A childhood spent reading the Beano and The Dandy every week ultimately never eventually led to being inspired to become a comic book artist. But, that was largely due to my inept skills shown in secondary school art lessons, rather than any lack of respect toward the painstaking work that talented artists produce for each weekly issue.
Collavier Corporation allow me to explore what might have been in Comic Workshop 2, the Japanese developer’s most recent Nintendo eShop release. This presents a more robust art suite that partially addresses some criticism related to certain oversights with the application’s predecessor.
The clue’s in the name, but you will be planning and drawing comic strips here rather than taking direct inspiration from still life and landscapes. And, while you can start using the comic or manga-creation tool immediately, those warier of jumping straight in can take a crash course through 29 lessons that sit within the tutorial section.
These begin with your first steps, guiding you around the workspace that’s comprised of the drawing palette and a menu that lets you select between different magnification levels, adjust a tool’s thickness, opacity and density, and manage the image’s layers. These are spread between icons on the touchscreen and others displayed on the main screen with corresponding button inputs, although are simple to access once you’ve made sense of it all.
Collavier’s tutorials close out with roller stamps, stickers and patterns, but I found their entirety a far more tedious introduction in comparison to the way that they’re handled in similar applications, such as the recent Art Academy: Atelier.
Even after such guidance, Comic Workshop 2 can still feel imposingly overwhelming to someone approaching digital art creation for the first time. Aspiring artists will initially create a folder in which their compiled storyboard will be kept, having control over the panel orientation on each page as they steadily begin to construct whichever story they are trying to portray.
However, in the hands of someone with the required talent, the end result has the potential to look remarkable. New tools allow you to use gradation and saturated linework, while improvements have been made to those already implemented such as the selection tool – which now supports a clipboard function in allowing you to copy whatever’s selected across to another panel or page.
Whereas new functionality encompasses the chance to lock your favourite colours, blend layers, manually rotate certain elements through 360 degrees, the ability to invert a page or panel, and a grid to help neaten your drawings. Once happy with your creation, these can either be shared by exporting to an SD Card or by posting directly to Miiverse, which, hopefully, will see you encouraged to draw more by the community’s support.
The improvements in Comic Workshop 2 are beneficial to those that spend the necessary time to perfect their artistic technique, but, if there’s anything to directly criticise, the application doesn’t satisfactorily nurture those wanting to progress from beginner through to competency. That’s a particular shame when, as an art package, it ticks enough boxes to warrant a purchase.
It has been under a year since Comic Workshop, but Collavier’s broad selection of upgrades and tweaks amply justifies this successor’s arrival. The stylus and touchscreen combo of the Nintendo 3DS continue to be a tour de force for the genre, with Comic Workshop 2 amounting to a welcome Nintendo eShop addition that helps diversify the experiences available on the handheld.