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Tutorial - Comic making using MyPaint, GIMP and Inkscape

#1 User is offline   Griatch 

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Posted 06 March 2011 - 01:15 PM

Comic making using MyPaint, GIMP and Inkscape

Posted Image

Introduction

Comics, or 'graphical novels' are perfectly suitable to do using only open-source software.

This tutorial relates how I currently go about creating a comic
page on the computer. It's a workflow guide; I will not go very deep
into comic-making theory here since you will probably use a different
style anyway. If you want more help on the craft of comic-making, I have
given a list of litterature at the end of this tutorial. I have also made many
other tutorials more focused on the techniques of drawing with the computer,
the list is here.

I use the following programs:

GIMP - this is used for all bitmap manipulation of the image
InkScape - I use this for text and frames, since it currently gives much more
control over such things than GIMP does.
MyPaint - This is my main program for painting/drawing the comic
itself.

For this tutorial, I'll assume you already have a decent knowledge of
GIMP, but will try to give some useful hints on using Inkscape and
Mypaint. I use a graphics tablet for this, and I recommend it,
especially for quickly and conveniently writing a graphical comics
script.

The example comic I'm showing is a black&white&red story I call Where
Red Apples Lie
(you don't need to know anything of it to follow
the tutorial, but you can find it here).

Planning the comic

First things first - you need to have an idea for a comic, and some
rough feeling for the style you want to draw it in. For your first few
comics I suggest you plan short! Think up a short-story that is
finished in a just a few pages and that you know you'll be able to
finish. It's very tempting to start that big, epic saga on your first
try - avoid this; making comics is quite different from "normal"
artwork, and requires a whole complementary set of skills. Do short
stories first to train.

The Script

There are basically two ways to write the comic's script. The first
way is to do it in classic script form, the same way a movie or
theater scriptwriter would do it. This is a time-honoured style and a
common one, especially when the author and artist are two different
persons. In such a script you define in words how each page and should
look, detailing in words the action and dialogue.

The second way (and the way I do it) is to do a graphical
script
. This means that
we'll sketch each page on a small scale and scribble down
the text directly on the sketch. If you don't have a graphical tablet,
you are best off doing this part with pen & paper. I'm using MyPaint.

Using Mypaint to create a graphical script

Posted Image
(comictut01.png)

MyPaint (<!-- m -->http://www.mypaint.intellinux.com<!-- m -->) is a minimalistic, open-source painting
application. It focuses solely on painting and has no
"photo-manipulation" features at all; you are directly encouraged
to use GIMP for all such things. Its main appeal lies in its vast
range of artistic brushes and its very fast
work-flow that allows you to paint with no distractions.

Posted ImagePosted Image
(comictut03.png) (comictut02.png)

Brushes in MyPaint are ordered in groups, such as "Experimental",
"Deevad" etc. There is also an initially empty section called
"Favorites". Above you see the four brushes I've pulled into
favourites and which are the only ones I use for this tutorial.

Posted Image
(comictut04.png)

MyPaint has an "infinite canvas", which means that there is no fixed
edge to your painting - the saved area will expand to fit whatever it
is you are drawing. It also allows for different backgrounds to be
repeated on the canvas. There is a a special background called
comic-script which I created especially for the purpose of
comic-scripting; it comes with Mypaint by default (it's one of the
backgrounds with a + on it).

Posted Image
(comictut05.png)

Having selected the right background, you will have an endless
tapestry of comic pages before you, with ample space between them for
giving notes. Each page also has faint guides for marking up panels.

Remember that this is a script, so work fast and sketchy. The idea is
to quickly try out different page layouts. Change your mind, try
different pages - mistakes are cheap and fast to fix at this stage.

Posted Image
(comictut06.png)

Above I show a few pages of script. I sketch the placement of
each panel and each person's rough position and expression. Text
frames are simply marked with letters, the texts are scribbled directly
next to each page.

Posted Image
(comictut08.png)

Posted Image
(comictut09.png)

Posted Image
(comictut07.png)

The pages ended up in a long column, but since MyPaint has not special
form to its canvas, I could just as well have expanded sideways or
made a big square.

