Posted January 30, 2013 by Anthony in Features

Manga Studio Debut 4 Review


The digital age has ushered in a time where people are always looking for software to replace their traditional processes. This is not different in the world of graphic novels and comics, where people are always looking to make a quality product without using the tried and true manual inking and coloring process. The Manga Studio line of software products look to fit that niche, so I took a spin with the Manga Studio Debut 4 product to see how well it holds up.

Manga Studio Debut 4 is the introductory version in their Manga Studio line, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not a capable piece of software to accomplish the needs of many artists. Manga Studio features a large set of features that makes the creation of graphic novel style inking possible.

Beyond the normal shapes you can find in most drawing tools like line, rectangle and elliptical shape tools, it features a set of drawing tools that try to mimic traditional style tools. It has a pen tool, a marker tool and a pencil tool, each of which has a myriad of options themselves. The pen tool, for example, has several pen styles tailored after traditional pens that each allow you to control width and tapering style to get just the right line effect you are looking for. The marker and pencil tools have fewer options, but they do allow for a detailed control of the size of the lines each makes.

Some of the things that brings it to the table to give their digital solution an advantage are things like filters and tones. Filters allow you to add things like focus lines and speed lines. While these are certainly things that can be done through traditional means easily enough, the use of settings to control things like the number, frequency, length, width of the lines including allowing you to randomize many of those properties, is really difficult to compete with. The same thing can be said for the tone patterns. While again, there are things that have been developed in traditional drawing to make them easier to accomplish, traditional means just can’t compete with the ease of changing the properties of these features, not to mention the ability to go back and change the settings if you decide to try something different. It’s these advantages that make the digital option so appealing.

The capabilities of the layers and panels also allow things to be format easier. I was particularly impressed with how easy the panel ruler layer functionality made it to set up custom page panels in virtually any orientation that fits your needs. Add with it the capabilities of things like sketch layers (that can be set to not print), multiple inking layers, the newly added ability to have color layers and Manga Studio Debut has all the tools you need to layout and work through your drawing any way you would want.

Since this software is designed for use in creating both comics and graphic novels, it only stands to figure that you are going to want to be able to have multiple pages. The story and page functionality is pretty unique to Manga Studio when compared to most drawing and painting applications in that regard.

One of the best things about Manga Studio, in my opinion, is how it plays well with others. It has a good set of import/export options to allow it to be utilized with other applications easily. Would you rather sketch your outline in another program or even sketch it on paper and draw it in? You can do that and import your image from another program or scanner as a sketch layer to ink over. Would you be more comfortable coloring in another program like Photoshop? You can take advantage of the ability to export as a photoshop document for you or someone else to use the tool that best suites your needs or are most comfortable with. You don’t have to feel trapped into using Manga Studio from start to finish of your work.

If you are looking for just a drawing program, Manga Studio may not be the best solution. While it is certainly capable of it, it is not designed to fill that need. It’s certainly good enough that it should be an option that is evaluated to see if it fits your style, though. If you are looking for creating graphic novels, comics or line art inking, there aren’t many other programs that will compete with the features of this application. That’s what it’s designed to do, and it handles it very well. In fact, you will find that a lot of professional comic illustrators use Manga Studio in their creation arsenal.

While it’s a great program, it’s certainly not without its faults. Manga Studio isn’t the kind of application that you pick up and use. There is a learning curve to it if you aren’t used to similar drawing programs already. While this is the Debut edition, it doesn’t feel like it’s intended for beginners. This isn’t all that bad, as with its complexity comes capability, but people shouldn’t get it into their mind that they’ll be able to pick it up and masterfully command it right off the bat. As someone who has used other programs, though, it wasn’t too bad to learn and I really only had trouble figuring out some of its awkward keyboard shortcuts that could take some getting used to. From reading the feature set, some people might be bothered by the import formats supported by the Debut version, but I did my testing on a Mac, which for some reason boasts a much more broad format support.

Overall, Manga Studio Debut 4 is a pretty impressive package for its target audience, and shouldn’t be overlooked for those looking for inking solutions. People may want to check out the differences between Debug and EX versions to make sure they are getting all the features they would want, though. The price points between them are significant enough that it’s worth seeing if Debut will suffice.


I've been a game enthusiast since my 2600 enjoying RPG, platformer and adventure games. Also a film buff who enjoys quirky, indie films and a huge Hitchcock fan.