Birth of a Comic in Manga Studio 5

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(Byron’s note: I’ve also created this tutorial in PDF form
which will read a bit easier on most screens.  Download that PDF HERE.)

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I thought by sharing my workflow in the new Manga Studio 5, it would illustrate how the updated software works plus demonstrate the basic tools and operations of the software.  This is the first of three introductory tutorials for Manga Studio 5.  As a note, I do all my work in Raster mode.

First, I open a new file and name it.  I use the Year/Month/Day of the comic’s publish date; i.e. 2013-01-07.  I use dimensions close to a standard newspaper strip style of 13.5” x 5.5” and then set the Registration Marks and Frame to 13” x 5” giving me a .25” border all around the comic.  I draw at 600DPI as I find it works better with the anti-aliasing settings in MS5.

Click for Larger View

Click for Larger View

I then do a rough sketch of the comic using a medium gray pencil set at a brush size of 20.  I rough in the comic bubbles for spacing of the characters and frames.  I will be doing a detailed article on the Pencil and Ink Tools next, so for now I’m assuming you already know how to use these tools.

Click for Larger View

Click for Larger View

Click for Larger View

Click for Larger View

I then create the frames for the comic by selecting the Figure Tool (1) and then click on the Frame tab (2).

Be sure the “Draw frame borders” option is checked, which it should be by default.  I next use the square Figure and set the Brush Size to 25.  Finally, I turn off the Anti-aliasing, set the Brush Shape to Pen and choose black as the color for my Frames.

Once those options are chosen, you are ready to create some Frames.  Simply place your cursor where you want to start a Frame, left-click and hold down the button and drag out your Frame to the size you want.

Next, we’ll cut a Frame to size!

Click for Larger View

Click for Larger View

Once you have created a Frame, you may want to cut it into smaller Frames.  I start with one large Frame and then cut it to size as needed by my sketch.  Here’s how to cut a Frame once it has been created.

Click on the Correct Line Tool (1) and select the Cut Frame Border (2).

Then place your cursor where you want to make the cut and simply drag in the direction you want the cut to go.  Most likely this will be straight up and down.  To make a straight cut faster, hold down the shift key before dragging your cursor.  By doing that, MS5 will automatically create a straight cut.  You can also use all types of angles or round Frames if you want.  Experiment and see what fits your style.

The next three images show the process I use:

  • The first shows how I create the large Frame.
  • The second shows the first Frame selected to show you the Layer Mask for the Frame.
  • The third shows how I cut the frame to the sizes I need according to my rough sketch.

Image 1: Create initial Frame. To make your Frames consistent in height, first create one large Frame using the .25” Registration Marks as your guide

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Click for Larger View

Image 2: Layer Mask.  When you select one Frame, the Layer Mask shows up to single out the Frame you’ve chosen.  This option may be turned on and off.

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Click for Larger View

Image 3: Frames cut to the sizes needed according to rough sketch.

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Click for Larger View

Now that I have the Frames created, I like to enter in my dialog.  This helps with positioning the characters when I do the final sketches and inks.  Also, if you stare at the dialog long enough you eventually will make tweaks in the grammar and/or spelling. To insert a word bubble, go to WINDOW -> MATERIAL ->Material [Dialog] and you’ll see the various bubble types available.  Click on and drag one onto your page.

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Click for Larger View

I now drag a word bubble out and do a rough fit of its position and size.  Then I add the text and finally I add a tail.

Click for Larger View

Click for Larger View

To edit a word bubble or tail in MS5, first select the word bubble layer, and then simply hold down the Control key and left-click on the bubble or tail to edit its size and/or shape.  Look for the tiny dots to adjust the item you’re editing.  Don’t let go of the Control key until you’re done editing!

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Click for Larger View

I then do another layer of finished pencils based on the loose quick sketch layer.  From there, I’m ready to start inking and coloring the comic.

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Click for Larger View

I select my sketch layer and in the Layer Property box select Layer Color which turns on the layer’s base color, which by default is blue, like a blue pencil.  I reduce the transparency from 100% to 50% and then use that as my inking reference. (Look for the yellow arrows in the image below)

Click for Larger View

Click for Larger View

For this comic, I’m using a background in the first frame to establish they are in a bar.  In the image below, you can see the inked background, on its own layer, and the sketch layer of the foreground characters.  Note I did not have to ink in all the lines on the front of the bar because Lorraine’s body covers that portion up.

Click for Larger View

Click for Larger View

Here are the finished inks for the first Frame.  Note: I have turned down the transparency of the background frame for illustrative purposes only.

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Click for Larger View

I duplicate the completed Ink layer and use this duplicate layer for coloring.  I use the bucket fill tool to color.  You will always want to color on a copy of your ink layer in case you need to start over or if you ever just want the inks alone.

