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Best comic creator software 2022: Create comics and manga

Best Comic Creator Software 2022: Make Manga and Comics with these tools
(Image credit: Graphixly)

We’ve all had ideas that we think would translate into comic books, but it’s a tricky discipline, combining several different art forms into one. That’s where the best comic creator software comes in, transforming your ideas and artworks into the kind of layouts that leap off the screen and demand to be read.

We can’t guarantee you’ll become the next Bob Kane or Bill Finger, but we can help you create professional looking strips by using the right software. The best programs come with feature that help create storyboards, narratives and ideas, as well as helping to publish your creations.

We’ve broken the list into a number of categories, including the best options for professional creators, the best for making Manga-style strips, and the best for those who want to include photos in their work. There's a top choice for kids just getting into the world of comics, and our overall favorite: Clip Studio Pro.

Clip Studio Pro may not be geared toward publishing your work  - not unless you upgrade to Clip Studio Paint EX anyway - its tool selection is comprehensive and its price is low. Being affordable is something of a theme in our choices - some of the apps we highlight even offer a free trial, allowing you to try out their features without having to make a financial commitment. You can also work out if your home computer actually runs it effectively!

We don’t just look at comics software on the site, of course. There's also our banking of the best graphic design software, and we tackle animation applications too. There's something for everyone looking to make their artwork come alive.

1. Clip Studio Paint Pro: Best comic creator software overall

Best comic creator software: Clip Studio Paint Pro

(Image credit: Graphixly)

The best comic maker you can buy in 2021... unless you're a pro user

Reasons to buy
+Large, and intricate drawing tools+Artwork organized in easy to use layers+Large template library of character, special effects and locations
Reasons to avoid
-Need to upgrade to EX for better scripting tools

Clip Studio Paint Pro is the best overall comic maker software for most users. While it isn't quite as powerful as Clip Studio Paint EX - which we've listed below - it offers most of the same features, and covers almost everything a comic creator could possibly need. It has a staggering range of illustration and brush tools to help you draw characters, backgrounds, and comic cel types from scratch. If you don't want to spend time making absolutely everything, you can either choose from Clip Studio's vast library of free and premium pre-made assets, or you can import art from your computer. 

Most graphic artists will be familiar with the Adobe suite of tools, and Clip Studio is very similar in design and layout. Many of the hotkeys are the same too. If you're completely new to the software it will take a few hours to learn (there are plenty of official and unofficial tutorials online to get you started), but after that you'll have the resources to create almost any type of art or comic. It works well with drawing tablets and gloves, and is incredibly accurate and responsive no matter what input you illustrate with.

The only downside is that it lacks publishing tools, and doesn't have the same capacity as the EX version to help you organize your pages for larger comic projects. If you're serious about publishing your own comics, you'll need to upgrade to the EX version, which is much more expensive. However, if this is the start of your comic hobby / career, Clip Studio Paint Pro is only $60 and will serve you extremely well.

2. Clip Studio Paint EX: Best for pro comic makers

Best comic creator software: Clip Studio Paint EX

(Image credit: Celsys)

If you're serious about drawing and comic creation, you need this one

Reasons to buy
+Great range of script tools+Good library of premade backgrounds, and objects+Great interface with graphics tablets for intricate drawing
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive-No spell checker-Drawing tools too complex for beginners

Clip Studio Paint EX is the upgraded and enhanced version of our top pick (Pro). The tools are largely the same, and this comic maker software borrows heavily from the likes of PhotoShop in terms of tools and layout. Despite being incredibly powerful and versatile, Paint EX is relatively simple to use, and you can create illustrations quickly using the responsive brush and color tools. If the presets don't work for you, there's the option to create or import your own.

What sets EX apart from the Pro version is the range of comic publishing tools it has, and the built-in page manager that lets you sort comic pages, number them, and import 100s of pages of text. These features are fantastic if you're looking to publish, but unnecessary if you're only crafting smaller comics for yourself or your friends. If you're an amateur looking to get more involved, we suggest buying the Pro version and upgrading to EX once you're ready, as all your creations and files will be compatible across both versions. This is also why we put Pro at the top spot, and not EX.

Clip Studio Paint EX is fully compatible with drawing tablets and gloves, and the accuracy you get is fantastic. It's available on Mac and PC, and you can use it to import and export files of all major image types. It's a powerful piece of software, and you'll need a decent PC or Mac to run it, but there's no better comic maker out there. Expensive, though, so you need to be serious about comics before you buy.

3. Comic Creator Studio: Best for kids

Best comic creator software: Comic Creator Studio

(Image credit: Summitsoft)

Ideal for kids (and parents) looking to get started in comics

Reasons to buy
+Hundreds of backgrounds and props+Very easy to use+Doesn't cost much
Reasons to avoid
-Few illustration tools-Overly simple in places

If you're looking to get your kids or grandchildren started in comics, Comic Creator Studio is a good option. It mostly uses pre-made characters and backgrounds, so you don't need to worry about making your own assets. This also makes it really easy to use, and kids will have fun dragging and dropping art into all the pre-designed backdrops. Adjusting text and thought bubbles is easy, as is dropping words into them.

