Many of Manga Studio 4 EX's features have been pulled into the standard version 5 release, but some are missing.

Artists have long depended on Smith Micro's Manga software to draw, lay out, illustrate and publish comics in styles from Japanese manga to British indie. The new Manga Studio 5 claims to offer an even greater degree of creativity and functionality – though current users should note that this is just an upgrade to the consumer-level Debut version. The pro-grade EX version won't be out til the summer, according to a pre-launch review.

Manga Studio 5's screen tones enable users to add styles and effects to their projects and create backgrounds with the pattern brush. Artists can customize projects with the program's large collection of special effects.

Manga Studio 5 is a 64-bit application with multi-core CPU support, which means it can handle high-definition and multi-layered art projects more smoothly than previous versions. Its interface overhaul and new graphics engine lets artists draw and paint more naturally, the company says.

A new, customisable interface lets artists set up a personal workflow that best fits their projects. Users can set their own brush shapes, canvas textures, and paint expressions, and save them as personal settings.

With this new version, and for the first time, users can incorporate colour into their projects, so they no longer need to rely on other drawing and painting programs to professionally color their work. Within Manga Studio 5, you can choose from an assortment of preset colours or create custom colorus and colour sets. Users can quickly switch back and forth between colors or blend them. The update also sports new vector, vector-snapping, and antialiasing tools.

A new dedicated airbrush facilitates multiple effects. The tone brush creates a wide array of visual effects, and it's easy to create and share brush patterns.

New support for 3D objects lets users manipulate 3D figures and objects directly on the screen, use preset poses, or drag and drop 3D objects onto the canvas.

While Manga Studio 5 includes many features previously found only in the EX version of Manga Studio 4 – including vector and 3D layers, custom tools and Actions,  a Brush Pen and Perspective Rulers – from Smith Micro's comparison guide, it's apparent that some haven't: including spreads, raster-to-vector conversion, tone distortion, the symmetrical ruler, some filters and the Story Editor. Scanning of images – which was in version 4 Debut – appears to have been removed, as has page numbering and support for artwork over 600dpi.

Manga Studio is $80 (around £50); upgrades from the previous version are $50 (£30). Manga Studio 5 runs on both Mac and Windows. Mac users need at least an Intel Core 2 Duo running OS X 10.6, 10.7, or 10.8. Windows users need a 2GHz Intel Pentium 4 or equivalent running XP, Vista, 7, or 8.

Additional reporting by Neil Bennett.