Click for Larger View

Click for Larger View

For shading, I create a separate Raster layer, choose full black as my color, and then turn the layer transparency down to 40%.  I use the Marker Tool to draw in the shading as needed.  I pick a “light source” in the frame and shade in the area opposite of that imaginary light source.

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Click for Larger View

For highlights, the process is the same except I use pure White as the base color and once again turn the transparency for the highlights layer to 40%.

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Click for Larger View

And that’s it!  That’s my workflow for Manga Studio 5 at the moment.  It works for me and hopefully will give you a good idea of how things work in the new Manga Studio 5.  Experiment with the settings I’ve shown you and you’ll eventually come up with a workflow of your own.  In my next tutorial, I will go over the basic pencil and ink tools in detail.

Click for Larger View

Click for Larger View

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33 Comments

  1. Very cool to see your process. Right now, I’m doing my comic in EX4 but I plan to upgrade to the full version 5 in the summer. How do you like the coloring engine on 5? That’s been my biggest issue with the program, that and programmable actions like photoshop. I’d love to start doing comics entirely in one program.

    • Compare to EX4, MS5 wipes the floor with it when it comes to coloring. Yeah, I was not a fan of coloring in previous versions of Manga Studio, but MS5 is worth the money. For my process, MS5 meets my needs for coloring and then some.

      My understanding is that the current version has about 98% of what we’ll use, so I’d recommend getting it now as Smith Micro will have a special price for us folks who bought MS5 early.

      I haven’t used programmable actions in Photoshop and I’m not aware if MS5 has those or not. I shall look into that. But let me say this, I have not opened a comic yet in Photoshop since I’ve started using MS5, and that says a lot.

      • So, I made the jump to MS5. It’s a LOT different than EX4 interface-wise so that’s taking some getting used to. I think my biggest frustration so far is that with EX4 I could right click and hold on my stylus and drag the image around. It won’t do that for me in 5 no matter what I try. Any suggestions?

        • I hold the spacebar down and I’m able to drag the canvas around anyway I want. But I too am unable to get my Intous 4 controls to work. I use to rotate the canvas by using the circle controller on the WACOM, but that does not seem supported yet.

          I’m assuming a lot of these things will be in EX5 once it comes out in June.

        • Hi Bill. Using a Wacom tablet you can just go into the preference application, select the stylus settings, add Manga Studio 5, then select the corresponding mouse button and add a “spacebar” keystroke. Then, whenever you press said button, you can pan the image around.

          Hope this helps.

  2. Thanks Byron:

    (I had my hands on the keyboard wrong and had your name as “Burpo”)

    I got a copy of MS5 a few weeks ago and got hooked pretty fast. I’ve only been doing my strip on paper, no color, until now.

    Is there any benefit to working your lines on a Raster layer vs. a Vector layer? I’ve been thinking that vector inks are more controlled, but I could easily be wrong.

    Thanks for this! Also validated the method I taught my hs students for coloring highlights and shadows in Photoshop.

    • I have never done anything in Vector so I can’t comment on it. The inking I do now is better than I could ever do on paper, so for me it was a huge improvement. I am going to have to look into some Vector lessons from my illustrator friends and compare the two techniques.

      • I’ve done some vector stuff in Illustrator and feel that the vector lines in MS are much more natural. Illustrator lines feel so tech-mechanical it starts feeling like work. Though I should check out Dawn’s videos on the subject and see if I am missing something.

        However,the big diff is that the vector lines can be thickened or thinned with the line correction tool, where the raster line can’t. Today I was, um, “repurposing” some linework from one frame to another where the result needed to have thicker lines. I had to rework them with the pen rather than thicken them up with the line correction tool, which would have been quicker.

  3. Byron, thanks for this. I just downloaded MS5 to noodle around and I’m looking forward to reading all 3 of your articles/tutorials on it. Thanks for taking the time. -v

  4. Very cool stuff! Curious though: I have Manga Studio EX 4. Will I ‘lose’ functions if I upgrade to MS 5 right now? Would it be better to wait til MS EX 5 (or whatever they call it) comes out?

    • Smith Micro has told me that MS5 has about 98% of what EX4 had. I am curious to see what functions are missing. I have not found a way to kern text yet, which is a tad annoying, so that may be something that is missing (or I just haven’t found how to do it yet).

      But, from my perspective, you gain so much more in MS5 that whatever you miss for now from EX4 will be more than made up for in the new features (like coloring… worth the price of admission right there).

      • Good to hear…I saw on their site they may not have all the rulers in, but I don’t use them much (yet…I really should), but coloring, yeah, that’d be a bonus.

        • I’ve never used the old versions and have been on MS 5 since December. Looking at some older materials I note that stuff like concentric circle rulers are gone, as well as a few others which escape me right now. I sorta wish the concentric thing was still there as it would help with wheels, rims, and tires.