There are more than 600 props to use in your creations, and a vast number of backgrounds to set the scene. You can buy expansion packs too, like superheroes, to give more variety to comics. It doesn't quite have the same variety as ComiPo!, which lets you design poses with incredible detail, but it does keep things nice and simple. You can even upload photos, so your kids can put themselves into the comic. While the creation tools are simple, you can adjust layers individually, offering deep levels of control over your creation.

Advanced users should stay away - there are so few drawing options, and the simple style of the comics won't be for everyone. Younger users and families, however, will love this.

4. Manga Maker ComiPo!: Best for simple manga comics

Best comic creator software: Manga Maker ComiPo!

(Image credit: Web Technology)

For manga fans seeking a simple entry into comic making... this is for you

Reasons to buy
+Simple to use+Inexpensive+Huge library of facial expressions, props, and backgrounds
Reasons to avoid
-Few drawing tools-Not Mac compatible

If you love manga, but you don't feel you have the skill to draw all the wide-eyed characters and backgrounds yourself, then Manga Maker ComiPo! is perfect for you. It deals mainly with pre-made character models and scenes (although you can import your own if you feel up to it), allowing you to simply drop characters into cels, manipulate their pose using the software's impressive 3D models, and add text. It's a simple and effective way to create manga.

ComiPo! is cheap and easy to use, but it does often feel a little limited. And if you don't like manga, well, why are you even reading this far? You don't get a vast amount of scenes and characters in the base version of this software, and it's only compatible with PC, so Mac users are excluded. Because there are no real drawing tools, it's tough to create much variety or unique feels for your comics.

We do like the fact that comics are layered, so you can make changes to specific elements without resetting the whole cel, and there are even sound effects to help enhance your creations. It's perfect for newbies and youngsters, but more serious artists will find it restrictive.

5. Comic Draw: Perfect for iPad users

Best comic creator software: Comic Draw

(Image credit: Plasq)

Works perfectly on iPad, and is great for comic creation on the go

Reasons to buy
+Powerful+Simple to use+Plenty of drawing tools
Reasons to avoid
-Only available on iPad-Easy to make mistakes with touch

Comic Draw is an easy-to-use comic making app that is exclusively for the iPad. The 14-day free trial gives you a chance to try the comic creator app and all its tools, and the base program is less than $10 if you decide to purchase it. That's great value.

Comic Draw is perfect for beginning artists and professionals alike. You'll appreciate being able to find brushes, ink colors and other tools easily, and if you're using a digital pen (which you really should be) you can create illustrations on a par with most home computer programs. It also includes many advanced tools such as perspective guides to help you accurately draw landscapes and buildings. Comic Draw doesn’t include a library of pre-drawn panel templates, characters, props or backgrounds. This means it is designed for the comic book artist who loves to draw scenes, opposed to the storytellers who love to create plots. We also like the script maker, which helps you create and format your dialogue.

The downside is that it's only available on Apple iPads, and you do need a 64-bit+ model to run it. We recommend the iPad Pro. You'll also really need a digital pen to make the most of it, especially as you can accidentally add marks when you're using fingers to zoom and rotate.

6. Comic Life 3: Use photos in your comics

Best comic creator software: Comic Life 3

(Image credit: Plasq)

Create stylish comic books with just your photos

Reasons to buy
+Simple to use+Very stylish results+Quite cheap
Reasons to avoid
-No drawing tools-Some importing issues

Comic Life 3 is a little different to other comic creators on this list. You can make comics here by importing images and photos, which are then treated with a stylized filter to make them look and feel like comics. This is a really neat way to show off your narrative skills, even if you don't have any aptitude for drawing and illustrating.

You can add a variety of speech bubbles to create dialogue, and there are plenty of pre-made background to choose from to add variety to your scenarios. Comic Life 3 draws on the fonts already available on your computer, and it has a built-in spell checker, which is a rarity among comic makers. You can even set sound effects to play when you're both reading your comic and creating it, which will delight younger creatives.

The downside is that there are no layer options, and you don't have a choice when it comes to adding a comic filter to anything you upload. So if you want to add something that's already comic styled, it will still get an extra comic filter added to it. Shame. It's a simple program to use, relatively cheap, and it gets great results - especially for those who don't have the art skills to create their own comics from scratch.

7. Pixton: A simple maker for younger kids

Screenshot of comic made in Pixton, showing classmates and teachers

(Image credit: Pixton)

Ideal for younger kids and families

Reasons to buy
+Very simple+Inexpensive+Plenty of pre-made art
Reasons to avoid
-Its so, so simple-Some odd customization options

If you're looking for something truly simple then Pixton is ideal. It's perfect for kids, family, and educational use, and you can get various versions of Pixton based on what you'll primarily be using it for. You get a free trial too, so you can play around with the basic version before you commit to buying. 

