Review: Clip Studio Paint Pro / Manga Studio vs. Artrage 5 vs. Sketchbook Pro

For 2018 I resolved to draw every day. I’ve missed some days, but am definitely drawing a lot more, and enjoying the process. This sketch is a step along that path, a step that may represent a fork in the path actually, toward digital media rather than pencil on paper:

Steve Eichenberger, artist

(Would you have known it was drawn using a stylus instead of on paper if I hadn’t said anything?)

It’s frankensteined together from three separate sketches: one for each eye, and one for nose/mouth:

180325 face play annotated

I found it more relaxing — more right brain less left brain — to do it that way. I didn’t set out with the intention of compositing them together…or any intention, really, I was just trying to figure out how to use new software (Clip Studio Paint, aka Manga Studio, Mac desktop version, using Intuous4 PTK-440 Wacom tablet), settle on what resolution to use, try out the various pencil tools, and so on. It was fun! I feel a little sad that I enjoyed it more than conventional pencil on paper, but I’m also excited by the fresh possibilities of going digital.

What I liked:
— natural/realistic look and feel of the various pencil tools
— ability to undo
— ability to place various parts on different layers
— darken/lighten individual strokes, a section, or entire drawing easily (using vector layers)
— clean erasing
— ability to zoom in for detailing
— can work large without smudging from hand on paper
— ability to reposition/resize without erasing then re-drawing (one of the things that was off-putting when I used to paint portraits; if a perfectly good eye was a smidge out of place, there was no choice but to paint it out and re-do it!)
— more relaxing since everything I did was an “experiment” which wouldn’t mess up what I’d done so far if I decided I didn’t like it
— can handle high resolution drawing/painting for gallery quality prints up to 17 x 22 (biggest we can print ourselves)
— can rotate the drawing this way and that (for easier cross-hatching, for example)
— no scanning or photography required; lossless full resolution, ready to print

I also downloaded and tested ArtRage 5 and Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, but ultimately chose Clip Studio Paint for its depth of features…such as finer control of taper on both ends of strokes, and amazing vector capabilities, without it looking like vector work:

180327 100 percent nose

Most importantly, Clip Studio can keep up with rapid sketching at high resolution without lagging. Lagginess was a deal breaker for me on both ArtRage and Sketchbook — I did testing with all three on a 3300 x 4200 pixel canvas size (11″ x 14″ at 300 dpi resolution). Overall, Clip Studio just feels more professional to me…the other two seem stripped down by comparison. I may change my mind, or discover something better, but for now I’m just happy 😉

Addendum: I just watched, and recommend, this excellent review/tutorial on Clip Studio Paint (aka Manga Studio) by an artist who has been working digitally for 20 years:


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