Guest Blog Post: How to Get Started with Wacom Tablets and Manga Studio

As more artists take up the stylus and create Manga and web comics, we want to continue bringing tools to support this art.  We are asking Manga and web comics artists for their advice on creating their art, which tools they use and how to break into the industry.

We asked Kevin Nakakihara aka The Manga Studio Sensei for his advice on how to get started using Wacom tablets with Manga Studio. Check out these tips from Kevin:

1. Update Manga Studio 5!

Manga Studio 5.0.3 is vastly different than 5.0.1 so be sure you update before moving on to the next steps.

2. Get to Know Your Hotkeys

Ctrl + Alt + Pen Drag:
Resize your brush.

Alt + Space + Pen Drag: Zoom in and out.

Shift + Space + Pen Drag: Rotate the canvas. Double Click to reset the rotation.

Ctrl + E: Merge a layer down.

Ctrl + Z: Undo
Ctrl + T: Transform the current layer. Resize by dragging corners. Hold Shift to keep aspect ratio. Double-click or press Enter to finish.

3. Change your Hotkeys to fit your Workflow

While this might seem like an advanced feature, changing your hotkeys is one of the best things you can do to start out. If you have an Intuos Pro, you can always bind keys to your tablet buttons, but I personally prefer using my keyboard because it simply has more buttons.

Layers are indisputably important to digital art, but their use is discouraged by a clumsy shortcut combination, Ctrl + Shift + N. No starter uses a lot of layers because it isn't remotely ergonomic to try that shortcut with one hand.

In Manga Studio 5, you can change hotkeys by going to File > Shortcut Settings...

Under Setting Area: Main Menu, look for Layer, then change the hotkey for New Raster Layer to something like Shift + Z.

While you're there, consider going to Setting Area: Tools and binding the Brush/Pencil/Pen tools to A and the Eraser tool to S.

Of course, if any of the above hotkeys aren't to your liking, you can change them as well.

4. Start with a smaller toolbox

Starting with a smaller toolbox helps a lot. While Manga Studio 5 has many great presets, this one is great for beginners because it is flexible and closer to what we experience in natural medium.

For an eraser, I use the soft eraser preset with the hardness maximized to make it easier to carve out solid shapes.

Why a grainy pencil? Pen brushes are somewhat unforgiving, and when you first start out on a graphics tablet, inking is a frustrating and discouraging process. Additionally, this brush is good for practicing gesture drawings, which help you develop brush control.

More tips for making Manga Studio and Wacom tablets work for you

  • When you want a little shading, increase the brush size by a large amount. When you want smaller, more precise strokes, shrink the pencil size down.
  • Zoom in and out to get the right size strokes. Rotate if you have trouble drawing at a certain angle. If something is out of proportion or too far in one direction, transform it and move it around. Get used to manipulating the canvas with the software and your tablet troubles will start to melt away.
  • Make a new layer every time you get that gut feeling that you're about to mess something up. It'll seem clunky at first, but once you get used to the routine, practicing becomes easier. Afterwards, merge the layer down with Ctrl+E to minimize layer clutter.

For more tips on Manga Studio and Wacom tablets, visit the Manga Studio Sensei where Kevin shares blog posts and tutorials.