Creating Panels With Manga Studio


In this tutorial, I’m going to show you how I create my panels using the Panel Tool in Manga Studio. For this tutorial, version EX4 was used. As with any tutorial, there is more than one way to skin a cat, so experiment with the method I use and see what’s best for your style!

Open up Manga Studio. Click on “NEW” and then “PAGE”. Click image below for an example.

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Then, in Page Size, enter in 14 inches for the width, and 5 inches for the height. A standard newspaper comic strip is about 13 inches by 4 inches and this give you a ½ inch boarder around the drawing.

For the sake of this tutorial, the assumption is you are creating a strip to post on your webcomic site. If doing it for print, consult the printer for exact dimensions and specifications.  I do all my comic strips at 600DPI, but 300DPI is the norm.

Once you click okay, you will see that, by default, two layers are created.

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One is already set to “Color View” and the default color is blue, just like a blue pencil. I love this mode and do all my sketching in this mode.

You can easily switch back and forth from Color Mode to Grayscale by hitting the CRTL & B keys while the Layer is selected.

In the Layers Window, turn on GRID.  The image below is what you will see.

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In the TOOLS selection window, click on the “Rectangle” tool. Now, in the Tool Options window, you will want to click on “New Panel” mode under the General Tab. (See yellow arrow in sample image)

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This mode automatically creates a Panel Folder and Layer for you once you have drawn your desired shape. Easy!

I use the Grid to help me make a nice, wide rectangle. I space it off three (3) grid spaces all around. The image below shows the shape as I drag it out.

The finished Panel Layer will look like the image below once you select the Layer itself. The Red Border tells you which panel you have selected.  Since we have not yet divided up this panel, the entire panel has a red border.

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Okay, now I’ve done some basic layout sketching on my Sketch Layer (the layer with the Color Mode turned on). Now I’m ready to create some more panels to fit the comic. Here’s where the Panel Tool comes in real handy!

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Select the Panel Layer again inside the Panel Folder.  Then, in your Tools Window, select the Panel Ruler Cutter tool as we get ready to perform some surgery on our original Panel Layer.

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Select the Panel Layer, and you will see the red border re-appear.  Now left-click and hold the button down anywhere inside the panel layer where you wish to create a new panel. I usually click near the top of the outer panel line just to give myself a visual reference.

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Once you left-click, a set of double lines will appear and as you move your mouse left or right, you’ll be able to set the angle of the panel you wish to create.  Most times, it will be vertical, but you have the option of making it any angle you wish. Nice.

Once you’re happy with the location, release the mouse button and your panel will be created.  A whole new Panel Folder and Layer will be made and it will now be highlighted red.  See the example below.

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So, Manga Studio gives you a visual reference of which Panel Layer you have selected by outlining it in red for you! Handy feature.

By repeating this process, you can create as many panels as you wish. Typically I create three or four panels, but you may be as creative as you want and Manga Studio will create the exact panels you want!

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Below is an example of a finished comic before I do the coloring.  I have set up a standard comic file that has a single panel in it along with simple word bubbles so all I have to do is copy and edit the layers as I need.  This is a handy thing to set up as it will save you a lot of time recreating these panels each time you want to draw a comic.

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With a little practice and time, you’ll be cranking out your comic strips in no time at all. I do all my sketching, lettering, inking, coloring and shading in Manga Studio. It allows me to maintain my 3-times a week webcomic schedule while still being able to do other freelance work and help with my family. I hope you found this tutorial helpful! Any comments may be sent to!

Posted in Drawing, Helpful Hints, Tutorials and tagged , , , , .


  1. Brilliant, Byron! I’ve recently picked up Manga Studio EX and have been bumbling around with it, but I really wanted to use it’s paneling functions. This really helps! 🙂

  2. I really appreciated this tutorial/article. It answers several questions that I have about Manga Studio EX in the creation of a web comic. I’m considering switching to this tool from my current multiple applications work flow. But like any software tool change, there is always a significant time investment required to become productive, so it’s not something to take on casually. So articles from someone who is already using the software similarly are very useful and important. I hope you will continue to publish more articles here.

  3. hello i’m fairly new to manga studio and i have a question which i was unable to secure answer in the “dummies guide to using MSD4 or online in any tutorial. i’m diong my comic strips in MSD4 and i want to know the correct steps to enable mt to color the “borders” outside the “panels” different colors.please “somebody” help me.

  4. Nice tutorial!

    Mustafa: once you’ve rasterized the panel layer, you can treat it as a regular black and white layer, so filling the gutters (that’s what I think those borders are called) in black would just need to splash it with the paint bucket.

    If you want to use any other color for them, you can always create a new 32- bit color layer underneath the rasterized panel layer, select the gutters with the magic wand, erase the white on the panels and fill on the color layer underneath with the same selection.

  5. If you use a panel ruler layer, you can divide up a rectangle into even thirds/quarters and fifths if you want. It’s relatively simple to have a round or jagged or irregular (like for flashbacks/dream sequences) by using the panel border and mask layers. I could do a youTube/Vimeo tutorial on that if there’s any demand.

  6. Using the splint panel ruler configured to format the page in 2 panels horizontally and 3 panels vertically, I’ve created a 6 panel page with the following sizes (manga studio ex 4):
    Page Size:
    13200×19800 pixels
    w 11 inch
    h 16 inch
    Finish Frame:
    w 10 inch
    h 15 inch
    Basic Frame:
    w 9 inch
    h 14 inch
    Bleed width 0.250 inch

    I need to know how I can duplicate (in exact measurements) a single panel from this page to exist on its own separate page.
    I want to work on each panel separately, on individual pages, and then copy and paste them back into the 6 panel page.

  7. great tutorial! cleared up a few issues i had with the software. is there a way to snap to the grid or to change the width of the panel line?

  8. Does MS5 come with panel cutter tool? Or does ms5 EX come with panel cutter tool? I don’t have it it’s not fair :X

    • Manga Studio 5 does have a panel cutter tool. The only advantage to MS 5 EX is that EX has “Story Management” — where all the pages of the story appears in a side-bar ish window and can be opened from it. And batch processing.

      Before you do use the panel cutter tool — go to the layers menu and under the Ruler-Frame menu item, there’s an option to divide panels evenly. The dialog is a bit wonky (meaning that if you set no panels for horizontal, it looks like the vertical is greyed out, but you can still change its settings) but it does a great job.

      Now if MS can only begin to use common comic terms instead of “rolling its own” — i.e. “Frames” instead of panels — it would be great. I’ve given up on figuring out how the frakkin’ bleed works on new page dialogs.

    • I have the technology now to do video tutorials. Also, this is an older tutorial. I need to update all my Manga Studio tutorials.

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