If you are already familiar with Adobe Photoshop or other digital painting software, Clip Studio Paint EX, previously known as Manga Studio, will be very familiar to you. It is primo comic book software since it has more tools and features and supports more file formats than any other software we reviewed. Professional artists will feel right at home with this program, but novice users can easily become proficient with it as well. If you can afford it, Clip Studio Paint EX is simply the best comic book software for creating comics, anime and manga.
Comic Book & Manga Tools
If you have used Adobe Photoshop, then the tool layout of this program will seem pretty familiar; some of the hotkeys are even the same. This program is a bit of 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! I was able to use this program to make beautifully smooth strokes that widened and thinned where I wanted them to. If you’d prefer a simpler program that isn’t drawing-intensive, you might be interested in Pixton.
Clip Studio Paint EX has premade page templates to spark your creativity. I counted 36 unique comic panel layouts, but you can also use this program to create your own from scratch. You can even peel away each layer and work on various parts without disturbing other parts of your images. Since this comic maker focuses on illustration, it doesn't have many script tools. The program let me add word balloons and text super easily. However, it lacks a spell checker so you’ll want to double check your text before publishing your comics. The program accesses the fonts already on your computer, and you can also change the color and size of the text.
Clip Studio Paint EX includes a page organization feature that displays thumbnails of all the pages you have worked on. It also 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. I also discovered that you can create animations using this program, which takes a little more time and dedication.
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. This feature isn't found in Clip Studio Paint Pro.
Digital Painting Tools
I absolutely loved using Clip Studio Paint EX and wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone looking for comic book software or digital drawing software in general. This program 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 Pro and upgrade at a future date.
You can import and adjust most files of your previous artwork. For instance, I imported a PSD file and was able to access the same layers I’d created previously, as well as paint on top of them. This software responded beautifully to my drawing tablet, showing just a hint of a line when I gently pressed and drawing bold, thick lines when I pressed down hard. I even found the brushes to be a little more tuned and focused for drawing than Photoshop. It sounds blasphemous, but it’s true. I was glad to see that Clip Studio Paint lets you import and even create your own custom brushes.
In addition to the drawing tools, you can also find premade backgrounds, props, characters and special effects under the Assets tab. An aspect that blew me away was 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.
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. Unfortunately, this software doesn't support PDF files. However, PDF files are not commonly supported by comic book software.
Tutorials & Support
This comic book software is compatible with just about every operating system, including Windows 10 and 8 and Mac OS X. This program is big, though, and we highly recommend more than 1GB of RAM to run it smoothly.
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.
Clip Studio Paint EX is the best comic book software available on the market and is perfect for both experts and novice creators. It has many tools and effects to foster your creativity, including brushes, vectors and raster tools. It also lets you edit in layers. 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 some text editing functions for changing font styles and sizes.