Ask Boichi about Manga 4 – Digital coloring


Digital coloring

Hi, Boichi-sensei. I would love to know the process you do to add color to your manga. About the software you use, about shadows, lights, highlights, if you use gray scale before adding the colors, etc.

I really love the way you draw and paint, it’s just “delicious” to see all the details you add in every picture. If it’s too much to ask I would love to watch a speed painting of yours.

Thanks, a big fan of you from Perú.

– Alex Castellano Inga

Dear Alex Castellano Inga. Thanks for your support and this interesting question.

Wow, you’re from Peru!
I’m very glad to hear that I have a big fan in Peru!
Please tell me about manga circles there. Do they like Manga and Anime as much as in Japan?

You appreciate my coloring but in fact I believe I’m still lacking in that aspect.

It’s my weakness and complex. There are some reasons why my coloring is weak.

I’ve said it many times already, but I grew up in a poor family with the dream of becoming a mangaka.

I could hardly find any information about drawing manga so I didn’t know what to do to become a mangaka.
And so I had to guess a lot of things about the way to draw manga in my childhood.

So back then I had to guess by myself what I should study from manga.
Manga is an artform of black and white pictures (unlike western comics arts. I heard they need beautiful coloring skills to draw comics), so I decided to focus on “drawing” instead of coloring and effects.

That’s why I didn’t pay much attention to coloring in Manga.

Even since I became a pro mangaka, I still get very nervous when I receive coloring requests from publishers and companies…

Early digital coloringI’m kinda ashamed to show you one of my old drawing but I’d like to show you a picture of mine as an example.

This illustration might be the second or fifth I colorized digitally. Back then, I didn’t have a tablet so I drew it with a mouse (pen-shaped).

It’s a picture I drew back in 1996. I was 23 years old, so it was three years after my debut as a mangaka.

I had a very difficult time with digital coloring so I had to face lots of troubles.

That’s why I decided on my own of several rules to use.

But before I tell you about these, I need to talk about the programs I’m using to colorize.

My digital coloring tool is Photoshop. I use Clip Studio (Manga Studio) to select the coloring areas but I don’t color with it.

I also don’t use a screen tablet when coloring. At this point, I think the screen tablets are inappropriate for printing colors.

Personally, the screen view is like putting grease paper on the glass.

If WaXom does not try to solve this problem seriously, I shall not work with a screen tablet in my life time. (WAXOM, please solve this problem, right now!!!)

The monitor that I use for digital coloring is a 31.5-inches 4K monitor.

Personally, I think this monitor is better for coloring works than screen tablets or laptops.
For now, of course. Who knows what will be happen in future, right?

I didn’t study much coloring, and I don’t have a sense for it.
So these are my basic rules when working on colors….

1. Use colors similar to the real world as much as possible

2. Use yellow as inbetween color

3. Avoid the colors that doesn’t print well (even if they look to pretty on monitors)

4. Use colors that look delicious

Among these rules I’d like to explain what I mean by “colors that looks delicious”. It started back when I was in high school.

In second grade of my high school at the time, me and my fellow art club’s members were planning on the exhibition for the school festival. The teacher who supervised and taught the art club said “What does a color means? You do like colorful candy, right? Lollipop and rainbow candy that kids love. If you think you have no sense of coloring when painting, then think about the colors of lollipop. It will help you!”

I still remember what that teacher told us and kept it in mind to this day.

For now, I don’t think it’s a very high level advice but it made sense to me.

So it’s really amazing that you, Alex, felt that my coloring looks delicious.

I’m thankful to hear that.

colorHere is my photoshop Color window.

I’m usually setting the colors like so.

When I start to color on digital, I like to use CMYK color profile.

There are several reasons but I will tell you about it a bit later.

These are the usual colors I use when coloring.

Red or Green whatever color I’ll choose as brighter color, Yellow will always be the inbetween color.

If I use a blue color as base, I usually mainly go with these.

The reason is that in the 90’s in Korea, colors with magenta were not printed very well.

Now it no longer matter but my brain and hands are still used to it.

These colors are not often used in my works, but I still use them in some areas from time to time.

I also choose and set the colors depending on the theme of each illustration.

I don’t use chroma when coloring on <Origin>.

Therefore, I use chroma and brightness roughly to this extent.

<Dr. Stone> is for younger audiences, so I use high chroma and higher brightness than other works.

Finally, I’ll close this week’s column by answering Alex’s question with my simple coloring work step by step.

This is an <Origin> illustration recently released in Japan.


I start by drawing thumbnails sketches for the publisher. I drew two for that time.

My editor likes to see two types of concept drawings. He is way different from a gentleman like me so he choose the illustration that shows the girl’s butt. Oh, dear!

It is a very difficult job for me to work with a hentai person like him.


This is a penciling sketch on paper.

After the penciling, I start inking and add some light and shadow with a brush.

The reason why I put some shadowing with the brush is to make the textures warmer and more natural.

Once finished with the inking, I scan it and select the areas.

You see, there are some more delicate inking lines on the girl character’s butt, it’s because my editor forced me to do that.

Clean the inking line and erase dirty spots.

1- Clean the inking lines and erase the dirty spots

Selecting color and laying the flat in Clip Studio(manga studio).

2- Selecting colors and laying the flat in Clip Studio (manga studio)

Start to apply color on the flatlaying in photoshop. This is the way I’m coloring nowadays.

Put some colors on the inking line too.

3- Put some colors on the inking line too.

And next is my favorite part!

4- Most important thing is to focus on coloring and detailed textures of the girl’s BUTT… I mean characters…(…)… the characters.

5- Add some effects and background, and it is done!

I made a foolish decision when I went to only draw black and white manga so that I wouldn’t need coloring, and I had to pay an hefty price for that decision.

I still need to study more.

But I’m so glad that many fans like Alex tell me that they love my coloring.

In 2015, my original Artbook was published by Doki-Doki in France and a couple years after another one was published by J-Pop in Italy.

My artbooks are now published in both France and Italy!!! In The countries of arts!!! In the origin of the renaissance!!!

It’s like dreaming with Honor, Glory and Joy!!

If I could met my 12 years old self, I would like to tell my young, stupid and unconfident self,

“Hey, me! Don’t be too afraid of coloring and have some confidence!!

You’re gonna make it, dude!!!

Many people will like your drawings and colorings!!”

– Boichi

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