How I create my webcomic digitally in GIMP

Filed under: Tutorials and HOWTOs by Hari
Posted at 18:15 IST (last updated: Tue, May 15, 2012 @ 11:42 IST)
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Here's a brief insight into how I prepare my webcomic, Boxi and Panjo and what the two different methods of creating a comic strip for online publishing can involve.

This is not a full-fledged tutorial on drawing or how to use the tools I've mentioned here, but merely to give an idea of the processing involved.

Boxi and Panjo - the fully digital technique

Preparing my comic using GIMP

Boxi and Panjo started off as a fully digitally prepared comic strip and only in the latest one (not yet published, by the way) have I experimented with drawing on paper and scanning in the results). In a future HOWTO, I shall explain the more traditional pen-on-paper technique.

First, the tools used:

Hardware: I use an iBall WizardPen-based 5.5"x4" digital pen tablet with 1024 pressure levels - you can use any kind of digital tablet with pressure sensitivity
Software: GIMP 2.6+, OpenOffice.org Draw (for putting together the panels). Photoshop fans will have no problem following these steps :-P
Skills required: Drawing :), reasonable skill with digital pen-tablet, basic knowledge of using GIMP with layers

Method of drawing and preparation

  1. Create a sufficiently high-resolution blank image of say, size 1024x768 at 96 dpi or higher.
  2. Use the default background layer as a "rough-pencil" layer. Use the Pencil tool to draw basic shapes using different colours like blue and green.
  3. Create a new layer for the basic background layer. Draw the scenery in this layer. Use the "Paintbrush" tool with a thick brush (say 3 to 5 pixels) to draw nearby objects and a thin brush (say 1 to 3) to draw faraway scenery.
  4. Create a new transparent layer for each character in the panel. Hide the background layer created in the previous step and superimpose the character layer with the rough-pencil layer and "ink" the shapes to get the final character.
  5. Repeat above for other characters. Move characters to appropriate positions if necessary.
  6. Rough colour the finished scenery and characters using the fill tool. Use a higher "threshold" (say 25 to 30) to avoid visible jagged edges in the fill region.
  7. Apply the accents and shading by enabling pressure sensitivity coupled with opacity in brush tool. Use a sufficiently thick brush (say 20 to 30 pixels soft brush) to get smoother shadows and accents.
  8. Now create another set of layers for the second panel of the comic. Create a fresh pencil layer and background layer if needed, otherwise reuse the earlier background layer for the second panel.
  9. Repeat the steps above for colouring and save the image.
  10. Add a copyright text and signature as different layers. Position this correctly within the panel of your choice.

Creating the speech bubbles

  1. Use a text layer to add the text that characters speak above the other layers in the panel.
  2. Create a new layer for speech bubbles exclusively above the other layers in the panel and below the text layers.
  3. Use the rectangle selection tool and add a rounded corner radius to it say 25 or 30.
  4. Select a rectangle for the speech in the speech bubbles layer fully surrounding the text. Now choose "free select" tool and hold CTRL and add a little tail selection for pointing to the character.
  5. Fill the selection with black. Now the black text should be invisible.
  6. Shrink the selection by 3 to 5 pixels. Now in the modified selection, fill with white! Voila, your speech bubble is ready!
  7. Repeat for every speech bubble in the frame. Repeat this whole procedure for each panel by using more speech bubble layers.

Preparing for publishing

By this time, the comic is ready for publishing. Now export each panel of the comic by adjusting the visibility of the appropriate layers in the mega-XCF file you've now created. Use PNG format. PNG is preferred at this stage because it is a lossless format.

Now open the PNG files exported and scale as appropriate for web publishing, say 400x300 or lesser. Add border to the panel using the a 2 pixel black border. Save or export to a different format. Name these files as Frame1.png and Frame2.png (or Panel1.png or Panel2.png etc.)

Open up OpenOffice.org Draw or a similar drawing tool which can set up your frames as you desire. Import each panel into the drawing and position them accordingly. Add a title below or above your comic and export the page as PNG again.

Finally open the PNG file exported, use autocrop to remove surrounding white portions which got added during the OpenOffice.org export and save again, either as JPG or PNG. Do not use GIF as the compression is quite poor compared to PNG and the results aren't great either.

JPG format offers much, much better compression for a large number of colours but is fuzzier and can be very grainy for detailed images; PNG gives excellent image clarity and sharpness for line-drawings but the file size can be enormous for detailed high colour 24-bit images. If you use a very simple colour scheme in your comic, exporting as 8-bit PNG can give you great results in terms of quality and file size.

Experiment with this final export and choose the best and most appropriate format!

Upload, publish and you're finally done... :biggrin:

9 comment(s)

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  1. Thanks for this info. I've used GIMP for quite a few years now for websites & such. I've got an idea for a webcomic and was wondering if I had to do it in Photoshop or some other proprietary image software. Nice to know someone has done it before with GIMP.

    Comment by dylyn (visitor) on Tue, Sep 1, 2009 @ 21:22 IST #
  2. dylyn thanks. Well, I always use Free Software if possible for my creativity, because I cannot afford to spend hundreds of dollars for purchasing tools like Photoshop. Glad you found it useful. :biggrin:

    Comment by Hari (blog owner) on Wed, Sep 2, 2009 @ 13:28 IST #
  3. Nice that I come across your site(refered by RT). Want to make a small logo for my new web site on wordpress. Shall read about GIMP at leisure.
    Have tried umpteen tutorials on GIMP.... Hope this one will be of good use to me.

    Comment by sanjeeta kk (visitor) on Sat, Jan 16, 2010 @ 08:06 IST #
  4. Glad to be of use, Sanjeeta kk.

    Comment by Hari (blog owner) on Sun, Jan 17, 2010 @ 16:35 IST #
  5. Thanks so much for this, I've started using GIMP to goof around with on my photos and then had an idea to start a web photo comic. This information is exactly what I needed! THANKS!

    Comment by Tom (visitor) on Tue, Apr 20, 2010 @ 17:11 IST #
  6. Thanks for this info. I've only been cartooning since October 2010 & the tips here are really helpful. I use GIMP to do my cartoons too so you pointed out a few things I didn't knoew
    kind regards
    Tony

    Comment by tonymcgurk (visitor) on Wed, Jan 26, 2011 @ 04:36 IST #
  7. You're welcome Tony. Thanks for dropping by and leaving your feedback. I'll take a look at your comics too :-)

    Comment by Hari (blog owner) on Wed, Jan 26, 2011 @ 10:01 IST #
  8. Thank you for writing this. Very helpful. :-)

    Comment by JimmyB (visitor) on Tue, Feb 4, 2014 @ 19:00 IST #
  9. JimmyB, glad you found this useful. Regards. :biggrin:

    Comment by Hari (blog owner) on Tue, Feb 4, 2014 @ 19:58 IST #

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