Making an LK page » Digital Lettering
Now that the inking is done and the page is scanned, I need to add dialogue. But I don't do this in the GIMP. Instead, I open up another program called InkScape. This is an open source vector graphics editing software equivalent to Adobe Illustrator.
If you'll recall, I left myself a note to insert a scene from a previous page into panel 4. The scene I want is from page 4 of the comic. So I cut out the section I want and set it into Ink Scape on a layer above the comic. I also put a gradient mask on it so that it transitions seemlessly from the top of Lumia's head to the events she's remembering. This is not something I do often, so I won't go into details about it in this tutorial.
Now, it's time to add in the dialogue.
For dialogue and sound effects, I use a variety of fonts, most of which I got for free from Blambot. Blambot does have quite a few free fonts, but if you ever plan to sell anything with the fonts on it, make sure you look into any legal information about using the fonts. Most of the spoken dialogue in LK uses the Anime Ace font.
Usually, I have to dialogue written out in script format before hand. However, I sometimes play around with the wording for the sake of coming across clearer and also trying to make sure it doesn't get too preachy.
This comic has a bit too much dialogue, so I had to shrink the font size down from my usual size 40 to size 36.
I finish up the dialogue, put the page count on the bottom left and the copyright info on the bottom right of the page. Now, it's time to make the speech bubbles.
Speech bubbles are easy; to start, draw a white ellipse with a black stroke on a layer below the spoken dialogue. Make sure you make the bubbles wide enough so that the letters don't come to close to the edge.
Once I've positioned all of the ellipses, I select them all and convert them to paths by choosing "Path > Object to Path" in the menu. This allows me to edit the nodes that make up each ellipse so that I can modify their shapes to my liking.
To edit the nodes of an ellipse, I select the ellipse and then the "Edit path by node" tool on the left hand tool bar. You'll see four shapes on the top, bottom, left, and right of the ellipse appear. These are the nodes.
Notice that not every node is the same shape. Some are diamond shaped and some are square. This is because there are three different types of nodes in InkScape: corner nodes, smooth nodes, and symmetrical nodes. Changing the node type changes how the node responds when we edit them:
- Corner nodes allow you to make sharp corners at the node.
- Smooth nodes prevent sharp corners, but can cause the lines before and after the node to be different sizes.
- Symmetrical nodes prevent corners while keeping the lines before and after the nodes the same size.
NOTE: Because there are technically two buttons selected in the bottom image, I've circled the "Make selected nodes symmetrical" button in yellow to indicate which one you should be looking for.
Now, all of your nodes should look like squares.
We can start editing the control points to change the shape of the ellipse. Control points are little circular shaped handle bars that appear around the node when you select them. Select a control point and drag it somewhere and notice how it alters the ellipse.
I've finished editing the nodes on all the ellipses. However, in panel 4, I have a section where I want to merge two ellipses into one massive one.
To do this, I simply select both ellipses (without selecting their text) and go to "Path > Union" in the menu. To make this faster, the short cut for this is "CTRL" and "+".
Afterwards, we have a nice, double ellisoid.
Now, we have to make the "tails" for each balloon. These tails will point to the person who is speaking the dialogue. To do this, we select the "Create stars and polygons" tool on the left hand side.
Make sure that you have the "Polygon" selected (as opposed to the "Star") and that "Corners" is set to "3".
Now, draw out a triangle near the ellipse.
Convert the triangle into an object just like we did to the ellipses with "Path > Object to path". Then, select the "Edit paths by nodes" tool again.
Move the nodes around until you get it to the size and shape that you want.
If you want to make the tale curve, you'll need to turn the bottom most node into a corner node with control points. Because the points on a triangle make straightlines, they may not have control points yet. The easiest way to give them control points is to first convert them to symmetrical nodes. Then, convert them to corner nodes.
Now, simply drag the control points a bit until you get the curve that you're looking for.
Then, use "Path > Union" to merge the tale and the ellipse together.
Once the dialogue balloons are all done, we export the final product as a .PNG image. I choose PNG because it's an image format that offers a good deal of compression without losing a lot of quality. Go to "File > Export Bitmap" and you should see a window with several options. Make sure you set the export area appropriately, as failure to do so will result in your comic exporting an area larger or smaller than you wanted. I usually have mine set to "Drawing", which insures that everything visible on the page is exported into the file. Also, make sure you hit "browse" and set your file to save in the appropriate directory.
TWO WARNINGS WHEN EXPORTING FILES WITH INKSCAPE:
- If you save your image as a JPG instead of a PNG, InkScape will attempt to save it with an alpha channel. JPG format does NOT support alpha channels and, as a result, the image won't be viewed properly in some browsers. I've encountered this problem before and it took me a few hours to figure out what was causing the issue. If you do encounter this problem, you can solve the issue by opening up the image in the GIMP and resaving it as a JPG again.
- I do not recommend altering the "Bitmap Size" fields. Yes, it will resize your final image and it might save you a headache. However, I've not gotten good quality pages this way--the resizing of the pixels has looked nasty. Therefore, I export it at full size and resize it in another image editing program
After I've exported the page, I reopen it in my image editing program and resize it to 600 pixels wide. I resave it and now it's ready to be uploaded to the server.
The final product: