Posted August 12, 2013 by Anthony in Reviews

Manga Studio 5 EX Review


A few months ago I had the chance to review Manga Studio 5. Now I have the opportunity to go through Manga Studio 5 EX. Since this has a lot of similarities between this and the previous version, I am going to concentrate on the new features and things I’ve noticed since my last review.

First and foremost, story mode is back as a part of the more full featured EX version of Manga Studio 5. While it has the same features and abilities, it’s clearly obvious that this functionality has been reworked. Many of the options are different and the way you do things are a bit different. For example, once I created a story, I was initially confused how to see the layout of the document as a whole until I located the Page Manager view. While some of this might be due to the reworked interface in version 5, it still gave me a bit of pause to get my bearings.

Creating page spreads is as easy as selecting a couple of pages and choosing the Combine Pages option. This gives artists the flexibility to do almost any layout they want easily by showing both pages on the canvas view.

Manga Studio 5 EX can have an overwhelming interface for those not familiar with the software. Even for those familiar with the software, the interface can feel a bit cluttered if you aren’t using a larger monitor. This makes it less than an ideal solution if you plan to work solely on a laptop, but it does have more than plenty of customization options so you can tailor your interface by removing or collapsing palettes you don’t use as much.

As always, Manga Studio 5 EX features excellent pen and ink representations with little adjustments. This is still the best program I’ve used for digital pen and ink work. I have gotten very nice pen and ink tools in a lot of other programs, but that has always required a lot of tweaking. You get that right out of the box with Manga Studio. Even with it being so solid in this area, I was pleased to find some little improvements like Reference Layers which allow you to restrict painting to not pass inked lines on another layer, that make their software even more helpful.

I reviewed Manga Studio 5 EX on a Mac, but it is also available on Windows. The software itself, for the most part, seemed to run pretty smooth. I did have an issues where the cursor disappeared over the canvas area while I was testing out some functionality which basically made the application unusable, but was remedied by rebooting the computer. It wasn’t something that was rampant with my experience and I wasn’t subjected to any data loss, so it was just the annoyance of doing the restart that I was dealing with.

As I mentioned in my previous review, the ability to work with 3d models and scenes seems to really be a focus for the future in Manga Studio. While it’s not something that I have migrated to, I know there are a lot of artists who are interested in that. I did cover this better in my Manga Studio 5 review, but I just wanted to mention the feature here as well.

Manga Studio 5 EX is priced at $300 for the full version. Is the software worth the price tag when compared to the $80 price tag of the basic Manga Studio 5? That likely depends on your needs. The both offer many of the same great tools and run fairly stable. The big difference for me is the lack of Story mode features in the basic version. If you don’t need all the story mode features, Manga Studio 5 will probably fit most of your needs. If you are interested in doing a printed comic book work, those features will definitely come in handy likely saving you enough time to make up the extra pocket change.

Smith Micro has appeared to shore up the few complaints I had about Manga Studio 5 when I reviewed it and Manga Studio 5 EX seems like a really solid product. As I’ve said in the past, the Manga Studio line of products are the front runner for anyone interested in doing comic, manga or even just digital pen and ink work no matter your distribution target. Give it a spin and I’m sure it’ll meet the needs of even the most discriminating artist.


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.