How Much Does It Cost To Make A Manga?
There are different elements to consider when defining the cost of making a manga. The most obvious one is the cost of the supplies needed to realise these pages. But professional manga artists should also account for the time spent realising the script and pages, the studio, the assistants…
I will try to give a more detailed view of these costs in the following sections.
Cost of making a manga as an amateur and as a professional
An amateur manga artist is a person that works on a manga as a leisure.
A professional manga artist will on his/her side be paid by a publisher to make a manga.
Therefore if an amateur can work on his/her manga when he/she has time available, without constraints, a professional will give priority to working on his/her manga to deliver on his/her commitments and get paid. And as you may know, this commitment is constraining and leaves little space for free time.
Hence if an amateur can have a job to pay his/her bills, a professional relies on the pages he/she produces to pay them. This fundamentally makes the cost of making a manga page different between a professional and an amateur.
Now, let’s break down this cost.
As a reference I will consider that a manga artist, amateur or pro, publishes a 20 pages chapter every week. This therefore amounts for 80 pages per month.
The cost of manga supplies
We will look here at both traditional (pen and paper) and digital supplies cost.
For a traditional workflow, artists will use standard paper, notebooks, pencils, inking pen, ruler, rubber and corrector. On a monthly basis, this should account for roughly $30. This leads to a cost of $0.37 per page for base office supplies.
Some manga artists could also be using screentone, with a sheet costing around $5. This could add $1 per page with a light use of screentones. And up to $4 per page for an heavy use (almost the equivalent of a full sheet).
Finally, if the manga includes some coloured drawings or pages, we should consider the cost of either alcohol markers, watercolours or coloured pencils. A base kit of either of these media (generic alcohol markers, watercolours and brushes, coloured pencils) should be around $50. We will consider this will allow colouring 80 pages on average before needing a refill or being replaced. This makes that a coloured page costs an extra $0.63.
On the upfront costs part, I can see the optional acquisition of a light table. A light table can cost between $20 and $100 for a tabletop model. Let’s consider this one lasts 3 years and we take an average priced one, this will add $0.03 per page.
Therefore, overall, we have the following supplies costs to make a manga page:
- $0.40 for an inked page without screentones,
- $3.40 for an inked page with screentones,
- $1.00 for an inked and coloured page (which as such should not require any screentones)
This makes that a 20 page chapter with 3 coloured pages will cost $9.80 without screentones, and $60.80 with screentones.
As you can see, screentones should be used with care due to their high retail price. If, as an amateur, you plan to heavily rely on screentones, a better option is to apply screentones digitally.
Now, we will look at the costs to make a manga digitally.
The best options are either to have a tablet computer with a pencil, or a computer with a drawing tablet.
For computer tablets, any iPad with an Apple Pencil, or the Galaxy Tab S6 or S7 (which comes with a pencil) will do the job, with prices starting at around $500 for the Galaxy Tab S6 (128GB) or $580 for the iPad (256GB) with the Apple Pencil 1. I wouldn’t take anything under 128GB of storage as you might become quickly limited.
As for apps, MediBangPaint is available for free, and you can opt for paid options such as Procreate, Clip Studio Paint or Photoshop.
For computers, any laptop or desktop computer will allow you to draw. I would advise targeting a computer with at least 8GB or RAM as images eat up a lot of memory. The prices will also start here at around $500. Then you will have to buy a drawing tablet as drawing with the mouse or touchpad isn’t convenient. These tablets start at around $50.
As for software you can perfectly do with free software such as Krita, MediBangPaint or Gimp. Paying options will be Clip Studio Paint or Photoshop.
Having a scanner can also be useful if you do digitise your pages. Prices start at around $70. You can do without, but this requires more post-processing work.
So overall in this category:
- Computer or tablet: $550 (start price)
- Scanner: $70
These should be able to last for 3 years of daily use at least.
