Anime/Manga Drawing Programs

In Other, Tutorial by muffpastry0 Comments

Adobe Photoshop


Robust program still used by many artists. The first and foremost program used to create CG illustrations back in the 90s. PS 5.5/6 were the industry standard for CG.


  • Excellent memory management
  • Complex customizable brush engine
  • Great library of filters and tools
  • Very stable


  • Brush spacing minimum is still discernible
  • Difficult for vector illustrations
  • Default brush max hardness edge is always blurry
  • No stabilizer – Not good for lineart
  • Older versions have no anti-aliasing on non-2 factor zoom reduction i.e. 33% looks jagged

Portalgraphics openCanvas


The first program designed specifically for manga/anime type illustrations. Started as freeware as oC v1.1 including networked multiplayer and recording functionality. After oC v2 it was no longer free, addition of extra layer blending modes and basic tools. oC v3 is when it was similar to what SAI was when it came out. The latest oC v6 has the same capabilities as CSP/EX but with a crappier brush engine. OpenCanvas has one absolutely unbeatable advantage over every other program, that is RECORDS you drawing into an EVENT file. If you open and playback this event file, not only do you get a time accelerated playback, you can pause it at any time and start editing as if you went back in time!!


  • Easy viewport manipulation interface
  • Full .PSD export compatability
  • Sharp brush edges – Good for lineart
  • 3D scene setup
  • Record your drawing in an event file for playback


  • Mediocre memory management
  • Limited brush engine They recently upgraded their engine (AQUA Engine) so it runs better but still limited customization options.

Systemax PaintTool SAI


A barebones program released shortly after the advent of openCanvas v4. Initially completely barebone but now with more functionality after SAI v2. Still very lightweight compared to its competitors.


  • Very lightweight
  • Simple to use interface
  • Multiple levels of stabilization


  • Stabilization in S-levels very computationally expensive
  • Horrible memory management
  • Unstable
  • Limited brush engine

Celsys Illustudio


The first fully fledged program catering to both the manga and illustrator crowd. A derivative of the industry standard RETAS Studio that animation companies use, it came with manga/anime specific algorithms to speed up specific techniques. No longer had to painstakingly create masks or paint colour fills by erasing excess from lines.


  • Optimized for manga and illustration
  • Inbuilt algorithms
  • Comes with screentone set
  • Control input with Tab Mate controller
  • Manga specific tools
  • Strong brush engine


  • Mediocre memory management
  • Unstable
  • Takes a lot of processing power

Clip Studio Paint


An upgraded Illustudio with 64-bit multi-core optimization and better supporting engine. Has all the features of Illustudio plus more upgrades. Like PS, it has a 3D import tool to set up 3D scenes. A lot of tools are optimized for manga drawing.


  • Optimized for manga and anime illustrations
  • Brush engine customization almost as good as PS
  • 3D scene import
  • Pose input with Qumarion marionette doll
  • Control input with Tab Mate controller
  • Integration with the Clip Studio series of programs like Poser etc.
  • Very stable


  • Lack of filters compared to PS
  • Really bad text tool
  • Only the EX Jap version gets the screentone library (not Eng!)

Corel Painter


Can’t really comment on this since I haven’t used it extensively, but it has the best tools to emulate traditional media. Used by many professionals like Fumikane (Strike Witches) it is capable of outputting more unique styles.


  • Superior emulation of traditional media
  • Stable


  • Confusing interface for first-timers

Medibang Paint Pro/FireAlpaca

One of the more lightweight drawing programs, but capable of a lot more than SAI. It has some basic manga creation functionality much like the old Illustudio without the bloat.


  • Simple like SAI
  • Manga capability
  • Stable


  • Currently less functional than CSP

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