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Clip Studio Paint EX review

Clip Studio Paint EX is the ultimate comic software, but it comes at a high price, so you need to be serious about your drawing to make the most of it.

Clip Studio Paint EX review
(Image: © Celsys)

Our Verdict

Clip Studio Paint EX is an outstanding drawing and illustration program, and easily the best way to create comics. It has superb page management tools, customization options, and drawing features. The only drawback? It's relatively expensive.

For

  • Great drawing tools
  • 3D models are a wonder
  • Fully compatible and featured

Against

  • Quite expensive
  • No spell checker for text

Clip Studio Paint EX is a superb comic creation program. It's packed with more tools and features than any of its rivals, and it includes a range of publishing options too. Clip Studio has an expansive asset library, and the EX version lets you create your own backgrounds, moving illustrations, and animations alongside the standard models and scenes you can produce with more basic software. Its drawing features are second to none and for all these reasons it's among the best comic creator software packages you can buy today. But is it the absolute best? Well, yes and no - here's why.

Clip Studio Paint EX review: Ease of use

Clip Studio Paint EX is a mix between Illustrator, InDesign and Photoshop – minus the photo correction tools – since it allows you to use vector and raster layers in the same file, while also giving you organizational tools to arrange and work on your comic book's page layout within one program. Hallelujah! You can use this program to make beautifully smooth strokes that widen and thin where you wanted them to. In terms of usage, it's virtually identical to Clip Studio Paint Pro, which is a more basic version of the same software.

This software responded beautifully when used with a drawing tablet, showing just a hint of a line when the pen was gently pressed and drawing bold, thick lines when pressed down hard. We even find the brushes to be more tuned and focused for drawing than Photoshop. It sounds blasphemous, but it’s true. Clip Studio Paint EX also lets you import and even create your own custom brushes, which is a brilliant feature.

Clip Studio Paint EX has pre-made page templates to spark your creativity, and there are 36 unique comic panel layouts. You can also use this program to create your own from scratch, which is what many advanced users will want. You can even peel away each layer and work on various parts without disturbing other parts of your images. 

In terms of script tools, EX has improved greatly over the past few years, and now has a page manager that allows you to arrange and number pages, batch export, and create over 100 pages of writing. Adding word balloons and text is very easy, and the program accesses the fonts already on your computer, and you can also change the color and size of the text. The only downside is that it lacks a spell checker, so you’ll want to double check your text before publishing your comics by running it through a word processor.

Clip Studio Paint EX review

(Image credit: Celsys)

The Clip Studio Paint EX page manager displays thumbnails of all the pages you have worked on. It lets you flip through them without needing to close or minimize the current page, and you can check out a full-page view to see everything all together. If you want to zoom in on an image you are working on, you simply hover over the area and scroll your mouse wheel. This software also allows you to organize and arrange multiple pages in one project, much like desktop publishing software – a feature which is especially helpful if you are creating your own comic books.

It's this key difference that makes it more than $100 more expensive than the Pro version of Clip Studio. Is it worth it? That entirely depends on what level of expertise you are - pro users will definitely benefit from these additional features, whereas beginners are advised to use Pro and then upgrade to EX at a later date.

Clip Studio Paint EX review: Assets and features

Clip Studio Paint EX comes with plenty of brushes along with pencil, pen and marker tools for you to use. If the cost is something you’re not ready to swallow yet, you can purchase the more budget-friendly Clip Studio Paint Pro and upgrade at a future date. All your art and projects created on Pro are compatible with EX. In fact, you can import and adjust files from most other illustration or art programs. For instance, we imported a PSD file and were able to access the same layers and paint on top of them. 

In addition to the drawing tools, you can also find pre-made backgrounds, props, characters and special effects under the Assets tab. One hugely impressive feature is Clip Studio Paint EX’s 3D models. These full-size figures are posable so you can get them into complex positions and then draw over them to help your scenes and characters look more proportional and believable. You can go one step further and animate images and models too. There is a large asset library available to all Clip Studio users, with more than 10,000 free components, and many more available for a small fee. It can be a real time saver if you're working on larger projects.

Images made with this comic software can be saved, imported and exported in the most common image files available. This means your images can be recognized and opened in different viewing programs without worrying about compatibility. Clip Studio Paint files can be saved as BMP, JPEG, PNG, TGA, TIFF and PICT formats. You can even export your work to be compatible for specific Kindle formats. 

Clip Studio Paint EX review

(Image credit: Celsys)

Clip Studio Paint EX review: Compatibility and support

This comic book software is compatible with just about every operating system, including Windows 10 and 8 and the latest version of Mac OS. It's resource-hungry, much like the Adobe suite, so you'll need a system with at least 16GB of RAM installed to get the most out of it. Most of the best laptops and home computers have 16GB as standard, and many design and video-focused machines now have 32GB for future-proofing.

Technical support is available on the CELSYS website if you need it, but it is limited. You can email support personnel, but there is no live chat or phone number for you to utilize as the company is based in Japan. A FAQs section and a video tutorial page is also available to browse through, and you can find additional user tutorials on YouTube and a regular blog from the developers.

Should you buy Clip Studio Paint EX?

Clip Studio Paint EX is the best comic book software available right now, and is perfect for both experts and novice creators. It has many tools, features, and pre-made assets to foster your creativity, including brushes, vectors and raster tools. It also lets you edit in layers, create your own brush tools, and so much more. You can use predesigned page and character layouts or pose 3D models if your imagination hits a roadblock or if you simply want to make comics faster. Clip Studio Paint EX also lets you easily create word balloons and has loads of page management and text editing functions that help you keep track of projects and get them published. This is the key difference between the EX and the less expensive Pro version. Yes, it's quite expensive, but if you're serious about comic creation, this is most definitely the program to get.