Save your script as a png file. Time to move into
Inkscape for setting up the pages proper. To be able to refer to your
script, keep MyPaint open or, which might be more convenient, open the
sketch in a normal image viewer next to your open Inkscape window.


Inkscape for frames and lettering

Posted Image
(comictut10.png)

Inkscape (<!-- m -->http://www.inkscape.org<!-- m -->) is an open-source vector graphics program and as such
is quite different from both MyPaint and GIMP which both deals with bitmap
graphics. An example of the differences is to look at a straight line
drawn at an angle. In a bitmap program, this line will appear jagged
once you zoom in enough. In
a vector program, a mathematical function describes the line, and no
matter how far in you zoom, the line will always be perfect. The line
is also identified as a unique object and allows you to modify it at
any time (in a bitmap program, the line is where it us unless you undo).

Whereas GIMP will come with better text facilities in 2.8+, Inkscape
have several other advantages over GIMP for lettering, such as text effects and
easy creation and moving of frames and speech bubbles at any time.

This is not a tutorial on using Inkscape, I will briefly to through
just the things we need for now.

Posted Image
(comictut11.png)

The most important requester we'll need is the Fill and Stroke
requester. It allows you to edit the colour, outline, transparency etc
of the currently selected object.

Posted Image
(comictut12.png)

The Fill and Stroke window (FaS from now on) opens next to the
canvas. To test things
out, use the rectangle tool (from the left vertical toolbar) and make
a rectangle. You can adjust this at all times by pulling at its
corners. In FaS, go to the Fill tab and clear any eventual
fill (alternatively, make sure the Fill is a solid white). Next head to the Stroke paint tab and make sure it's a solid
colour - this controls the outline of the rectangle. The actual colour is easiest picked from the row at the bottom
of the window. If you don't see anything at the point, it's because
the outlines (the "Strokes" in Inkscape lingo) have zero width. Read
on ...

Posted Image
(comictut13.png)

Finally, head for the Stroke Style tab and pick how wide you
want the outline to be. When you add width here you should see the
rectangle's lines updating in real time. This is all you need to know
to create all panels of a page.

Next we will mention how to make a speech bubble. First, use the
circle tool to make a oval of the size you want. Like the rectangle
earlier, use FaS to adjust its look. A speech bubble traditionally has
a little "tail" on it connecting it to the character speaking. We'll
create that next.

Posted ImagePosted Image
(comictut14.png)(comictut16.png)

The pen tool will allow you to make nice arcs and lines on the
page. Drawing with it, you can place "nodes" on the page that you
later can pull around to adjust the line shape using the adjust node
tool to the right.

Posted Image
(comictut15.png)

Using the drawing tool, make an open-ended "tail" and make sure it
overlaps with the oval.

Posted Image
(comictut17.png)

Next select both oval and tail by clicking on them in turn with the selector
(the arrow tool at the top of the toolbar) while holding down
Shift. You could also drag out a selection around them.

Posted Image
(comictut18.png)

While they are still both selected, go to the menu Path->Union. This
merges the selected shapes into one.

Posted Image
(comictut19.png)

One nice speech bubble object.

Posted Image
(comictut20.png)

Now that we know how to do rectangles (panels/captions) and speech
bubbles in Inkscape, it's time to organize stuff on the page, based on
our script. Text is added with the Text tool (duh). It's often easier
to write in all text first and then put frames around them. Experiment
with using FaS to have the rectangle filled with white. In the
Object menu you can move objects (such as text and rectangles)
to different "depths" so as to have the right thing appear in front of
the other. Once you are happy, you can "group" the text together with
its frame using the menu Object->Group. That way you can move
text and frame around as one item.

Warning: Since we want to import this into GIMP later, there is a
text incompatability you should be aware of: When adding new text, do
NOT pull out a text area with the text tool before you start
writing. If you do, it seems GIMP will import that text area as solid
black, completely useless. To avoid this, just click a single click with the
text tool and let the text area expand as you go.


Posted Image
(comictut21.png)

Here I have placed a rather complex layout of frames and captions on a
page.

