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Programs for Comic Artists on a Budget

Updated on December 4, 2013

We LOVE Manga Studio!

Bring on the Bad Guys!  Panel created exclusively in Manga Studio!
Bring on the Bad Guys! Panel created exclusively in Manga Studio! | Source

Lots of Comic Software Options

There are tons of options for comic artists out there. You don't need to spend allot to get into software that will give you professional quality comics. Remember the real skill is within the comic creator, and not in the tools they choose to use. So before you go off and invest $500+ in any high level software thinking it will make great comics for you. Do some research and you will find great software out there for far less, if not even free.

After much research of my own, the best option I've found is to save yourself your most valuable asset (your time) and invest in Manga Studio. It's the only program out there that is exclusively designed for comic book creators. Everything else is a huge time investment in work arounds and jumping in and out of various programs which is a complete waste of time.

I've personally spent 1,000's upgrading Adobe products and using them for about 15 years now. Upgrading every other year or so to "save" money. And back in 2005 I discovered Manga Studio 4EX (for $125) and while I still have to maintain adobe products for my graphic arts work. I would happily throw it in the trash for Manga Studio and Corel Painter in a heartbeat without hesitation.

I honestly believe that Smith Micro is doing their very best to help comic creators. I can email anyone in their entire organization at anytime with questions about Manga Studio. I speak regularly to the MS division manager and can do so with any of their other product managers at any time. Try getting a "real" human at adobe....

And I'll have to write another 100 page blog to list the reasons why you'd be much happier as a comic creator with Manga Studio. The perspective rulers, page rotating and flipping, 3d reference modeling, pencilling/inking/lettering all in one single program. The list is just vast and extensive. Think about it. Manga Studio is made by comic creators, for comic creators. All other programs are made for a neutered and general audience. So they do not have you in mind specifically and foremost.

With Manga Studio 5 you can spend as little as $49.99 to get your feet wet if your on a tight budget and then upgrade for another $149.99. Or if you're on a really tight budget you can get an older version 4EX for a decent deal and still upgrade. Ultimately you will want an EX version either way. It's necessary for full functionality.

Here's a Manga Studio link:

When I want to do more advanced coloring I have been using Painter instead of Manga Studio or Photoshop. It's far less expensive than Photoshop and quite simply a better program for a much more realistic for painting and colouring experience. I've used this program since release 9 and ever since been progressing towards kicking the Photoshop habit alltogether.

I've been intrigued with the new gateway that has opened up since Adobe prices have gone up and Corel prices have gone down. Corel has been making tons of new programs to compete in the pocketbook level that is really great for us budget conscious artists that do not have two dimes to rub together...

Here is a Painter EX3 Link:

And better yet... Free stiff is awesome! I also use Paint tool Sai. Which I believe is pretty much a Painter ripoff, or Painter is a ripoff of it. Painter is FAR more advanced but Paint Tool Sai is a very nice entry point for a totally different and "real" painting experience far more applicable to paint artists than Photoshop. This type of paint program is something the Japanese have used for a looong time. There are a bunch you can find, but they're still in Japanese, but Paint Tool Sai has been translated to English.

Here is a Paint Tool Sai Link:

I hope this helps. Don't get me wrong, I own and use Adobe products, but they are far more expensive and in most cases suites come with completely un-necessary products that you'll never even think of using. And now the suites are all organized so that you are always missing something, unless you get the Master Collection suite, which royally stinks. For instance Design Standard no longer has Premier or Dreamweaver, and what graphic artists doesn't do editing at sometime or another. So you look at Web Premium does not have Premier either?? What web guy doesn't need video editing? So you're forced to buy the Master collection which is ridiculously expensive to get everything. And obviously Adobe doesn't care, just look at their discussion boards of angry customers.

Yes, you can get the cloud now, but it's just a hassle, and when you add it all up (unless you're diligent with turning products on and off). It may even cost you even more than suite versions in the end, and you see a monthly bill that you have to budget for. And even then, Manga Studio and Corel (and Paint Tool Sai) products will still cost you far less than even the annualized cloud price and be at your beck-and-call daily. And likely not need upgrading every 6-9 months.

And every creator needs a script editing tool like Microsoft Word. But I have kicked the MS Office habit and expense by using Apache's Open Office. This is free software and works just fine with regular Office stuff. Just save in Word and Excel format. I've even heard of people using Open Office for making their comic books in a pinch.

Some other options for free comic art would be Gimp for coloring and then InkScape for lettering.

Also you can find an excellent alternative to Adobe products in Xara. Xara Photo & Graphic Designer ($90, one time fee) is a great Photoshop substitute and their full suite of software has most everything you would need.

I know that most creators are on a tight budget, like myself, and there are tons of options out there. It just takes some investigating. I'll share some more as I test and use them. Until then defend your pocketbooks! Nobody can have MY dust!

Good Luck!

Your Friend and Fan!
Mike Rickaby
Copyright 2013 CE Publishing Group


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