SmithMicro Software has the corner on the comic book software market. They have several different software packages with graphic design at the helm. Two of our favorites are Manga Studio EX 4 and Anime Studio Pro 8. Manga Studio EX 4 is the ultimate in comic book software   a product that allows you to create and organize a full-blown, professional graphic novel in the one, convenient workspace. And Anime Studio Pro 8 is the advanced version of SmithMicro s animation software line. When creating comic books, Manga Studio EX 4 blows Anime Studio Pro 8 out of the water. However, if the roles were reversed and we were talking solely about animation, Anime Studio Pro 8 would win, hands down.

Why you should use Manga Studio EX 4 when creating comics:

If we were to compare the Manga Studio EX 4 s drawing tool selection to an actual toolbox, we d say it puts all of Home Depot at your disposal. You ll find pens, markers and pencils all with multiple types of tips and different thicknesses. And you ll see more pattern brushes, airbrushes, backgrounds and shading tools than you could ever possibly use. You can free-form draw with any of these tools or draw on ruler guides for a more precise look. Color-blend features make it easy to customize the colors and add depth to your drawings. Vector tools are also available.

Anime Studio Pro, on the other hand, has all of the animation tools you need, markers, pens, pencils and accompanying thicknesses and tip types. But because it is primarily for animation, page templates are not available. The program is compatible with a pen tablet, which makes drawing so much easier. You can also add special effects, upload your creation to Facebook and import pre-made images.

File Formats
When you re ready to share your comic book with the world, Manga Studio EX 4 has several different export formats to choose from: BMP, JPEG, PNG, PSD, TGA, TIFF, PDF, PICT and EPS. You can save your creation to your computer for printing or submissions or email it straight from the comic book software. You can even share it with your friends on Facebook.

Initially we thought because Anime Studio Pro 8 is animation software you couldn t export it as anything but a movie file. But, when digging a little deeper, you will find an export option under the file menu. From here you can export the images you ve made into BMP, JPEG, PNG, TGA and PSD formats. One thing you have to watch is the scene you ve selected to export. If you don t customize the export, you ll end up with 145 images of the exact same picture on your desktop   we speak from experience.

The Verdict
Anime Studio Pro 8 is stellar animation software, but it's not the best comic book software. And although marketed as both, we d stick with using it solely for animation. It can work for comic book creation, but instead of the setup being intuitively for comic books, you have to work to make the program fit.

Once you ve figured out Manga Studio EX 4 s tools and settings you ll never want to use any other comic book software. It is overflowing with creative drawing tools, shading options, page templates and well-documented user guides. We were impressed with the sheer amount of options available with this comic book software and could have spent hours experimenting with each tool. Graphic novelists everywhere should be rejoicing at such a professional solution to creating comic books at home.


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