Posted Image
(comictut32.png)

Once you have placed all frames, text and captions/bubbles, we need to
export this to a bitmap that GIMP can read. Use the File->Export
Bitmap...
to save the page at a high resolution (at least
300DPI). I save as PNG to avoid any data loss at this point.

Next, close Inkscape and open GIMP.

GIMP for prepping the page

Posted Image
Posted ImagePosted Image
(comictut24.png)(comictut21.png)(comictut22.png)

Loading the exported PNG page into GIMP, I now want to create a "mask"
out of the captions. The idea is that we shall be able to work on the
art without disturbing the text or worrying about drawing "outside the
frame". The solution for this is of course to make it a separate
layer. In the right page I've used GIMP's select-region tool to delete the
areas of the comic where art will be, while filling white in the areas
where there will be text or margins.
Posted Image
(comictut23.png)

This is another, more straight-forward example.

Posted Image
(comictut25.png)

Next we open our comic script in a new window. I simply cut out the
script page I want and paste it onto a new layer under the
frames. From there I simply scale it up to fill the page. This is just
to be a rough guide for the future art, so the exact positioning is
not critical (you could also just look at the sketch and work from
that if liked that better). I also lower the opacity of the sketch
layer a lot.

Since I want to do the actual paint work in MyPaint from here on, we
need to save in a format that preserves layers and which MyPaint
understands. This format is called ORA (OpenRaster) and is an evolving
standard. GIMP cannot save ORA by default, but there is a special
plugin MyPaint devs released to do just that:
<!-- m -->http://registry.gimp...xonomy/term/797<!-- m --> This requires Python
support in GIMP; just drop it into a place where GIMP looks for
plug-ins (it's settable in preferences).

Back to MyPaint now.

MyPaint for the artwork

Posted Image
(comictut26.png)

Here I have loaded a previously prepared page into MyPaint. On the
left you can see the three layers I'm using; All art will go into the
Ink layer, underneath the Frames (which contains all text and panels)
but above the sketch (which I'll hide once I don't need it anymore).

I only use very few different brushes for this - those are shown in
the brush list on the right. I have moved them all into "Favourites"
to make them easily accessible. The exact brushes you need will depend
on your style, if you want colours or not and so on. In the following
examples I'll just show some examples.

Posted Image
(comictut27.png)

Here we see an almost finished art piece in black&white&red. The
sketch is still visible on the layer below - it's quite clear here
that the script is really just a sketch! Greyscale is mostly done with
a flat brush, using a blending and modelling brushes to make smooth
areas.

Posted Image
(comictut28.png)

Faces in greyscale can very effectively be created by filling the eye
sockets with black and then gradually brighten them a bit to show the
eyes. Above is a "cinema-style" sequence of images, conveying a
passage of time.

Posted Image
(comictut29.png)

For close-ups one might need a finer brush, like the kabura
inkbrush. But a hard, flat brush works well too.

Posted Image
(comictut30.png)

This is an example of first
showing the scene (with background, to show the surroundings), then
move in on details. Note that in the second panel there is no
background to emphasize the character details. A background is not
needed since the position is clear from the previous panel.

Posted Image
(comictut31.png)

GIMP for final adjustments

Once a page is done, save it in MyPaint and move it back to GIMP for
final adjustments. GIMP can do lots of adjustment operations that
MyPaint cannot, such as cropping the image to a suitable size and with
wide enough margins.

We are done! Save your image as PNG for printing or a high-quality JPG for web
publication.

Good luck with your comics!
.
Griatch


Appendix: Suggested reading

There are many books to read on the craft of comics and
I can recommend a few of them dearly (and in this order):

  • Understanding Comics - the invisible art (Scott McCloud
    1993) - great as a starting point.
  • Making Comics - Storytelling secrets of comics (Scott
    McCloud 2006) - a complementary book to the previous one.
  • Framed Ink - Drawing and Composition for visual
    storytellers
    (Marcos Mateu-Mestre 2010) - great instruction on
    how to build up movie-like scenes (author is a movie storyboard
    artist)
  • Writing for Comics with Peter David (Peter David 2006) -
    focuses on the story and script aspect of comic books.
    [*zkxqj] Comics and Sequential Art (Will Eisner 1985) - a classic
    work, one should at least have read it even though I think McCloud is
    better.
  • Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative (Will Eisner
    1996) - Eisner is the "grand old man" in this field. Worth a read.


