Anime Studio Pro and Manga Studio EX: Bring Your Comic to Life
Written by Peter Bohush | Posted by: NewEnglandFilm.com
Are you yearning to be the next Seth MacFarlane or Stan Lee? Are you held back because you don’t have the drawing skills or an army of animators? With Anime Studio Pro and Manga Studio EX, a pair of drawing and animation programs from Smith Micro Software, your own Spider Man or Family Guy is ready to come to life on your own computer.
Anime Studio allows users to quickly create characters and animations. Characters can be hand drawn onscreen, imported from paper drawings, or created using the program’s built-in templates. Characters and backgrounds are animated on a timeline, similar to Adobe Flash.
Once an animation or short film is created, it can be exported to a number of file formats and then incorporated into other editing applications. Users can even upload their animations directly from Anime Studio to Facebook and YouTube.
There are two versions of Anime Studio: Debut for first-time animators and hobbyists, and the Pro version for, well, pros. Debut has some limitations on length of a project, output size and auto-tracing of images. The Pro version adds more control to animations, the “smart bones” feature to aid in joint movements, full HD export and the ability to import and work with 3D images.
The app formerly known as Moho
Take a little trip down Memory Lane here at NewEnglandFilm.com and check out a review I wrote in October 2001 of an animation software called Moho. A lot has changed since then, but Moho lives on as Anime Studio.
In 2001, I wrote that Moho was a “2D spline-based cartooning program, with layered vector graphics creation, bone construction and keyframe-based animation. The best way I can describe it is somewhere between Flash/LiveMotion and Kai’s PowerGoo.”
Adobe still makes Flash, but LiveMotion and Power Goo are long gone. Moho and its developer were acquired by Smith Micro Software, and the product evolved to become Anime Studio.
Anime Studio 9 has recently been released, and it takes the animation software to new levels of functionality to meet the demands of its growing customer base of animation professionals. Previous versions have added physics parameters to control gravity and speed of the animations, 3D image import and camera movements, a character wizard to quickly develop and customize characters from the program’s library, layered Photoshop file import, and built-in functionality to work with Wacom’s Bamboo and Intuos graphics tablets.
Version 9 introduces “smart bones” to better control joint movement, editable motion graphs and bezier handles. While the program technically works in 2D space, the ability to put layers into z-space and animate them independently gives it a 2.5D functionality, much the same as Adobe After Effects.
Manga Studio EX
Manga Studio EX, created in Japan and known there as Comic Studio, is a full-featured program for drawing and coloring comics, manga and graphic novels.
Users can create their characters, sketches and scenes onscreen using their mouse or, more likely, a graphics tablet. Images can also be scanned or imported and quickly converted to vector shapes for complete editing in the program.
In addition to drawing tools that extend beyond those in programs such as Photoshop and Illustrator, Manga Studio also has built-in layout capabilities for comic strips and books, with nearly 200 page and story templates from which to choose. Users can also create their own layouts.
The Manga Studio is modeled after the way artists would work in a hand-drawing environment, with pens, pencils, ink, paints and brushes. Particularly when using a graphics tablet and stylus, the program closely mimics the world of drawing with pen and paper.
Unlike pen and paper, though, Manga Studio assists the artist in achieving his or her exact vision. Lines can snap to perfect connection or alignment with other lines. Color fills can be blended just like with paint or chalk. Text and word balloons are completely editable.
Once a page, image or story is created, Manga Studio can export it for online or print in formats such as bmp, jpeg, png, psd, tga, eps,, tiff, pdf and pict.
Manga Studio is available in two versions. The beginner’s Debut version and the professional EX version, which offers many more tools, pens, brushes and vector layers.
Robust Community of Users
Both Anime Studio and Manga Studio have a large and active user base that shares tips, tricks and projects with each other online.
Smith Micro offers an extensive number of tutorial videos, galleries of images and animations, a useful blog and other resources for both beginners and expert users.
Free trials of both programs, as well as direct purchase, can be found at http://my.smithmicro.com.