          • Rob, the concentric circle rulers are still there, just in a different place: head over to the ruler tool (it’s underneath the gradient tool icon. Select Special Ruler, and in the tool box choose “concentric ruler” – voila!

            You can also choose “parallel lines” and bring those back too. I think in simplifying the Manga Studio workflow they’ve removed the need for special ruler layers.

            And speaking of rulers, the “perspective rulers” are still in Manga Studio 5 too, under Layer – Ruler – Create Perspective Ruler.

            Hope this helps!

      • Biggest win for MS5, all the drawing and painting features. Biggest fail: text. I mean, it can’t do bold or italics. That eliminates so much from the character’s speech. 🙁

        The actions tab (called auto-actions) seem to be very powerful moreso than in MS4 EX. I have an autoAction set up to adjust the grid settings for hand lettering and MS5 now saves the grid settings (which MS4 EX does not).

        • I use Blambot’s Digital Strip 2.0 BB and it supports Bold in MS5. But I can’t do kerning yet and that’s annoying as hell.

          I have yet to ever use an Action in either Photoshop or Manga Studio. I will have to look into that as everyone seems up on that feature.

      • It doesn’t support story mode, which if you are making a long form story for print is kind of critical to have. Ok, maybe not critical, but let me tell you once you use it it’s hard to live without it.

  5. Good intro, Byron.
    I have a question: Does Manga Studio 5 have a CMYK color mode now? With Manga Studio EX 4, I usually have to apply color in Photoshop. The CMYK mode is my biggest wish for MS5 EX.

      • Can you imagine how awesome (not to mention productive) it would be to export full color pages directly from Manga Studio? One would use Photoshop or Painter exclusively for special effects or specific plugins.

        I’m hopeful…
        🙂

        • I agree. That would be an added bonus, but I feel that with this version of manga studio, including the new EX version in the summer, can make it so that we don’t need to go to other software. I would rather see manga studio self standing and have features that will keep us in manga studio to do it all. That being said, I would like to see an export to .eps or .ai files from manga studio. This will give us resolution independent artwork which would be super awesome!!!

          • They have to get the text portion up to speed. It’s very basic now. But regardless of that, I am able to produce my entire comic in MS5 now and not have to open PhotoShop at all. Very pleased thus far.

    • Sorry for late response. But YES indeed, MS5 does save in CMYK. It has about 2 dozen profiles to choose from and I just saved a PSD file and confirmed it was in CMYK mode when opened.

      I could not save any other file type in CMYK, like BMP or TGA or TIFF. So, you would still have to open Photoshop to then save it out in the file you needed. But if you simply need a PSD file in CMYK, then MS5 will do a good job of that.

      Perhaps MS5EX will have CMYK support in other file formats directly.

      • My problem is that I want to work in CMYK or that my inking black, 100% black is in CMYK and not build ​​up of different colors. Now I edit my channels in photoshop so I have 100% black but I have lost my thickness of line.

  6. Thanks for the tutorial, it was very useful. I’ve always drawn but never created a comic, and your workflow observations should come in handy!

  7. Thanx for the tutorial! I have one question tho’.

    How do you view your pen strokes in real time? I’ve turned off all the autocorrect features but it still will adjust the line slightly on top of not knowing what the line will be like until I do the line.

    It’s easier in MS4. You just turn off autocorrect and click the two end points to give the pen an edge. But in MS5, if you use the starting/ending, it won’t let you see as you draw and then makes adjustments and if you turn off the starting/ending you get a blunt marker type pen stroke and no matter how much a adjust to it, it won’t let me go from thick to tiny/thin just by applying pressure like you can in MS4.

  8. Thanks for the tutorial!
    Have you found a way to set your custom Registration Marks and Frame settings as a default? I work at a custom size and I worry that I’ll open a new file, be working away, and THEN notice I was using the wrong size frame the whole time.

  9. Great stuff, Byron! I just purchased MS5 last week and I’m pretty hooked. In fact, I think it’s a game changer in my case. I’ve been making my comic in vectors using Fireworks for a long time now, mostly because I wasn’t finding the tool that suited me and I was looking for something that would translate my traditional line work well when working digitally. I went the vector way because it allowed me complete control but as I try to make my comic making venture viable in terms of time management, I’ve slowly come to the realisation that my workflow has to change. Manga Studio seems to hold all the answers for me… I’m pretty excited about the prospects.

    Anyway, thanks for posting this, it’ll be a great help for me and I also love to see your process, always very interesting to se how others go about making their comics!

  10. Thank you so much for sharing, Byron!

    I’ve just bought MS5 and I’m blown away. EX4 wasn’t really my cup of tea, I hardly ever used it because the UI was extremely confusing. MS5 on the other hand is very intuitive I find, and with the new brush engine it even surpasses what I get with Sketchbook Pro.

    Great to see your workflow, looking forward to the next installment 😉

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