The above books cover the making of comics (graphical novels) but they
are not instructions on drawing. There's a plethora of books on
anatomy, drawing and painting out there, you can find them in any book store.

Reader suggestions:

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#2 User is offline   PhotoComix 

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Posted 06 March 2011 - 04:12 PM

Wow
you did a lot of works with this tutorial" impatient to try (i am fixing my old & cheap "Trust"graphic tablet...not sure it will work with gimp and all the other sw

I will like just add "chaos & evolution" to the appendix
The DVD is worth its price and is anyway even avalaible as torrent for free (but the torrent is dying for too few seeds )
official link http://www.blender3d.org/e-shop/product ... cts_id=122

Torrent should be legit since is on a side for only legal torrents file its about 8GB
http://www.legittorrents.info/index.php ... 4&active=1
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#3 User is offline   Wolverine 

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Posted 06 March 2011 - 05:29 PM

impressive (: thanks for the share!
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#4 User is offline   Songwind 

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Posted 06 March 2011 - 06:16 PM

Very nice tutorial.

I'm curious if you have experimented at all w/ adding captions and speech after the comic has been drawn? Can you go back to Inkscape that way?

Eric
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#5 User is offline   Moko 

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Posted 06 March 2011 - 07:32 PM

Mokonafanxox said:

Griatch said:

GIMP + MyPaint + Inkscape. I'd hoped other comic makers here would contribute with tutorials of their own, but since they don't seem interested in that I'll probably make my own GIMP comic tutorial soon.
.
Griatch

Do that and I'd go to Sweden to hug you. lol


Posted Image.....Posted Image
Posted Image


If you are in to art, please check out my blog The Factoid Firefly!
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#6 User is offline   Gabby 

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Posted 07 March 2011 - 11:33 PM

Ahhh..
Thanks for that...
Quite inspirational....
Can't wait to give it a try!!!!!
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#7 User is offline   TheShock 

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Posted 15 March 2011 - 09:43 AM

Hi man, This tut is impressive, very well done. and it is clear. I see you have a very defined workflow, i am trying to add blender to it, what do you think?
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#8 User is offline   Griatch 

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Posted 15 March 2011 - 11:04 PM

Thanks for the comments everyone!

PhotoComix said:

I will like just add "chaos & evolution" to the appendix
The DVD is worth its price and is anyway even avalaible as torrent for free (but the torrent is dying for too few seeds )
official link http://www.blender3d.org/e-shop/product ... cts_id=122

Torrent should be legit since is on a side for only legal torrents file its about 8GB
http://www.legittorrents.info/index.php ... 4&active=1

Yes, this is a good one. I've added your link to the list, thanks.

Songwind said:

Very nice tutorial.
I'm curious if you have experimented at all w/ adding captions and speech after the comic has been drawn? Can you go back to Inkscape that way?
Eric

We already discussed this over at GTs chatroom, but for completeness, I've not tried to go the other way. It's certainly possible, but I would expect it to be a bit harder to add captions after the art was already done unless one is not extremely disciplined about leaving enough room for the text.

Mokonafanxox said:

Mokonafanxox said:

Griatch said:

GIMP + MyPaint + Inkscape. I'd hoped other comic makers here would contribute with tutorials of their own, but since they don't seem interested in that I'll probably make my own GIMP comic tutorial soon.
.
Griatch

Do that and I'd go to Sweden to hug you. lol

Posted Image.....Posted Image

Haha, can't wait. ;)

Gabby said:

Ahhh..
Thanks for that...
Quite inspirational....
Can't wait to give it a try!!!!!

Cool, looking forward to seeing your result. :)

TheShock said:

Hi man, This tut is impressive, very well done. and it is clear. I see you have a very defined workflow, i am trying to add blender to it, what do you think?

