The best white-out pens for manga illustration, and how to use them!

You may have noticed that anime and manga artists love to give their work a bit of sparkle! One way this is achieved is through the use of highlights.

In recent years there’s been a big focus switch to digital art, but we know that many artists still love to draw and colour their manga illustrations in traditional style using marker pens. So today we want to give some of the manual artists out there some love!

One area that might be problematic for non-digital artists, is highlighting! When starting out, many artists will look at manga, see the beautiful detailed highlights in areas like the hair, and wonder how the artists managed to draw around those areas, keeping them white.

In fact, the highlights in manga are more often than not drawn in afterwards, with white ink and a brush. This calls for a special kind of illustrator’s ink, that’s thick and opaque enough to block out even pure black sections of ink. Getting hold of this, and learning how to use the ink with a brush can be difficult… but do not fear! There’s a much more simple, and equally popular option: the white-out pen!

First, let’s take a look at the many uses for white ink and whiteout pens, before moving on to our top 3 picks for the best white pens!

Uses for white ink/pens

Adding in highlights

This may be to a character’s eyes or hair, or to background objects – white ink is perfect for adding in beautiful clean, detailed highlights.

A touch of sparkle

You’ll notice in shoujo manga in particular, some characters are covered in sparkles like an aura! A peppering of little white spots is all it takes, and this can be achieved super quickly with the right white-out tool.

Correcting mistakes

Sometimes even professionals make mistakes in their work! A slip of the pen or some spilled ink can be carefully corrected with the application of some white ink. A generous daub of whiteout might seem obvious, but because of the way manga is produced, any trace of the whiteout will be erased when the original manuscripts are photocopied, leaving behind just the final clean penwork!

Cleaning up edges

Sometimes going outside of the edges is necessary to get the right smooth, natural looking shape for whatever you’re trying to draw. This is something digital artists may take for granted, considering how easy it is to crop and cut images, but for analogue artists, it’s not so easy! Luckily we have white-out to help us clean up the area afterwards. Like I mentioned above, the manuscripts will be copied in production, which erases any uneven texture or hint of whiteout!

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Other great uses

Outside of illustration, white pens can be super useful for drawing on surfaces that may otherwise be hard to mark. For example, they are a popular choice for artists looking to draw on photographs, or other shiny/dark surfaces. Coloured/patterned masking tape is very popular in Japan, and this is often used for labelling things. Stick on a little section of masking tape and draw on that with your white pen for a simple, removable labelling system. There’s all kinds of reasons why it’s a good idea to have some good white pens in your art kit!

What are the best white pens to use?

Here are three great choices of pens that can be used by anyone from beginner to professional level!

POSCA by uni

A very popular water-based pen that’s good for drawing on all different textures. Because the pen is water based, it needs to be shaken well before use to ensure a clean flow of ink (if can get watery if the contents aren’t properly mixed). It can be applied thickly for a good coverage, but it is also suitable for blending. You might want to use a brush for this to avoid dirtying the nib, though!

Le Plume by MARVY

This pen as created specifically with illustrators in mind, and is super versatile for that reason. Even if you place it on top of a highly inked or deeply coloured area, the Le Plume’s ink will not dissolve or mix with the colour beneath it. The pigmentation is even better than POSCA, and you get a very clear, bright white.

One issue that Le Plume has is that it will thicken over time like some brush-type correction fluids, so you will need to keep the lid on tightly when not in use to avoid it drying up. If you’re the kind of artist that uses white a lot, and will be replacing your pens regularly anyway, this might be the choice for you!

Pure White Gel Ink Pen by Tachikawa

This is an interesting one, as unlike the other options here, it’s a gel rollerball pen rather than a brush nib style pen. They’re super handy, and there’s a range of thicknesses available, all the way down to a 0.5 mm tip, which is great for detailing! They’re slimmer than the paint markers above, so they’re easier to store in a pencil case too.

They draw very cleanly over the top of both large areas of ink and COPIC marker pens, so these are a great choice if you’re looking for a finer, rollerball style white pen! They aren’t great for filling in larger areas, but are excellent for detailing.

I hope this rundown has helped all you analogue artists choose some great white pens, and understand how to better use them! Have fun drawing some beautiful highlights and sparkles in your work!

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