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Manga Studio is a great way to begin producing your own comics.

Software Review: Manga Studio 4 EX from Smith Micro

With the Manga phenomenon growing rapidly around the world, Smith Micro Software has just released the latest version of their Manga product line, Manga Studio Debut and Manga Studio EX for Windows. These are the leading packages used by artists and hobbyists to create professional, ready-to-publish comics and print cartoons from start to finish.

Manga is the artistic style of drawing that began in the late 18th century in Japan. Translated, the term means "whimsical pictures." The modern era of Manga began after World War II and it has lead Japan to become the world leader in comics. For a feel of what Manga is like, Wired Magazine put together a Visual History of Manga in America.

Manga Studio Debut is the entry level version that is aimed at novice users, and features a beginner's assistant and dynamic help to get you started quickly. Manga Studio EX is the legacy, premier solution for professional comic artists, and it contains all of the bells and whistles a professional will need. Here I am looking at the Manga Studio EX package.

 Manga Studio 4 EXIn Manga Studio, you create pages on which you can draw using a pencil tool; this works well with the Wacom tablet so you can really draw naturally. You can then use the Panel Ruler Cutter to create panels to section off your comic. Then you use your pen tool to ink the drawing and give it form. Using the Pen and Ruler functions you draw backgrounds, add line effects, and then paste tone effects to finish the pages. You add text and then you can publish to a number of different formats.

What is new in Manga Studio 4 EX?

• Professional Color Set – lets you choose from literally millions of colors and gives you the ability to create your own colors and color sets. You can switch back and forth easily between colors, and work with color correction tools such as dodge and burn, as well as having the ability to blend colors.

• Vector Toolkit – will speed up your production by using built-in vector tools such as the "Show Center Line" which will help with spotting vector trouble areas that are in need of smoothing. With the vector snapping tools, you can achieve exactly the lines you want.

• Professional Filter Set – now offers a suite of advanced creative filters that will let you quickly distort images, adjust hue and saturation, or add rain and sparkle to your art work.

• Story Editor – will let you enter and edit the text for your entire story and distribute it across pages.

• Advanced text input – gives you the ability to add text directly on the page. You also have the ability to add special characters and now supports the use of Katakana and Hiragana.

• Mesh Transformation – will let you modify screen tones to better showcase clothing textures by giving them a wrapping appearance.

• Special Rulers – that include symmetry rulers, radial line rulers, and concentric circle rulers that help speed up production.

What features have been updated in Manga Studio 4 EX?

• More export formats – adds to the existing formats of BMP, JPEG, PNG, PSD, and TGA, the additional formats of TIFF, and PDF.

• Additional Word Balloons – now bring the number of balloons to almost 100 preset editable word balloons. They can be adjusted by font, size, style, spacing of text, as well as having a curved or straight tail.

• Additional 3D Objects – now comes with over 550 built-in 3D objects that you can position, rotate, and adjust on your page. You can convert them to line and tone data, and use them as backgrounds and props for your drawings.

• Extra Pattern Brushes – exceeds your choice to more than 80 customizable pattern brushes. You can adjust the size, color, and angle using sliders to create an unlimited number of effects.

 Manga Studio 4 EXWhile having the ability to draw and sketch is needed to get quality results, there is a bit of a learning curve to taking full control of Manga Studio. But don't fret; the Smith Micro people have put together a very nice site at MangaStudio.Net to help you along. Here you will find a 400-page user's manual, getting started guide, and all sorts of resources to help get you up to speed. There is even a store where you can purchase templates and other items to help you along.

One thing to note, the install, especially from download, can be a little confusing, so the people at Smith Micro put together this installation guide that makes it much easier.

Manga Studio 4 EX is available from SmithMicro for $299.99. There is a scaled down version as well that goes for $49.99 called Manga Studio Debut as well. If you are looking for a great way to begin producing your own comics, then you should definitely check out Manga Studio 4 Debut, or Manga Studio 4 EX.

About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.

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