Price When Reviewed: 34 . 205
Pros: Great natural art tools; improved lettering; very stable; huge range of materials and computones; runs well on low-specced machines.
Cons: Colour implementation weak; interface can be cluttered on lower resolution displays; steep learning curve at first.
Manga Studio’s greatest success is in translating the feel of drawing from paper to the feedback-free, glassy tablet surface. One of the smartest features in previous versions was an eraser whose 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 your wobbly pen strokes is now similarly customizable. As before, even after six or seven stiff gins, your pen strokes will appear smooth and professional. But now this too can be set to ramp up and down with your zoom level. The appearance of strokes can also vary based on how fast you draw them, to whatever degree you like. This level of detail has been applied to all the tools. This reviewer wept for joy on finding out that the Magic Wand could now be set to ignore tiny gaps.
But perhaps most useful of these changes is the (optional) floating toolbar that now appears below a marquee or lasso selection. Users on tablet PCs and Cintiqs will particularly benefit from this neat piece of usability. Included in the bar is the Transform tool, which in Manga Studio 3 was infernally fiddly to use (you want to nudge a tiny selection with the cursor keys? Are you mad?) but now works perfectly.
The colouring tools are unlikely to win over artists used to colouring in Photoshop. The lack of a CMYK palette, and the inability to import palettes, will make them largely superfluous to those working towards print.
Poor colour implementation is a rare sour note. The new vector-drawing tools integrate seamlessly with the rasterized 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.
As ever, detail is king: there are excellent line-thickening and smoothing tools, so obsessive-compulsives can massage their creations inch by inch to their liking. The only disappointment is that there’s no native vector workspace or vector export format (PDF output is rasterized).