This would therefore lead to the following costs at the rate of 20 pages per week:
- Computer or computer tablet: $0.18 per page, be it B&W, coloured or screentoned.
- Scanner: $0.02 per page
This cost can easily be tripled or quadrupled for a professional artists. For a professional setup you would have a big graphical drawing tablet, a more capable computer and a paid version of Clip Studio Paint EX or Photoshop.
This would bring the cost of pages to $.70 per page.
Note you could do your full digital workflow using a phone, but the small size doesn’t make it the most convenient option
The cost of realising a manga page
Now, we have the less obvious part of the costs for amateurs, but painfully real for professionals.
Time and effort required to make a manga page
Bluntly said, a manga page costs time and efforts. The time and effort a manga artist spends scripting, mocking up pages and sketching, inking, shading and colouring them. And this therefore requires food to keep this energy.
Amateur manga artist, as indicated in the first part, spend this time and effort on their spare time. They can see it more as a way to relax and enjoy time after work or studies. Or as an investment to prepare a career in manga. As they might already have a salary, or be accommodated, an amateur might see no cost for that time and effort.
But for professional artists this time is due if they want their pay cheque at the end of the month. It isn’t uncommon for professional artists to have to spend more than 70 hours a week on their manga pages. They could of course be accommodated to lower their bills. But this is only true as long as they are able to manage the workload by themselves. If they can’t, then they may have to rent a studio and hire assistants. Thus they will have to pay this rent and salaries, which increases the cost of the pages they produce. And of course, this also includes taxes…
Market cost of a manga page
To get an idea of the evaluation of these costs, we can take the example of manga artists in Japan.
Big publishers pay between ¥10,000 and ¥100,000 ($88 and $882) for each B&W page an artist delivers (source). For 80 pages a month, this makes between ¥800,000 and ¥8,000,000 ($7,060 and $70,060). The price of a page can be doubled for a coloured page.
Low level publishers will pay more between ¥5,000 and ¥10,000 ($44 and $88) per page. This can lead, for 80 pages a month, to an income of around ¥40,000 and ¥800,000 ($353 and $7,060).
These sums are inclusive of all the costs. That means that it will pay for supplies, food, time of the artist. And if needed, it also includes the rent of the studio and the salary of the assistants. Therefore even though it might seem big, know that this can pay for a team of 2 mangaka with assistants…
Looking at salary reported by manga artists in the US (source), we can estimate that the price of a page is between $13 and $161 (again taking the publishing of a 20 pages chapter every week). But these figures can also account for royalties an artist may earn from his work, and not just the money earned from publishing a page.
Pricing your manga pages
Therefore, as seen above, if you are looking at the cost of a manga page to set your price, you have to consider four aspects:
- The consumption of supplies
- The time and effort required by the task
- The margin you want to make
The cost of supplies is quite simple. As demonstrated above you should be between $0.18 and $3.40 per page.
Time and effort
For the time and effort, it all depends if you want to pay your bills with that activity or not.
If you don’t do that to pay your bills, you can set this part to $0.
But if you want to pay your bills, then you have to index that price on the cost of your bills.
Say you have $2,000 per month of bills to pay for your rent, food… and that for you a standard work week is 50 hours. Then you should price your time at a minimum of $40 per hour ($2,000 / 50). Hence if you need 2.5 hours to realise a manga page, you should price your page at $100 plus the cost of supplies.
Then, the margin. You can set it as you want, this is extra money that you will have available to save or spend as you wish.
Last but not least, don’t forget taxes!
For this part you have to be aware of how taxes work in your country. Is it a flat tax? Proportional tax? …
Let’s say you have a flat tax rate of 20%, then you should take the sum of your supply, time and effort and margin, and multiply it by 1.20 (equivalent to 120%).
Thus for a $110 net price per page ($1 for supplies, plus $100 for time and effort, plus $9 margin), you should have a $132 gross price.
Do not hesitate if you have comments or questions.