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Clip Studio Paint Pro review

Clip Studio Paint Pro is a superb comic program that is ideal for beginners or digital artists on a budget.

Clip Studio Paint Pro review
(Image: © Graphixly)

Our Verdict

Clip Studio Paint Pro is an inexpensive, yet fully featured, piece of comic software. It's ideal for anyone just starting out, or on a budget, and will make regular Photoshop users feel right at home.

For

  • Great value
  • Powerful software
  • Very accurate and responsive

Against

  • Lacks publishing tools
  • Not as good as EX version

Clip Studio Paint Pro is a perfect place to start if you're taking your first steps into comic drawing and illustration. It's the more basic version of Clip Studio Paint EX, and costs a fraction of the price, but it's incredibly well featured. It has an excellent variety of paint tools and color options, access to a free library of over 10,000 assets, and it's easy to use - especially if you're familiar with the newer versions of PhotoShop. The power of this program, combined with the relatively great price, means it sits high on our list of the best comic creator software packages.

Clip Studio Paint Pro review: Ease of use

When you first start using Clip Studio Paint Pro you'll quickly start to realize that many of the hotkeys are the same as Photoshop's, so if you are already familiar with Adobe's programs, it should be easy to pick up. While Clip Studio Paint Pro is a little more 'feature intense' than other comic creators we've reviewed, dedicated novices should be able to get a handle on it after a few hours. If you’d prefer a simpler program that isn’t drawing-intensive, you might be interested in Pixton.

Since you can use raster and vector layers in Clip Studio Paint Pro, it is somewhat of a mix between Illustrator and Photoshop – minus the photo correction tools. Amazing, right? This basically means you can paint pixels as well as draw vector lines in one place instead of having to switch between two programs. There are plenty of brushes, airbrushes, markers and shading tools to help you get the perfect look for your drawings, or you can create your own brushes to suit your needs. You can also use the pen tool to create freeform shapes.

As far as drawing tools go, this program offers some of the best on the market. You can adjust the vector settings to create smooth, bold strokes over your sketches, and  use the program's tools to beef up (or slim down) specific line areas to make your drawings look more professionally drawn. Clip Studio Paint Pro gives you access to 36 pre-designed comic panel pages, or you can use the program to design your own from scratch.

Clip Studio Paint Pro review

(Image credit: Graphixly)

Clip Studio Paint Pro is optimized for use with mouse or digital pen, and if you're a serious comic artist, it's likely you'll be using these methods anyway. While using our Wacom tablet, this program responded beautifully to the pen's movements, making bold, thick lines when pushed down hard, and light, thin lines when pressed softly. We are really impressed with the tracking and accuracy of Clip Studio, and when you adjust the sensitivity settings it makes natural adjustments to movement and accuracy that other design software packages often struggle with.

In terms of file types, Paint Pro lets you import and work on common image files like JPEG, TIFF, PNG and even PSD.

Clip Studio Paint Pro review: Assets and features

This software also gives you access to plenty of assets including characters, backgrounds, props and effects that you can quickly add to your panels. There are over 10,000 free assets, and many more available for a few dollars each. We were pleased to find that you can access the posable 3D models in this version, which is a feature that could easily have been locked to the EX version of this software. You can use these posable figures to help you accurately draw complex gestures and body positions. Unfortunately, the Pro version doesn't provide extensive desktop publishing tools like EX does. This means you can’t organize, arrange or work on multiple pages within one file, which is an especially helpful feature when you want to create a digital or physical comic book.

We absolutely love the word balloon tools - an important aspect of comic software. They let you choose the shape and size of the initial bubble, as well as choose where the tail comes out and points to. You have access to all the fonts previously downloaded on your computer, and you can choose the size and color of your font. However, there is no spell check, so you'll want to make sure everything is spelled correctly. Running your text through Google Docs or a free version of any online grammar checker should work just fine.

Clip Studio Paint Pro review

(Image credit: Graphixly)

Clip Studio Paint Pro review: Compatibility and support

Clip Studio Paint Pro is compatible with both Mac and PC computers, so a wide range of artists can use it. Since this is a large and powerful program, you will need more than 1GB of available RAM to run it smoothly, but most of the best home computers now come with 16GB as standard, which leaves you with plenty for illustration software. If you'd prefer a more mobile option and are willing to pay a subscription fee, this software is also available as an app for tablets. One recommendation we have for anyone taking their comic book creation seriously is to purchase a compatible graphics pen and tablet, as well as a drawing glove, to get the most out of your drawing experience. Although, if you're spending all that money on drawing tools, you'd be better served by Clip Studio Paint EX.

You can find tutorials and a FAQs page on the official CELSYS website, or you can email a customer representative, but there is no live chat or phone support. Clip Studio Paint's forum is active so you can also find answers from fellow users. There are plenty of Clip Studio Paint users out there, so you can also find plenty of user-created tutorials via the YouTube channel.

Should you buy Clip Studio Paint Pro?

Clip Studio Paint Pro is the perfect program for artists on a budget since it doesn't cost very much but still provides plenty of vector and brush tools for you to create professional-looking comics. This program isn't the easiest to learn, but with some dedicated practice and time spent learning from tutorials, inexperienced users can become proficient. It's intuitive, especially if you know Adobe programs. Paint Pro comes with plenty of predesigned graphics to make the creation process easy, and the library of over 10,000 assets is very welcome. Compared to EX, one of the biggest things it lacks is the ability to arrange and work on multiple comic book pages at once. It also doesn't have the same range of publishing tools. However, because it's over $100 less than EX, Clip Studio Paint Pro is easily the best choice for most amateur comic book creators.