How To Make Comic Panels With Photographs
Making comics with photographs. Most comics are drawn but there are some that are made with photographs also.
There are comic strips and comic panels. Comic strips consist of more than one panel, like Misorts.
Comic panels have only one panel, and that’s what I’m demonstrating here.
Sometimes I like to try my hand at making comics, and I often do so with photographs.
I’ve published some of Pondering Percy on this site. All four are being published on an other website; Diesel Drinking Dinosaurs.
Initially there was only one on that site, but I’ added all the others recently.
People do things differently and I’m going to show you how I create the Pondering Percy Comic Panel.
How I start making comics
The first step in the process for me is getting the idea for one. That might sound obvious, but there’s a little to it.
I like making comics with some humour in them. Sometimes I can think of a funny gag. It could be easy at this stage to dive in and make it into a comic. But one gag on it’s own won’t make a comic strip.
I need to get an idea that I know can develop into a series of comics. They initial phase involves writing things down. This can be stand alone jokes and a plot or just a plot.
Comics can be based on a plot like a soap opera, that moves along. Diesel Drinking Dinosaurs is one like that.
Other can one liners with different characters. Misorts and Life On The Planet If are both like that. They both have six characters who appear in turn in their own strip.
Pondering Percy has only one character who is in every panel. It is a series of one liners. There’s no plot as such but there is a loose theme.
When I started making comics on a computer
When I was young I used to draw comics and cartoons. None of those survive and haven’t for a long time.
I first got a computer in 1994. It was an Apple desktop, from before the iMac era. It didn’t have built in modem, and I didn’t get an external one.
Therefore I didn’t have and Internet while I used that computer.
Without the Internet it didn’t take long for me to start making comics on computers. It came with a great programme, Claris Works.
I learned to draw with it and create comics completely on the computer.
New computer for making comic panels
I changed computers in 1999, getting my first iMac, and got online. By then I had several comic strips and panels created.
Over the years I’ve upgraded to newer iMacs on several occasions. They’re great computers and I love them.
They do have one drawback though. As time goes by they evolve, and they don’t always support older programmes. Rather they change the file types they use.
After some years the new programmes don’t open the old files.
You can transfer all your old files from one computer to the next no problem. When you try to open files created on computers over a decade before, some don’t.
Recovering lost files
What if James Joyce had been writing Ulysses on a computer. As he upgraded he might have lost some of it.
It could have been half the length it is. He spent fourteen years writing it.
Perhaps they let it be known that newer computers won’t open certain file types, but I’ve not seen this.
It came as a surprise to me and probably to other people also.
If there’s one thing I’d like to see Apple do it’s include a programme that could open and re-save old files.
My old comics, and other files were locked away since 2006. I had tried, but not very hard, to find a solution on occasion.
Last year, 2018, I had another go, this time with greater conviction.
The programme I used
I discovered a programme called LibreOffice. It was more with hope than confident when I tried it, but it opened them.
I had forgotten a lot of them. They’ve been saved now as jpegs so they’re safe while that file format is supported.
I hadn’t bothered with making comics for several years. One possible strip idea was in the back of my mind for some time though.
In early 2017 I reconnected with an old friend with whom I’d lost touch. He asked me whether I still did comics.
Within hours I’d brought forth the idea that had been floating around for some time.
That was the beginning of Diesel Drinking Dinosaurs. It was also largely photographic so I’ll leave that for another article.
It has to start with an idea
Once I start working on something I often get ideas for another similar project. The idea for Pondering Percy started to form soon after I began working on Diesel Drinking Dinosaurs.
The idea was basically to have a person standing around with different scenic backgrounds, thinking mainly lazy thoughts.
This mainly involved thinking up witty and/or funny one liners. The rest is easy.
Before I even consider starting a strip, I want to have a good lot of the jokes or plot written.
Every joke isn’t going to be great but some will have to be good. Obviously you won’t know if other people will find yours funny, until you put them out there.
Time to start writing
So first thing is sit down with pen and paper or a device with a word processor and write. Generally I have to force the first one or two gags.
