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Colin Smith
September 26, 2016

Every Monday, we give out a free brush set to SketchBook Pro users, and we’re following up last week’s very well-received Korean Storybook Art Brush Set with another exploration of an art style with Asian roots. This time around, we’re going with a manga inspired set of brushes for adding all kinds of dreamy and beautiful atmosphere to your drawings. We call it the Manga Stamps Brush Set.

This new brush set is based on a particular type of manga that has a lot of these kinds of effects: shoujo. Shoujo is basically “comics for girls.” It’s a particular style that’s aimed squarely at pre-teens who are in that awkward late-middle-school-aged time of figuring out just what kind of person they might be someday.

Typical shoujo art styles

In shoujo manga you’ll definitely see the big, expressive eyes that are a hallmark of manga generally. Shoujo girls will often have long, flowing hair. Shoujo manga is often exploring and celebrating the innocent beauty of girls and young love, so it’s not usually laced with overt sexual themes like some manga can be (e.g., hentai). The story lines and art style is more romantic. Think girls daydreaming with sparkles everywhere. Flowers are a very prominent motif in shoujo (especially cherry blossoms). Think Sailor Moon, first loves who need to be kissed, promises that need to be kept, and cute boys who need to be figured out.

Michelle Li in the SketchBook office drew this gorgeous shoujo girl for us in black and white, which is traditional and expected. Then, she added some washes of pretty-in-pink color. See how beautiful the Pentagon and Star Fill bubbles look with color? Adorbs.

Many shoujo manga comics are in black and white, owing to the fact that these comics can be pumped out quickly and cheaply. Without color, manga artists need additional elements to embellish their art, and these kinds of details can be really effective in black-and-white comics. But, of course, don’t limit yourself to black and white! Use these brushes for creating shoujo settings like illustrating love confessions or dramatic character reveals. These kinds of details are part of the larger world of manga iconography that runs very deep. Of course, you don’t have to be an expert in manga studies to create something beautiful. Grab the Manga Stamps Brush Set and simply start experimenting with your art. These elements will work in all kinds of situations, not just comic-based line art.

Some classics of the genre

If you’re looking for inspiration and guidance about shoujo, check out some of these important influencers in the shoujo manga genre:

Creator of the Magical Girl Sailor Moon, Naoko Takeuchi, (center bottom) is well-known to Sailor Moon fans, but you’ll also find a wealth of amazing fan art online, like stunners from Chinese artist and game developer sunmomo (top left) and Pillara (top right) that go way beyond fan art. Notice how all of these pieces incorporate bokeh bubbles, twinkling stars, or flowers.

Some influential originators of shoujo include Fruits Basket by Natsuki Takaya (middle row), Nana by Ai Yazawa (top row), and Cardcaptor Sakura by CLAMP (bottom row), an all-female group of mangaka (manga artists).

There’s a lot going on in the art of Phantom Thief Jeanne (a.k.a, Kamikaze Kaito Jeanne) drawn by Arina Tanemura. Epic.

Installing the brush sets

If you’re using the latest desktop version of SketchBook, simply double click on the .skbrushes file, and it will automatically install.

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Colin Smith

Colin is a Sr. Product Manager on the Automotive and Conceptual Design Team at Autodesk. During his 25-year career in the CAD industry he has worked in customer support, training, consulting and as a product manager for Alias and Fusion 360. Currently, he works on SketchBook and Project Sugarhill and is based in Toronto, Canada.