pencils and paper you need and giving tips on how to use inkwell pens and the effects different inks have.  She also looks into the best types of paper to use and gives some useful money-saving advice as well as explaining how to use screentone sheets to create shading that won't be lost in the printing process.  Her second chapter moves on to preparing for drawing the comic, focusing on research, character personality and how this affects the accessories and clothing the character wears.  From there it's on to how to use and arrange panels on a comic book's page, and how best to use them to emphasise characters and emotion.  It's at this point that it becomes obvious that this book is not going to teach you to draw, as it completely skips the actual drawing and writing steps and moves straight on to finishing. 

The guide really gets in-depth at this point, covering how to apply visual effects and speech as well as toning methods and using Photoshop to finish your artwork.  Depicting hair colour in black and white images, adding textures, drawing facial expressions, proportions and chibi artwork follow.  The 4th chapter rounds off with composition, backgrounds and text effects, before moving on to colouring for the final chapter.  There's a

lot of detail packed into the five lessons, but the approach Selena Lin takes to presenting it is perfectly pitched.  There are plenty of pictures and the guides are in-depth but easy to follow.  She puts in numerous little box-out tips but the tone is completely unpatronising throughout, taking the approach of explaining things that aren't immediately obvious instead of telling you what to do.  The most important thing is that everything in the book is useful, Lin doesn't try to influence your style  and you don't have to use all of her suggestions.  However, you get the impression Lin discovered many of the tips by trial and error and is now saving you the job of doing the same thing.

In the end that's what makes this book work.  Not only is it focused on aspects of manga that many 'how to draw manga' books don't, but it feels really genuine too.  There's a feeling running throughout the book that Lin really wants to help people get started, and although the focus of the book is on shojo manga the tips she gives can be applied to any type of comic.  At the end of the day it will not teach you how to draw, but providing you have some artistic ability it contains all of the tips required to really bring the best out of your art.  All in all this is a superb reference book for any budding comic artist, Lin makes a perfect host and brings a real insight into the process of drawing and composing a comic.  Great stuff!


A clever opening comic strip combining pictures of Lin with cute drawings starts proceedings and a gallery of her excellent shojo artwork sits at the end.  There are also adverts, a practice page and a comment from the author as well as a short biography.  Pretty good stuff.


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