Review: Comic Workshop (3DS eShop)

A work of art

Nintendo platforms have never been strangers to art and drawing applications. From Mario Paint on the SNES to 2013's Art Academy: SketchPad for Wii U, there has always been room for artistic pursuits with Nintendo. It should also come as no surprise that the 3DS is already hosting yet another creation tool after the success of Art Academy: Lessons for Everyone! and Colors! 3D. The artistic among us can now guide our pursuits towards Comic Workshop, a 3DS eShop application aimed directly at the creation of comics and manga.

After selecting your handedness, Comic Workshop allows you to jump right into the creative process; the range of tools at hand is wide and may be daunting at first, but the inclusion of tutorials helps to alleviate the pressure. A common complaint with complicated games or applications with a large number of tools and options available is that the tutorials do too much hand holding and take entirely too much time. Comic Workshop has somehow managed to find a comfortable middle ground in which the tutorials balance explanation with interactivity, making each feel both helpful and concise. There are 28 tutorials in total, all of which can be skipped, repeated, or completed in any order, allowing you to pick and choose the topics that you're having difficulty grasping. Like any artistic medium, no matter how much training you have, there is still a certain amount of necessary trial and error.

Comic Workshop obviously lacks all of the features that a more professional program such as Adobe Photoshop would boast, but it still does a great job of providing users with many useful tools. All of the standards are included, from pencils, line and shape creators, colour fills, and even multiple layers to work with. This app also allows for customization to help make a more personal experience. You can tailor your canvas size and select frequently used tools to be associated with the X and Y buttons as shortcuts or hotkeys. You can also create your own customized colour palettes, roller stamps, and stickers for easy placement of commonly used objects or images in your art. Simply put, if you have an ideal digital toolbox that you would like to use for your creations, there's a good chance that you'll be able to put it together with a bit of time and patience.

One thing that is missing here is the ability to create and display images in 3D. While this would obviously be console specific and limited to being viewed on the 3DS, it's surprising to see that the application remains entirely flat. However, as the intention of Comic Workshop is to create comic pages that can be exported from the hardware, it seems almost necessary to limit the art to two dimensions. The other big draw of the 3DS, its touchscreen, is used to control the entirety of the app, with some features such as zooming and hiding your toolbox also associated to physical buttons. For a program that chooses to disregard one of the handheld's biggest features, it still feels like an intuitive and natural fit on the 3DS, with precise inputs.

The tool set in Comic Workshop is broad and the application is exceedingly user-friendly, even for inexperienced artists, but a notable issue is made apparent when it's time to share your finished art. If you haven't been keeping up with the news on this one, the ability to post screenshots to Miiverse has been removed, essentially destroying your ability to share your work with the community. No explanation has been given for this, but it is safe to assume that the application's allowance for importing photographs from your SD card and thus being able to post them played a major role in this decision. The Japanese version of the application does have its own online gallery however, so hopefully we will see that made available to Western users — as is promised — to share their art sooner rather than later.

Another option is to export your artwork to an SD card as a JPEG, but even that isn't without its limitations. The maximum resolution that you can create and export at is 896px x 896px, a decent enough size for posting work online or on a personal blog, but unfortunately small for those hoping to print out physical copies. The application is for making comics and manga after all, and having a larger export size would have been a welcome addition.

Conclusion

Comic Workshop does well to provide 3DS owners with a comprehensive and user-friendly creative tool, but it's not without its flaws. The main issue that this application faces is the inability to share creations directly on Miiverse, but this potentially comes at no fault of the developers. The hope of a forthcoming English "Workshop Gallery," like the one currently available to Japanese users, is a positive sign, but as of the time of writing this is yet to exist. Despite these limitations — at present — in easily sharing work, if you're looking for a customizable creative tool with an emphasis on drawing comics and manga, you could do much worse. The quantity of creative features and usability make this one worth adding to any artist's toolkit.