Posted March 11, 2013 by Anthony in Reviews

Manga Studio 5 Review


Manga Studio 5 is the latest iteration in Smith Micro’s line of premiere graphic novel software. It comes with a lot of updates and changes, most of them for the better.

Some of the improvements include the removal of the color mode for the pages. You no longer have to designate a page as being either color or monochrome This simplifies the creation of pages and alleviates the situation of accidentally creating a black & white only page when you want to use color.


The brushes have now been updated to not only emulate various pens, but also other traditional painting and drawing tools. Now you can select from pastel, chalk, marker, watercolor and brush effects to get just the right look that you want in your drawing. The brushes offer a fairly convincing look to their traditional equivalent. The improvement to the functionality and also the look of these brushes may convince a lot of artists who have been exporting their drawings to be painted in other tools, like PhotoShop, to remain in Manga Studio reducing the toolkit workflow. With each version of Manga Studio, it’s becoming less a case of a need to do this and more a case of a preference as Manga Studio is removing reasons to use another application.

Manga Studio 5 has ushered in a new era in the graphic novel creation process. It now incorporates the use of 3d models, objects and backgrounds to layout the scenes. It took some getting used to, but there are definitely some advantages to using 3d models instead of drawing each scene by hand. This also aligns Manga Studio 5 to interact with other Smith Micro’s products like Poser. The things that make this such an intriguing feature is the ability to use built in poses, save clothing and other manipulations. To me, using the 3d models feels more like directing than drawing, which, as I said, has it’s advantages.


Even if you don’t have another 3d program to interact with, Manga Studio 5 offers some default figures, objects and backgrounds to play around with. It’s a good way to take the 3d approach for a spin without needing a separate software package to create the content.

I tested out the Mac version which is 64 bit compatible. There is a noticeable difference in speed between Manga Studio 5 and Manga Studio Debut 4. Manga Studio 5 has been optimized to take advantage of 64 bit architecture and that effort is certainly apparent especially if you use them side by side for comparison. Less time spent waiting for the program means more time to dedicate to finishing up your masterpiece.


One thing that seems to be missing is the story and page views that were present in previous versions of Manga Studio. While this does make it more inline with other drawing programs, it seems to lack a good way for laying out a full graphic novel layout. While this may not bother some users, it does seem like a step back for its target audience. The good news is that I have heard rumors that this functionality will return in Manga Studio 5 EX, to be released later this year. Of course, that one does also come with a higher sticker price so you would have to evaluate if this feature is worth the additional cost.

With all the changes, there are still things that remain the same. Manga Studio 5 still has a diverse range of import and export formats that allow for the flexibility with working in whatever program you are comfortable with. All the frames panels are still there although how you use this familiar tool (as well as many of the other tools), has changed with the new interface. The learning curve isn’t too steep though if you are comfortable with the previous versions. Improvements have been made to a lot of existing functionality in the way of added options as is immediately evident when you go through the list of available tones and motion effects.


Manga Studio 5 appears to be poised as a middle step between the still available Manga Studio 4 Debut and the upcoming Manga Studio 5 EX. Priced at $79.99 and $49.99 respectively, if the lack of story mode doesn’t sway you to use Debut, the reasonable price difference should be swayed to Manga Studio 5 as it does offer a bunch of improvements over the Debut version.

All in all, Manga Studio 5 is a an improvement over the previous versions. Even if you dock it for the lack of Story mode and layout features, there is still a ton of improvements that should continue to make Manga Studio a front running software package for graphic novel and comic creation enthusiasts and professionals.


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.