Why Are Most Mangas Black and White: The History and Reasons Behind the Monochrome Style

Mangas have a rich history that traces back to World War 2. During this tumultuous time, manga artists faced numerous challenges, one of which was the scarcity of resources. To overcome these obstacles, manga artists opted for black-and-white illustrations, as color printing was costly and time-consuming.

The decision to publish mangas in black and white was also influenced by the preferences of the target audience – the Japanese soldiers. These soldiers found solace and entertainment in the pages of mangas, and the tradition of black and white artwork became deeply ingrained in the manga culture.

Even after the war, the tradition of black and white mangas persisted. Manga artists and publishers continued to honor the legacy of those early mangakas and soldiers by embracing the monochrome style. Today, black and white mangas serve as a testament to the resilience and creativity of their creators.

Manga vs. Comics: The Monochrome Advantage

I. Black and White Inks vs. a Rainbow Palette

While Western comics dazzle readers with their vibrant colors, black and white mangas have their own unique charm. The absence of color allows manga artists to focus on other artistic elements, such as line thickness and shading, to convey emotions and set the mood. They rely on intricate patterns and filters to enhance the backgrounds and evoke specific feelings in readers.

In contrast, colorists in Western comics have the luxury of a rainbow-colored palette. They can experiment with different hues to bring characters and settings to life. Each color holds the power to ignite the imagination and convey meaning in various ways. However, the constant exposure to a wide range of colors can also desensitize readers, making the impact less powerful over time.

II. Distinguishing Features: Shades of Black and White

Color plays a significant role in helping readers identify characters in comics. Hair color, outfits, and even the time of day can be easily discerned through color cues. In black and white mangas, artists must rely on shades of black to create varying degrees of light and dark tones. This technique requires precision and skill to ensure that characters and settings are distinguishable.

Comics, on the other hand, have the advantage of using colors to instantly convey information. Artists can employ specific hues to indicate emotions, highlight key elements, and create a visually engaging experience. The use of color psychology adds depth to characters and enhances the storytelling process.

III. Processing Images: Black and White vs. Color

Reading a black and white manga can sometimes require a bit of extra effort from the reader. The absence of color can make it challenging to identify characters, especially when they have similar hairstyles or outfits. However, avid manga readers develop a keen eye for distinguishing subtle details and following the flow of panels.

Colored comics, with their vibrant palettes, offer a more immediate and visually appealing experience. The use of colors helps readers navigate the story and quickly identify characters and settings. This ease of processing images contributes to the popularity of colored comics among casual readers and anime enthusiasts who prefer a more immersive visual experience.

IV. The Life and Motion of Art: Stillness vs. Dynamism

One aspect where colored comics excel is in their ability to bring action scenes to life. The use of colors enhances the sense of movement and excitement, making the panels pop off the page. The dynamic and vibrant nature of colored comics captivates readers, immersing them in the story.

In contrast, black and white mangas rely on skillful line work and the interplay of light and shadow to convey motion and intensity. The monochromatic style allows readers to appreciate the intricacies of the artwork and the skill of the mangaka. While the absence of color may give the impression of stillness, the fluidity of the illustrations keeps readers engaged.

Economic and Production Considerations

The decision to publish mangas in black and white is not solely an artistic choice but also a practical one. Several factors contribute to the prevalence of monochrome mangas, including cost, production efficiency, and tradition.

I. Cost-Effectiveness of Black Ink

One of the primary reasons behind the use of black and white in mangas is the cost-effectiveness of black ink. Compared to colored ink, black ink is more affordable, making it a practical choice for manga artists and publishers. The use of black ink allows mangakas to create stunning visuals while optimizing their resources.

II. Efficient Production Process

The production process for black and white mangas is streamlined and efficient. With only two tones to consider, manga artists can focus on storytelling and intricate line work without the added complexity of color. This efficiency enables mangakas to deliver regular releases and maintain a consistent schedule, which is crucial for serialized manga.

III. Tradition and Reader Expectations

Black and white mangas have become deeply ingrained in Japanese culture and reader expectations. The tradition of publishing mangas in monochrome has been passed down through generations, and readers have come to associate the black and white style with the authenticity and essence of manga storytelling. Deviating from this tradition may alienate loyal fans and disrupt the established manga industry.

The Future of Color in Mangas

While black and white mangas continue to dominate the industry, there have been discussions about introducing color to cater to the preferences of overseas readers. Some Japanese publishers have expressed interest in exploring the possibility of colored mangas, but this is still in the early stages of consideration.

It’s worth noting that there have been exceptions to the monochrome rule, with some mangas, such as “Dragon Ball,” receiving full-color editions. These ventures into color demonstrate the potential for experimentation and innovation within the manga industry.


The black and white style of mangas is deeply rooted in Japanese history and tradition. The decision to publish mangas in monochrome was driven by practical considerations, artistic choices, and the preferences of the target audience. While color may offer a visually captivating experience, black and white mangas have their own unique charm and storytelling prowess. As the manga industry continues to evolve, the possibility of introducing color remains an exciting prospect, but for now, black and white mangas will continue to captivate readers worldwide with their timeless appeal and artistic intricacies.

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I'm Shehraj Singh, I started the eReader.blog to help people learn more about eReader specifically Amazon Kindle, and help them fix any issues they may have.

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