I think Blender would fit very well in this workflow as a complementary program to GIMP and/or MyPaint to get object models and/or backgrounds maybe? If you do arrive at a nice extended workflow I'd love to hear about it!
.
Griatch
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#9 User is offline   Kilron 

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Posted 16 March 2011 - 08:47 PM

Are there any particular comic artists whose style inspired you when you were doing this? I ask because I've known quite a few people who have done comics, and it's always interesting to see who inspired them, because if nothing else, I get introduced to artists and styles I haven't seen before.

Also, I read that first Scott McCloud book back in high school, I'm glad to see it got mentioned, it was a book I couldn't put down unless I had to until I finished it.
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#10 User is offline   Griatch 

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Posted 23 March 2011 - 11:29 PM

View PostKilron, on 16 March 2011 - 08:47 PM, said:

Are there any particular comic artists whose style inspired you when you were doing this? I ask because I've known quite a few people who have done comics, and it's always interesting to see who inspired them, because if nothing else, I get introduced to artists and styles I haven't seen before.

For the storytelling I much enjoy the "Hellblazer" series. It was really my first contact with captions as the "inner voice" of a main character (John Constantine is also one of the coolest anti-heroes in comics). There are many European comic-makers that are also very good at building believable worlds around their stories. Jean Giraud (aka Moebius) is one master of fully-realized worlds (The girl that cried blue tears), as is Alejandro Jodorowsky (Metabarons). Loisel is another European master I much enjoy (The quest for the time bird is a beautiful and sad story).
The storytelling aspects of comic-making is really the most interesting bit for me, moreso than the artwork. My Where Red apples lie is based on a novel I wrote several years ago (it's hundreds of pages, alas not yet finished). I hope to get to a point where I can comfortably tell a story in words and pictures without being limited by technique. Time will tell. :)
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#11 User is offline   Stalcry 

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Posted 30 March 2011 - 06:25 PM

Amazing :) Its so great to utilize several programs. MyPaint could probably never stand 100% on its own, but it does one heck of a job as a painting program. Gimp is the perfect partner for it, or should I say, MyPaint was the perfect partner to Gimp.
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#12 User is offline   Griatch 

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Posted 24 April 2011 - 08:13 PM

View PostStalcry, on 30 March 2011 - 06:25 PM, said:

Amazing :) Its so great to utilize several programs. MyPaint could probably never stand 100% on its own, but it does one heck of a job as a painting program. Gimp is the perfect partner for it, or should I say, MyPaint was the perfect partner to Gimp.

This is just why I originally got interested in MyPaint - it's not trying to reinvent the wheel. GIMP is very good at what it does there is not much point in competing in image-manipulation, filters etc. Painting is however a weaker point of GIMP (and something GIMP officially is not primarily intended for, despite brush improvements lately), so MyPaint has a great niche to fill there. As you say, it complements GIMP beautifully. :)
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#13 User is offline   Roscoe 

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Posted 06 February 2013 - 05:34 PM

Hi! I'm currently working on a comic strip and had a few questions, if I can be forgiven for resurrecting a somewhat old topic. You say early on in the tutorial that GIMP 2.8 should have better text facilities. Have you worked on any comics since this one, and have you tried using gimps tools instead of inkscape for text purposes, now that GIMP is indeed in 2.8?

This is a marvelous tutorial, and thank you so much for sharing your workflow. I'm trying to make some stuff of my own, and to figure out how I want to work on it. This seems like a good place to start.

Cheers!
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#14 User is offline   Griatch 

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Posted 06 February 2013 - 07:33 PM

@Roscoe

Hi, GIMP 2.8 does indeed have better text facilities, notably it now has the ability to mix font styles (italic, bold etc) on the same line. Inkscape cannot mix styles like that (you have to put such effects on separate text "objects") which is a definite drawback for certain types of comics. On the other hand Inkscape is superior to GIMP for adjusting the size and shape of the text with maximum freedom. It's also a lot easier to create good-looking frames and speech bubbles.

I'm still a bit on the fence about it - GIMP does make writing the text itself a bit easier (due to mixed italics/bold), but Inkscape is still better at the overall text layout and fine-tuning. I'll -probably- still use Inkscape for this, but we'll see. I hear Krita also has text facilities, maybe worth exploring that as well.

Glad you liked the tutorial, looking forward to seeing what you come up with. :)
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Griatch
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