All I want is a piece of comic creation software that has an intuitive, user-friendly UI, customizable, reuseable panel templates, decent documentation and/or tech support, word art and graphic insertions [like sound effects or hearts over someone’s head], thought bubbles with the appropriate stems [dots connecting to people’s heads, not stems like speech bubbles!] and a price that doesn’t break the bank! Is that so hard?
I am this close to giving up on specialized comic creation software and making my own templates and such in PhotoShop Elements or equivalent.
I used to do very basic layout in PhotoShop Elements by stacking panels in a long column, then adding speech balloons from Elements’ premade selections. I then tried a variety of comic layout programs. All of them have saved me some time by automating panel creation, balloon formatting, sound effect creation, etc., but none of them have been exactly to my liking.
Planetwide Games’ Comic Book Creator was simple, intuitive, cheap, customizable and possessed of the sound effects and thought bubbles I wanted. However, it offered limited resizing of imported photos and no customizable speech balloons. Thankfully, this program is out of print, so I don’t have to warn you to stay away from it.
I moved on to Comic Life by Plasq. More complex than Comic Book Creator, Comic Life was still cheap and somewhat customizable, with more sophisticated speech balloons and options for photo manipulation. Unfortunately, Comic Book Creator lacked adequate documentation, especially on creating reuseable templates. Plus Plasq didn’t give a shit about Windows users, so tech support was nonexistent.
Then I tried Manga Studio EX. A bloated Japanese import translated and licensed by Smith Micro, Manga Studio EX came with a huge manual, but that could not compensate for all the little details lost in translation. Manga Studio had the capability to make and save custom page/panel templates, and it could do sophisticated manipulation of imported photos. However, I couldn’t stand the cluttered, user-hostile UI and the fact that all the thought balloons had stems, not dots, connecting to the thinker’s head. While under $100.00, Manga Studio was also the most expensive of all the comic creation software I had used so far.
I’m currently testing Summitsoft’s Comic Creator. It’s cheap, simple, pretty intuitive, with word art and graphic insertions. But I cannot figure out how to create and reuse my own custom page templates or avoid the stupid startup screen. There’s also no tech support and ridiculously basic documentation.
In conclusion, I do not recommend Comic Book Creator, Manga Studio or Comic Creator. Of the four specialized programs I’ve tested, I hate Comic Life the least, but that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement.
And this is why I’m almost certainly going back to PhotoShop Elements…because everything else STINKS!