Manga Studio EX5 (review)

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Smith Micro released Manga Studio EX5 not too long ago. With an organized interface and various tools, this is an intuitive program for those who already have experience in either Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, and/or Corel Painter. Combining key traits from the aforementioned program, Manga Studio EX5 needed someone who had an eye for the manga style and an artistic mind overall. So I took our copy of Manga Studio EX5 to one of my illustrator buddies to take a crack at it!
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Although there are two sides to the camp, those who support Japanese-influenced comics and those who support Western comics, Manga Studio does not discriminate against the artist’s preference. It does, however, provide you all the tools to ensure that you are armed and ready to illustrate your narrative desires in Manga fashion. Cherry blossom-pattern brushes, explosion lines, and various levels of dot-shading tones are just some of the tools given in this extensive program. And for those who do not know the background of Manga Studio, it was first developed in 2001 by the Japanese company, Celsys. Since then, it has been distributed to the West by E Frontier America, eventually landing in the hands of distribution by Smith Micro Software.
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Here at the studio I work at, I chose my colleague, Alfredo, based on some of the designs I have seen him execute. Loading up the Manga Studio EX5, I told him to do whatever he wanted, maybe even something for Nerd Reactor. Being a fan of Nerd Reactor himself, Alfredo was excited to contribute, exploring the capabilities of the program to carry out the illustration which some of you may have seen already on the site. Every few days, amidst our busy work schedule, I would check on Alfredo to see his progress. The snapshots across this article show the various steps and aspects of his use in delivering the character.
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One of the great benefits of Manga Studio EX5 is that it utilizes your 64-bit system and any multi-core processing available to carry out high definition material and various art layering. If you’re familiar with Photoshop, one of the gripes for users is that it starts to slow when there is a lot of detailed graphics on the screen. With MS5EX, you will notice a difference in graphic processing, even if your computer is already a powerful rig. This is also beneficial for mixing a regular art layer and using a vector layer for other elements, something Manga Studio EX5 is capable of. I mean, using vector graphics (which is something used in Adobe Illustrator) with bitmap graphics without having to flatten or rasterize the vector layer? That’s insane!

Courtesy of SmithMicro

Courtesy of SmithMicro

When Alfredo was explaining some of the features he’s discovered, we were impressed with the inclusion of a digital pose character. Not too different from the wooden pose model you might get for your art class, this feature is a sampling of the 3D capabilities which you would find in Smith Micro’s other product Poser. I cannot tell you enough how many books and references artists worldwide use for their material, so you could imagine how a 3D model we can freely rotate impacts the accuracy of our work. Manga Studio EX5, you have impressed me deeply!

Courtesy of SmithMicro

Courtesy of Smith Micro

If you work with a detached digital tablet or have the benefit of using a WACOM Cintiq, you will be glad to see how responsive this program is. Much of the stroke work you see in these images were done with greater flourish within less time than what would be required of most other programs. So when the product features state “high quality pen pressure sensor allows natural and real pen touches”, I can personally say this is very natural to touch. Granted, if you are already accustomed to the tools of other programs, you may not migrate over to Manga Studio EX5 so quickly… but I ask you give this a shot, you won’t regret this investment.

Courtesy of SmithMicro

Courtesy of Smith Micro

So when it comes to the program, you might wonder at this point, “Yeah yeah, this is great for illustration, but what about making a comic?” Well, good sir or madam, you will be pleased to know that Manga Studio EX5 has an array of word bubbles, effects, and assortment of panels. What is great about having these available tools, is that they’re vectors. And for those unfamiliar with vectors, this means you can change the size and dimensions of these images and not lose the smoothness or sharpness of its original design.

Courtesy of SmithMicro

Courtesy of Smith Micro

You’ll notice that the color selection palette is reminiscent of Corel Painter’s system, while various other windows/tools are familiar aspects of Photoshop and Illustrator. So what’s the difference between Manga Studio 5 and Manga Studio EX5? Functionality-wise, Manga Studio EX5 offers you the full range of tools to organize and create your comic, whereas Manga Studio 5 alone provides you with very basic tools. If you’re just organizing a webcomic, you can get by with Manga Studio 5, but if you want to develop something with some depth or complexity, EX5 gives you so much to work with. The quality of the tool propels the quality of the talent using it!
msex5_10Currently, I’m using Manga Studio EX5 to develop some manga material which you may see on Nerd Reactor… but we’ll see how that goes. 🙂

You can purchase Manga Studio software directly from Smith Micro or other retailers like Amazon.

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