Posted by drew10 on Feb 12, 2014
Manga Studio 5 EX

Manga Studio 5 EX

Regular readers will know that from time-to-time we dip our hairy little toes into the world of PC/Mac programs that will think will interest you. Today is one of those days.

Manga Studio 5 EX is a digital art/comic creation program from the guys at Smith Micro. This is a feature-rich graphics creation package designed with the digital artist in mind. As the name suggests this is the fifth update in the increasingly popular series and the ‘EX’ denotes that this is the pro version that adds few extra features to the standard edition. However, as we haven’t used the previous versions we are unable to compare them, rather review Version 5 on its own merits.

Upon first opening MS5 EX the interface and layout will feel familiar to anyone who has used Photoshop and very deliberately so, helping with the ease of transition from Adobe’s staple program. It is not until you scratch the surface, however that you realise that Manga Studio has some very clever little tricks up its sleeve that sets it apart.

MS 5 EX 3D FacesLet’s start with what the two programs share. All the main Photoshop elements are there such as the ability to create layers of various types and the overall tool set looks the same, at first glance at least. But it is within these tools that MS5 begins to separate itself from Adobe’s product. For a start there are various brush and pen settings that allow for a more hand-drawn artistic style to take effect. The ability to change the nib on the pen means that you can get a very accurate hand-drawn look to anything you create. It certainly has impressed the artist Kris Hazard from Gobsmack Comics whom I brought in to help me test the product. “The pen and brush tools allow you a wide variety of hand-drawn techniques that other paint programs simply can’t match.” He said.

Another feature that really impressed Kris was the 3D character model (supplied by the program) that you can import into the window, think the wooden artist dummies in digital form. This model can then be posed into any position, using some pre-installed poses as a starting point if you wish. You can move every part of the character including its fingers into whichever pose you like and then use this as a template for your drawn character. The model also doesn’t allow you to move limbs out of the range of natural motion, meaning your character will always look real. You can even change their body type to make them fatter, perspectivelinesthinner, muscular or childlike. If, like me you are a complete novice, you can also use one of the pre-rendered characters (as seen above) as a starting point. More characters and poses can be purchased in extra packs available on the MS5 website. On top of this you can edit the perspective to get some really nice natural-looking and consistent characters for your artwork. The program also features whole heap of speech bubbles as standard and all of which can be manipulated and individualised. All of this can also be added into pre-rendered 3D backgrounds that can be rotated and adjusted to suit a scene. Again this is an excellent tool for the amateurs amongst us.

Talking of perspective, MS5 comes equipped with a brilliant perspective ruler. This allows you to select a vanishing point, up to 3 points are available on the selection menu but you can add as many as you wish. You draw your your perspective lines and then any line you draw after that automatically snaps to these lines. Basically allowing you to draw anything and keep a real looking perspective.

The standard version of Manga Studio 5 costs $47.99 (£29.11) and when you consider the power of the program you get that is simply an unbelievable price. The ‘EX’ version however will set you back $209.99 (£127.40) which when compared to Photoshop’s average of nearly £600 is amazing.

So what do you get extra in the ‘EX’ version that warrants the extra money? Well it seems that the vast majority of the features from the ‘EX’ version are included in the standard version with the main difference being the comic creation tool. Instead of having a single page to work with you can  work MS 5 EX 1 - Story Layouton an entire book at a time. Set how many pages you want in your comic and have all of your artwork in the single file. You can even choose if you want certain pages to be double-page spreads. Once you have set the number of pages you can draw directly onto each page/panel and you can easily browse back and forth through the comic as you work.  It makes organising your comic simple and intuitive.

Both versions come with full support pen tablets like, FAVO, Bamboo, Intuos, Cintiq or Wacom. With full pressure sensing. Meaning what you draw on the page is faithfully recreated on the screen.

The Manga Studio website contains loads of free online tutorials (here) to help wring every last drop of your creativity onto the page. If you are thinking of moving over from Photoshop but are not yet quite convinced a quick browse of these should convince you.

Overall when you look at what you get in either package and the price you pay for them, there is no denying that both Manga Studio 5 & EX are simply stunning. The tools have been well honed to give you exactly what you need to produce stunning works in a user-friendly and time-effective way. Whether you are a digital artist or a comic creator I would suggest that this is fast becoming an essential tool.

Below is a gallery of images followed by the score.


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