I've been using Manga Studio in various versions for about 3 years, so it's still relatively new to me. I started with Debut and earlier this year moved over to EX for its extra functionality (specifically the awesome perspective rulers).
Originally I'd done a few comics and line art illustrations for various publishers, but using traditional techniques was too slow, laborious and messy and took up a lot of room. I wanted a piece of software so I could work the way I wanted. I'd read about Manga Studio in digital art magazines and picked up a copy of Debut to play with because it was relatively cheap and packed with features. I watched a few Youtube videos and when I saw Dave Gibbons' work with it that really flicked on a few switches.
Before I started with Manga Studio, I was using Photoshop and a series of homemade brushes that simulated a wedge shaped nib – they were good, but not quite right. I've got a verrry long background in videogame business so, for different projects, my workflow now is a combination of Photoshop, 3DS Max, ZBrush and Manga Studio. Basically anything that gets the job done well and on time.
I really like the pieces I did for the BBC's 'Sarah Jane Adventures.' Some of the headshots were based on photo reference, but they turned out just as I wanted, with help from Manga Studio. It was the chance to work on a project that my kids would know and appreciate – also the rates were good and deadlines fitted into my schedule nicely. It was like the stars aligned and it all just fell into place.
A friend of mine – the incredibly talented Tiernen Trevallion - knew I was into 'Doctor Who' and 'The Sarah Jane Adventures' as we'd worked with similar publishers and were connected on Facebook. He put my name forward after he had worked on it and I jumped at the chance – I think I owe Tiernen several pints for that. Hopefully, other than that, my talent and dedication secured the job.
The 'G' nib is simply the best feature in Manga Studio. Oh, and the Perspective rulers quite literally 'rule!' For some of the 'Sarah Jane Adventures' pieces I had to stick to photo-ref. So I would import it reference, flip, it, change the opacity and re-draw it all with a few clicks – similar to Photoshop. However, Photoshop doesn't have the range of nibs and other EFX like Manga Studio has. I could do all the line work in one package and not constantly be saving an opening between different software. The simplicity of workflow makes it a joy to use, the flexibility of using the various nibs, materials and patterns (especially the halftones) make it invaluable for my line based art work.
Aside from comic art, I'm the series cover artist on the New York Times Bestselling 'Horus Heresy' series from Black Library and I produce painted (digital) covers and some strips for the Galaxies Greatest Comic©, 2000AD. Also, I work with Fantasy Flight Games, Privateer Press, Mongoose and other various publishers/clients. Oh, and I lecture in Videogames Art at the University of Lincoln, UK.
The irony of me being a freelance illustrator is that I think the next piece will always be the best – you learn so much each time from a piece that it informs your future work. Onwards and upwards. Using Manga Studio has been a real joy, I look forward to seeing how the program matures, especially with so many professional taking it up. And finally, a parting piece of wisdom that has always stood me in good stead - as two wise men put it "The best place to be is here and the best time to be is now."
You can see more of Neil's illustrations at his website.
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