Manga Studio EX 4 review

Manga Studio EX 4 features tweaks to existing tools, plus a raft of new features, including a suite of vector-graphics tools, enhancements to its 3D rendering capabilities, new filters, colour palettes and much improved lettering facilities.

The more affordable Manga Studio Debut 4 lacks the filters, 3D and vector features and perspective rulers, and has cut-down colouring tools. However, it retains the fantastic drawing tools, screentones, layout functionality and enhanced speech bubble tools, making it one of the most powerful graphics programs available at the price.

The eraser was one of the smartest features in previous versions of Manga Studio. Its size remained constant whether you were zoomed in or out, so you could erase finely close up, or scrub out big areas when looking at the whole page. This has now been applied to both the pen and pencil tools.

The ‘correction’ of wobbly pen strokes is similarly customisable. The appearance of strokes can also vary based on how fast you draw them. This level of detail has been applied to all the tools. We were overjoyed on finding out that the Magic Wand could now be set to ignore tiny gaps.

Perhaps the most useful change is the (optional) floating toolbar that now appears below a marquee or lasso selection. Included in the bar is the Transform tool, which in Manga Studio 3 was infernally fiddly to use, but now works perfectly.

The new vector-drawing tools integrate seamlessly with the rasterised pens – it’s possible to convert a raster layer into editable vectors. The Pen and Line tools work exactly the same way whichever format you choose, but the vectors (naturally) scale up smoothly when transformed. There’s no Adobe-style Bézier Pen tool, though. Another disappointment is that there’s no native vector workspace or vector export format (PDF output is rasterised).

OUR VERDICT

There is no better way to produce tightly formatted black-and-white digital artwork. The vector tools don’t make it an Illustrator-killer, but add useful functionality. At the basic level, manga wannabes have access to all the speed lines, sparkly eyes, jagged speech bubbles and exotic pen nibs they could desire. But it’s the evolution of the drawing tools that will lure upgraders and new users alike.

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