Pixton uses all pre-made assets, and there are plenty available, although you are restricted to quite young-looking comics here. Ideal for the target audience. You can customize pre-made characters to a surprising extent, and you can move them about to create poses, shifting legs, arms, heads etc to make dynamic scenes. Fonts come with the software too, so you don't need to import them from your computer.

Pixton is browser-based too, so requires no download, which means you don't need a fancy PC or Mac to run it. It's very basic, and perfect for younger audiences, but its lack of creation tools, layers, and import options will leave more experienced users cold.

How we tested the best comic creator software 

We spent some time on each of the platforms, testing out the range of tools and features available. When compiling this ranking, we also took into account things like price, ease of use, and availability across digital platforms. Although we really rate Clip Studio Paint Pro and Clip Studio Paint Ex, we think that some of the more straightforward options are definitely worth investigating if it’s your first time turning your hand to comics.  

How much should you pay for comic creator software?

The price of comic book software varies depending on the type of tools, the amount of tools the creator has and the features you want. Your skill level is an important factor to consider when purchasing a comic maker, as the more expensive programs are designed for high skill levels and maybe daunting for a novice. Another important consideration is how far you want to progress as a comic book artist - as the more complex programs will let you grow without limits. We found there are plenty of comic book makers for beginners that cost anywhere from less than $10 all the way up to $50, while professional programs can cost up to $400. If you are shopping for comic book software for a child, we recommend starting with a cheaper program, so they can try out comic book creation before you dig deep into your wallet. If you want professional software to grow into, we recommend Clip Studio Paint. It comes in two versions, with Pro costing around $50 and EX costing from $90 to $150 – depending on the deal you can find.

What drawing tools are often included in comic makers? 

The most important illustration tools are the brushes that come with a comic book program. This includes mediums like markers, pens, and pencils. The best comic creators also allow you to create your own brushes so you can achieve your desired effects. The best comic book software allows you to import outside sources so you can use sketches, characters, and backgrounds that you have created in other programs or scanned. If you aren’t much of an artist or you want to save some time, look for software that comes with vast character libraries, making it easier for you to jump into creating comics.

Do comic makers include spell checkers?

Most comic book makers allow you to add text to your comics. A few of them provide additional tools like font choices or word balloons to enhance your scenes. If you’ve already written your dialogue in another document, it is nice having a program that can import text. Spelling errors and poor word choice can seriously detract from your narrative, which is why it is best to choose a program that comes with a spell checker and a dictionary. Unfortunately, only a few programs offer this last feature. We recommend using a word processor program to write and spell check your dialogue, then copy and paste the text into your comic.

Do comic creators have digital painting tools?

Creating comics digitally is more convenient than traditional methods, especially when you factor in the ability to work in layers and compatibility with graphics tablets. Layers allow you to view, select and enhance specific parts of your art so it is easier to edit. If you are planning to create your own characters from scratch, choose programs that work with graphics tablets – they make it easier to create backgrounds and characters. Pre-made page templates and special effects can inspire story ideas, as well as help you frame your scenes quickly.

The best programs allow you to work with many file types, as well as export your creations to a variety of image file types. The more options you have, the more you can do with your artwork. The most common image file types include JPEG, PNG, BMP, TIFF, TGA, PICT and PDF.

Do you need an asset library?

Most comic book software comes with deep library of artwork and templates that can help you create a comic book quickly. This is an important aspect to consider, especially if you are looking for a comic book maker for beginners. These programs let you focus on crafting the story, and are great for writers who are still developing their art skills. 

Alternatives for comic creation 

Plenty of traditional drawing and graphics software can also be used to make comics. While these don’t provide all the shortcuts, tools and features of the above programs, they can still be useful resources.

This open-source painting program has plenty of pre-set brushes and works like a dream with a smart pen. It doesn’t come with a dedicated comic layout, but members of the community have created specific canvases for that traditional format. This means you can use it to sketch out your own characters and storyline, but there aren’t any premade backgrounds or images readily available.

Photoshop CC
Photoshop certainly wasn’t designed with comic creation in mind, but it can be used for this all the same. Like Comic Life 3, you can upload real life photos to this then overlay a special filter effect to make it look like a comic. You can also divide the page into panels to create a comic-like effect and the abundance of tools means you have a lot of control over your work.

If you have a simple message you want to convey, then Canva will probably be suitable. It has a very limited number of designs, with pre-drawn characters filling out the panels. You can change the text in these, to convey different messages, but you get minimal control and input beyond this.

Andy Hartup

Andy is Editor-in-Chief of Top Ten Reviews. With over 18 years experience in both online and print journalism, Andy has worked for a host of world-leading tech and gaming brands, including PC Gamer and GamesRadar. He specializes in photography, technology and smart home, and has provided expert comment for sites like The Guardian. In his spare time Andy is an amateur photographer, and teaches at the National Film and TV School.