Manga Studio EX Mini-Review

Keeping entries short for a while to reflect my attention span. There’s just too much going on right now for me to properly focus. It’s to the point where if I look over to the TV for five minutes or get up to put the dog out I lose my train of thought and never come back to it.

Today I made progress on the comic. A friend bought me new software as a donation to the site. The software is called MANGA STUDIO EX 4.0 and well, it’s a lot of work to get used to it. I had been using Comic Life. Comic Life is like the MAC of comic book software. Everything is there. You have pre-made panel layouts (about 100), you have pre-made word balloons and text boxes, you have about 30 pre-made font designs for the “sound effects” or logos and you can customize each to some extent. Everything you need to make a quality comic (even more so on the MAC version — “Comic Life MAGIC”) for web viewing is right there. It literally is a no brainer.

Manga Studio EX is obviously a product with Japanese origins. Manga is their style of comics and the product was designed with the intent to produce comics in the manga format. It is a lot harder to use in some aspects (making it the PC in this analogy), but it includes its own word balloons, layouts, etc., and offers a lot more control over what you want the page to look like as you have near total control of all the layers on the page.

However, it doesn’t do some very basic things that any version of Comic Life can do. Things like scaling a word balloon as you type (or even automatic word wrap), automatically joining two world balloons together, built in color text boxes and those neat built in color logos are all missing. This is mainly due to the fact that most manga is in black and white and the program is designed for that style and you don’t see a lot of Bendis-style word balloons that take up half the page in back and forth banter in the manga style. You *can* do them (and it took me a while to figure out HOW) but they’re not as easy to do as it involves merging and erasing parts of layers so the balloons flow together.

The massive advantage that Manga Studio EX has over Comic Life is the fact that if you’re an artist, you can draw directly into the program. The program supports pen tablets (even the touch pad on my Bamboo touch worked pretty well), and if you want to do pencils or inks or what have you. It is supposedly a lot easier than using photoshop to do the pencils then having to import the art and then frame it into the panels. I will admit that I can’t really be the best judge of that, since most of you know that I don’t actually pencil. But from what I’ve tried to do (crude sketches) it seems to work just fine.

I also like the fact that you can slice panels nearly however you want them. In comic life you could draw panels but to some extent they wanted you to use their templates. This is not the case with Manga Studio and the amount of control you have over layouts you have is staggering. For example, I just drew a base panel that took up the entire page. I then imported a picture of Celine that took up that panel. I was then able to cut the base panel into about twenty smaller panels of all shapes and sizes while retaining the original picture of Celine. The end result is that the page looks like someone has shattered a glass frame of the original image and is really impressive because I never dreamed of having this much control over layouts.

So why am I babbling about this? Well, starting this week I’m going to use Manga Studio as my primary software for putting out comics. While I love Comic Life, the fact is that it is time to take my work to the next step. I need to learn how to professionally lay things out and how to break my total reliance on someone else’s layouts and logo designs (as they were built in to the program), if I’m going to to make that change. It’s a HUGE step for me, and as I’ve gotten past the point of “OHMYGODOHMYGODTHISISTOOMUCH!” I’m starting to enjoy the control I now have over my comic.

I can’t promise greatness (hey, it’s a weekly comic and I have a job that’s not producing weekly comics lol), but I am making an effort and the future looks to be one with Manga Studio EX.

With that, oh lord, ignore the first paragraph. I ranted quite a bit. Now back to work.