Are you a comic book lover? Maybe you’re already involved in the creation of comic books. Or perhaps you’ve always dreamed about making your own comic or graphic novel. If so, you’ll definitely want to check out Manga Studio Pro 5, the newly released comic creation software by Smith Micro. If you’re thinking that Manga Studio only allows for the creation of comic books in the manga style, think again. Whatever your style, you can use Manga Studio to create it. Perhaps a better name for it would be “Comic Studio Pro” since you can work in any style. Then again, considering that the program was developed in Japan, perhaps Manga is the right name after all.
Smith Micro also publishes a remarkably versatile 2D animation software application called Anime Studio Pro, a program I think has a lot of creative potential, thanks to its spline based animation capabilities and skeletal bones system. It’s a good choice for anyone who wishes to do 2D character animation. Once again, don’t get thrown by the name used, the app is flexible and won’t hold you to the style of Anime.
Recently, Smith Micro representatives gave me a demo of Manga Studio 5. What first impressed me was that the software contained a complete creative environment for developing comic books. The app includes advanced painting tools with customizable brushes; steady stroke stabilization; vector tools with a variety of spline types to choose from; and Photoshop style layers with things like masking and opacity. Naturally, lettering capabilities are included in the program. I also liked Manga Studio 5’s redesigned user interface, which seems like it should be more intuitive for new users to take up.
Another feature that I appreciated is that the app contains fully articulated 3D humanoid forms that you can easily pose and use as reference. Here’s how you might use this approach: After posing the model, you can move in for close ups or rotate the view until you get the exact framing and angle you desire. Then, paint over it to create your art and simply hide or delete the 3D model when you’re finished. The models helpfully contain guidelines on their surfaces that you can use to properly position key anatomical features. This approach definitely beats having one of those old fashioned wooden figures that I always thought were much too stiff to work with.
Manga Studio Pro also contains a couple of textured Manga-style characters–a boy and a girl–that you can use in your story. Perhaps in the future, more characters will become available. Then you’ll have the option assemble entire comics from pre-defined characters that you drag and drop onto painted backgrounds, posing and rotating them into position. Add some lettering and you’ve got yourself a comic book.
If 3D is not your strong point, you can attach a Qumarion to your computer and pose Manga Studio 5’s 3D models with it. Don’t know what a Qumarion is you say? Don’t worry, I didn’t either until Fahim Niaz, senior product manager for Smith Micro Software, showed me one. Qumarion is a mannequin developed in Japan that you can use to pose 3D models. With some 32 sensors across its16 body joints, the Qumarion device translates that data and sends it to the computer via USB. Just rotate the arm of the Qumarion and the arm of the model rotates. Move the Qumarion’s leg, and the leg moves. I’m pretty comfortable navigating my way around 3D space, so I probably won’t need one. But it is tempting since the thing looks darn cool.
For the occasion of Manga Studio 5’s release on January 29, Smith Micro will unveil a limited edition printed poster created by Ethan Nicolle, a Manga Studio artist and creator of Axe Cop, an online web comic series. You might also want to check out the online contest which offers a chance to win a signed copy of the print, as well as a Wacom Cintiq tablet, a must have tool for creating comics in Manga Studio 5. To enter the contest, visit here.
One more thing you’re sure to like about Manga Studio 5 is the price: $79.99. Not bad for a piece of software that lets you design, create and publish professional quality comic books. According to Niaz, Manga Studio is becoming an industry standard in many comic book publishing companies. If you’re into comics or graphic novels, that might be the inspiration you need.