This page contains various extra things that aren’t necessarily directly related to the comic, but might be useful.
After several wildly inconsistent pages, I finally made a standard template for creating my comics in Inkscape. You can download a generic version of that template below (it mainly differs from mine in that it doesn’t have my name or my comic’s name on the header). You will want Blambot’s “Digital Strip” font if you want your header to look like mine do in Shadows Lying.
Here it is: A4_comic_page.svg
There are several features of interest, at least to me:
- The page uses the ISO-216 A-series aspect ratio (A4, etc). I did this mostly because I like the ISO setup better. Much like metric measurements, it is easier to use and makes more sense than our quaint American way of doing things.
- The page is 3200 units wide and 4526 tall. This is slightly larger than print resolution; I think this is 387 dpi or so. Real print res of 300 dpi would give a width of about 2480. There’s no particular reason for the width I’m using … when I adjusted the page for ISO-216, I basically just made the size an even number near the number that I was already habitually using, which originated with a scanned-in, hand-drawn comic. Being heavily involved with computers, I’m used to powers-of-two (8, 16, 32, etc.), so you got 3200. It’s fairly trivial to export the page to a bitmap and scale it down to 300 dpi (or even do it directly in inkscape, since it’s all vectors), so I don’t sweat the difference too much. When I’m done drawing, I export a full-size PNG for my archives, and then use another program (GIMP, Photoshop, PSP, etc.) to scale that down to a web resolution jpeg (originally 700 pixels, now 760).
- There are a number of guide lines already set up for the page borders, margins, and center lines. There are extra lines at the top to let me align panels with the header (or not). As I create pages, I tend to make additional, temporary guide lines for things like panel edges and vanishing points. I use all of these in conjunction with snapping.
- There are several layers already built into the template, to save time (I tend to lock any that aren’t in active use, to avoid putting things on the wrong layer or clicking on the wrong object):
- The lowest layer (“Page Size”) merely contains a rectangle that I use with the “Fit page to selection” feature. I leave it in, just in case I want to change the page size again. It also lets me set the basic page color (which you see outside the panels) all at once.
- The next layer, “Panels”, is unsurprisingly where I draw the comic’s panel layout. Simple rectangles filled with whatever background color I need, with the appropriate stroke color for the border. Sometimes I overlap them for “inset” panels or whatever.
- Once the panels are arranged, I later copy all of them to a new layer called “Clips” (not included), and make them semi-transparent purple with no stroke. I eventually use them for clipping (hiding the bits of art and balloons that extend beyond the panel border but shouldn’t). The clips layer is just for temporary storage of these objects, so I can occasionally look at what will be clipped and what won’t. Ultimately, these copies end up on the same layer as the art, and won’t be seen directly. (The easiest way I’ve found to clip things is to put all of the art for a given panel into one group, then set a Clip on that group. You can do the same with the balloons.)
- Another copy of the panels will go on a layer called “Borders” (also not included). I use the “stroke to path” function on those rectangles … this “borders-only” layer goes above the art to make sure the borders are fully visible (due to the way strokes are applied to shapes, art has a habit of partially obscuring panel borders). I suppose it’d be just as easy to remove the fill, but hey…
- Above the panels layer is one called “Sketches”. This is where I sketch out my art (sometimes extremely roughly — Tyron, for example, often looks like a smiley face with short, spider-like, stick-figure legs). Eventually, I make a new layer above this called “Line Art”, make the sketches layer semi-transparent or colored differently (and locked), and then I draw the final art over my sketches. This is roughly similar to using a light box or similar device, though I don’t trace the sketches directly. (Why bother; if I wanted to keep part of a sketch, I’d just copy and paste it onto the new layer).
- For color pages, there’s a layer called “Colors” (these are some shockingly original layer names, let me tell you…) I mostly use the pen or various shape tools to fill in areas of the line art with color. This layer is usually set to “multiply” so that the color doesn’t lay on top of the line art, but rather blends into it.
- Finally, on top you have the “Balloons” and “Words” layers. These contain my speech balloons and dialogue, respectively (I keep them on separate layers). Sometimes I place other text on the “words” layer (sound effects, etc.), but sometimes it goes with the line art (e.g., signage). The header is also found here.
- In the template, off to the left of the page I’ve included copies of the balloons that I use most frequently (edit or resize them to suit). Note that some are actually groups containing multiple objects. Comicraft has some good tutorials on making multi-layer balloons.
Note that you will probably want to change the “Document Meta-data” appropriately for your comics as you create them (or remove the data from this template before using it).
To use the template, change it as needed for your comic (for example, fill in the comic and author name in the text at the top of the page), then save it and drop the resulting file into Inkscape’s template directory (typically /usr/local/inkscape/share/templates on Linux, $INKSCAPE_DIR\share\templates on Windows). Once you restart the program, a new option A4_comic_page will appear under File/New…