No matter how forced or lame they are I always write them down. If you decide that one is no good, you might find it hard to decide that one is good.
Anyway if you see it again it might trigger another one or two, or it might work reworded.
Many gags only work when you get the wording just right. Sometimes you know there’s some humour there but the wording has to be right, or it just won’t work.
Enough jokes to start a comic panel strip
After labouring over two or three jokes, they usually start to flow. I can get several related jokes or some totally different ones.
Next time I go through the same process but usually get a totally different train of thought.
When I have fifty, or a hundred, or whatever number I decide that I have enough start now.
By then I know that I can come up with a steady supply of material for this comic.
If it’s a plot based comic then there’s an obvious place to start, at the beginning of the story. But with one liners, there is no obvious place to start.
Try to start with some of the funniest ones
I alway think that I should start with a few of the funniest ones I have.
The problem is that what looks funny today, doesn’t after being left alone for two or three days.
Sometimes I make twenty, thirty, or more strips numbered from 1. Then I go back and reorder them. I have to decide to leave them as they are at some point.
When I decided to write this article I hadn’t been near this comic for months. I needed to get some screen shots so I had to make one.
There’s some hundreds of jokes written and unused since I last worked on it. I read through them to pick one for this particular panel.
After picking one, I made the comic, and then thought it wasn’t nearly as funny as it looked.
I could make another one, and another one, and never write the article. Nothing will work if it’s not put out there, and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t.
At some point you have to decide that you’re going to start here, and stick with it. As the series develops you’re going to be using some of the jokes anyway.
Starting the visual part of making comics
The main visual part of this comic is placing the figure into a landscape. I use the figure with his back to the viewer.
Initially I thought about using several different views of the figure, all shot from behind.
I decided to only use one. It fits with some of the jokes about laziness that I use.
The programme I use to combine the photos is ON1 Photo Raw. There are others you can use, but this is my choice.
Photoshop is the popular software for editing photographs. You can’t buy it outright anymore, you just pay a monthly fee.
Just about a week before I started writing this the cost of Photoshop doubled without any warning.
I like to buy software
With ON1 Photo Raw you buy it and it’s yours. They release a new version every year at present. You can upgrade every time or wait for a year or two. The version you have will still work.
The first part for me is extracting the figure from the background. This I have to do every time. I’ve set it so that it only takes a minute.
They have a tool called the perfect brush which does this brilliantly. It’s a little tricky with a cluttered background though.
To get over this I’ve removed the original background put in a solid colour instead.
You can make the perfect brush very big or very small. This allows me to do this part in only a minute or two.
Where to place the figure
The figure image I use is in a horizontal or landscape image. The backgrounds I use are in the exact same size photo.
The problem is fitting the figure onto the background. Sometimes the figure won’t fit well at the position it was in the original photograph.
So I’ve made master photographs of the figure in solid colour backgrounds.
The figure is the same but is positioned at different points. One to the left, one centrally, and one farther to the right.
The finished comic is in vertical or portrait form. This means that I only use about half of the background image.
Most of the backgrounds I use are in 3:2 aspect ratio, but some are in 4:3. The figure was taken in 3:2.
To make it easier to use the 4:3 backgrounds, I’ve included the figure in a suitable master photograph also.
They’re the images in photo 001.jpg. The bottom left one is the 4:3 master.
The first thing is to load the figure image I’m going to use. This time I’m using the one with the yellow background.
I chose the background I’m going to use before deciding which figure to use.
That way I’ll see where the figure might fit in best.
This one will fit nicely towards the right. Actually any of them would have fitted in OK with this background. That isn’t always the case.
Extracting the figure to make the comics
To this point I haven’t used the 4:3 backgrounds very much. If I do I will probably make two other versions of the figure for those also.
This will only involve moving the figure along to the side and filling in the background with a solid colour. Secondly do it again and move the figure in the other direction.
The finished comic will be the same size regardless of which size background I use.
