The Secrets behind Miura’s Art and Writing


Tools used by Miura, possibly

This is an array of tools I found very helpful imitating Miura’s style, art and cleanliness. I will go into detail for each of them further below.

General

  • Easel/Drawing Table
  • Tracing Tablet
  • Transparent/Tracing Paper

Sketching

  • Mechanical Pencils
  • Kneaded rubber eraser
  • Eraser Pencils
  • A large brush
  • Ruler, triangle ruler
  • Compass/Calipers
  • Technical drawing board
  • The right paper

Inking

  • Calligraphy Pen/Dip Pens
  • Ink
  • Chiseled Nibs
  • Pointed Nibs
Frequently used tools from my workspace. From left to right, top to bottom: triangle, compass, aluminum ruler, dip pen holders (carrying 3x pointed nibs in various hardness and size, 2x chiseled nibs), eraser pencil, mechanical pencils (size 0.7 mm, 0.5mm and 0.3mm), brush, sharpener and eraser.

General

Easel/Drawing Table

Using a (desk) easel or drawing table helps immensely getting proportions right. If you draw on a normal table, you will look onto your drawing from a warped perspective, that will affect your construction and sense of proportion. It also decreases the smear effect you do with your hands, because your hand is not resting on your drawing with its full weight due to the tilted surface (gravity and all).

To reduce smearing effects without easel, you can use post-it’s to protect the surface below .

Tracing Tablet

A tracing tablet is very important to transfer any sketch to a new piece of paper, e.g. when you go for a final ink job. This thing right there is the reason why Miura is capable of both clean sketches and accurate construction. If you try to create accurate construction without a tracing tablet, your drawings will be messy unless you produce multiple drawings from scratch — and that’s a promise.

Desk easel and tracing tablet in action. What you see here is a work in progress. Pages from my fancomic.
Not sure if you can tell by the images, but the transferred sketch above (drawn with a 0.3mm mechanical pencil) looks so much cleaner than the base sketch seen here.

Transparent/Tracing Paper

Tracing paper helps with layering images properly, especially if the posing is more complex. It’s also nice to experiment and try out things without risking a good sketch: you just put tracing paper over your original sketch and draw away without changing the source. It is not an absolutely necessary helper by all means, but a useful one nonetheless.

Sketching

Mechanical Pencils

Mechanical pencils in various sizes (I use 0.7mm, 0.5mm and 0.3mm) provide the necessary accuracy and stroke consistency for drawing subtle details. Rough sketches are done with a 0.7mm pencil and as the drawing is being refined, you use finer and finer ones.

Kneaded Rubber eraser

Your primary goal should always be to go easy on the paper’s surface, as a “broken” surface will affect your shading and ink job (it will look messy). That being said: rubber erasers go really easy on the paper without hurting the surface. Use them if you have a big areas to erase, or areas where you know you’ll sketch over again.

Eraser Pencils

These are essential to keep your sketches clean. You can sharpen them and erase small areas without accidentally erasing others. A normal eraser is no match for these.

A large Brush

You may have wondered earlier, why the hell would anyone need a brush for drawing?

If you wipe away your eraser leftovers from your drawing with a brush instead of your hands, you’ll smear much much less, especially if you enjoy working with softer pencils or mines on your sketches, like I do. Your source line art will look much cleaner as a result. Now I don’t know if Miura uses one as well (he probably doesn’t) but I found it extremely helpful.

Ruler, triangle ruler

For creating page layouts and drawing technical objects, e.g. swords. They are also useful for symmetry e.g. in frontal face shots.

Compass/Calipers

Use these for quick measurements or to easily get regular distances between multiple objects e.g. notches, spikes or guides. Much faster to use than a ruler.

Technical drawing board

I have not actually tried drawing fanart with a technical drawing board yet, but I occasionally wished I had one, because I noticed the need for it when drawing technical objects such as the Dragon Slayer. I can see it making things so much easier for scenery or architecture as well. Whether Miura has actually used one is an entirely different question.

The Right Paper

High quality, solid, light-grain paper with high density (+120g/m²) is vital for both inking and sketching.

For sketching, a light-grain paper like Canson Dessin provides a solid surface for shading and repetitive erasing without harming the surface right away. It is an excellent multipurpose paper that is also suitable for inking.

For inking, the same paper provides enough resistance not to accidentally slip away from the intended path when you draw a stroke.

In my experience nibs glide on smooth paper (e.g. Canson Bristol) much faster and the error margin is higher for that reason. But smooth paper also has its benefits, namely that drawing in general is easier since the paper offers little resistance and it doesn’t suck up as much as ink, too.

Sidenote: no one paid me to praise this particular brand that much — I’ve tried a few different brands and kinds of paper and I always kept coming back to Canson for some reason. You try until you find something that suits your needs best!

Inking

Ink

Surely you can also ink with ink pens — but in my experience, these are generally not as black and eraser-resistant as real ink that is used together with a dip pen.

Ideally, use high-pigmented drawing ink, e.g. from brands like Winston & Newton, Koh-I-Noor or Rohrer & Klingner. Good ink has a metallic shine to it, is eraser-resistant, acid-free, doesn’t smell too much, and should have a price range about €5–10 per 100ml (~ $5–9 per 2.40 oz). If it’s more expensive: keep on looking!

Also beware: Calligraphy ink is often not waterproof, has a higher water content and does not give you a pitch-black stroke, unlike drawing ink. This is one of the early lessons I learned the hard way…

Dip Pens

Your best bet is to use multiple dip pens in different shapes and sizes, because not all nibs will fit on all dip pens. There are also different kinds of dip pens, e.g. for some dip pens, the spot where you insert the nib is in shape of a small tube, rather than flaps of metal you can push down or up.

The best is to try it out different ones or buy them in sets, where the chance is much higher your nibs will fit the provided dip pens. The only important thing here is that they fit the nibs you have, and that they feel right in your hand. I personally like ergonomic ones a lot.

Chiseled Nibs

These are fairly versatile and I believe Miura uses them most of the time. Depending on in which angle you hold these, they allow you to shade finely and precisely across a line with relative ease (drawing with the short side), let you fill out larger areas (drawing with the long side) and also allow for a variable stroke width. They are also handy for closeups, because Miura adjusts the used nibs to the scale of the drawing (the closer the view and larger the panel the bigger the nib). A size 1 chiseled nib also appears to be used when drawing the outline of the panels.

From my own experience, they are used to get shading and texture into hair, capes, Guts’ clothes and armor (no matter which variation: Black Swordsman, Lost Children, Conviction, Berserker Armor). Using chiseled nibs, my attempts to shade aforementioned things look like in Miura’s original drawings — though it takes practice to know how to hold them right for more exact results.

Right: excerpt of fanart I created, the pauldrons shaded with a chiselled nib, size 1. Left: Miura’s work, from volume 25. The quality of my line art and construction doesn’t match Miura’s genius at all, but you can see how similar individual strokes are in both shape and direction.

Green — pointed nibs, hard/soft hardness, variable stroke width. Used for outlines
Blue — chiseled nibs used for shading hair, Guts’ armor/clothes/cape, or filling in large black areas
Red — pointed nibs, consistent stroke width, their smaller shaft diameter requires a special dip pen. Used for shading & detail

You should also probably keep them cleaner than I do… soaking them into rubbing alcohol for a few hours helps with getting rid of dried up ink.

Pointed Nibs

Fine, pointed nibs are used for soft shading, outlines for organic surfaces (e.g. skin) and small drawings. Pointed nibs with little hardness create variable stroke sizes. These are really difficult to master, because you really need a calm hand to not make the lines look “shaky”, and also know where to apply pressure, thus knowing where to start and end the strokes (more of this in the headline Doing some Strokes). They are mostly used for outlines or rough, textured shading.

Trying to reverse engineer different nib types used on Guts’ face in this smaller panel. Using chiseled nibs for dark parts of the illustration (hair, cape) speeds up drawing significantly. That being said, the areas marked in purple designated as pointed nib can technically also be drawn with a chiseled nib!

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