The second image, photo 002.jpg, shows the figure almost extracted from the solid background.
The circle at the top left is the size of the perfect brush. It works very fast at this size, just avoid the centre of the brush hitting the figure. It will wipe out anything the centre hits.
Choosing a backdrop for the comic
Having successfully removed the figure from the background, it’s time to fit in a new backdrop.
This I choose before I decided which of the figure photographs I was going to use.
Where the figure was going to be in relation to the background determined which of the figure photos I would use.
Having chosen the background photo, I just drag it onto the work area. A dialogue appears asking if this should be a separate layer. It’s shown in photo 003.jpg. Click yes.
At this stage the background covers the image with the cut out figure. You can see this in photo 004.jpg.
The background photo stacks up on top of the foreground on the right of the screen; photo 005.jpg.
Fitting in the background to the comic
I gently drag it down over the isolated figure. It now appears underneath cut out figure; photo006.jpg.
The figure now appears in front of the background, in the required position; photo 007.jpg.
Normally one would blend the figure into the background to try and hide the fact that it isn’t one photograph. I don’t do that because it’s a comic, and comics are not real.
I save this new image as a jpeg. It doesn’t have to be a jpeg. You can use another file type if you want to, photo 008.jpg, shows the saved photo.
The next step is to fit the portion of the photo that will make the comic into place. Then fit the thought bubble over it.
Finishing the comic image
For this I use different software. I use GraphicConverter. It’s very quick and easy to fit things together in this programme.
First I open the newly created jpeg file. Right after that I create a new blank canvas. This is in the shape and size that the new comic panel will be.
You can see this in photo 009.jpg, with the new canvas placed over the newly created image. The new blank canvas is white.
Now I bring the full photo to the front by clicking anywhere on the visible portion. I select the entire image and copy the whole lot, seen in photo 010.jpg.
It would have done just to copy a part of the photo as big or slightly bigger than the blank. That’s all I need but I like to the whole lot.
Paste the entire photo, or the part of it, into the vertical blank canvas. I fixed the part of the large photo where I wanted it and deselected it.
Now I have the visual part of the comic panel. It’s shown in photo 011.jpg in front of the full photo.
In this instance I’ve used the right side of the photo, and that’s very easy. Usually I’d move it around before deciding which part was best, and then deselect it. I saved the new comic.
When I’m working on anything, image or writing I save every minute or two.
This way if you accidentally loose work, you don’t have to start over from the beginning. You just from the last saved stage.
Working on the thought bubble
Now I start working on the thought bubble and the text to go inside it. This text is the joke that has been written for some time.
It’s best to leave the jokes alone for some time before you use them. They may not seem as funny as they originally did.
The joke might have seemed funny in the context of your thoughts when you wrote it. Without being in that place, it might make no sense whatsoever, and not be funny now.
Returning to the joke after it’s been sitting there for some time if it’s still funny, use it. Some people will get it, some won’t.
I use a third programme, Paintbrush, to get the text ready. This is a paint programme but I mainly use it for this purpose. It does this part so easy and well.
Fitting the thought bubble when making a comic
The default size of the work area in Paintbrush is small. It’s 800 pixels wide by 600 pixels high. I use a much bigger one, 2,000 by 2,000. It gives room for comfort when working.
In Paintbrush I open a text area. I paste the joke in this photo 012.jpg shows the text waiting to be formatted.
Next I highlight the joke, set the font and font size. Then I click on “Place”, bring the mouse outside the text area and click it. That puts the text down.
After that I draw a bubble over the text with the rounded rectangle tool, photo 013.jpg shows this stage. I save it as a jpeg and return to GraphicConverter for the next stage in making comics.
Putting it together and making a comic
GraphicConverter has the tools to do all this, but they don’t work as easily as Paintbrush does.
I opened the vertical comic image and create a new blank canvas exactly the same size. Then I placed these side by side. Next I zoomed out so that I could see all of them, photo 014.jpg.
I opened the thought bubble in GraphicConverter that I created in Paintbrush. Then I selected and copied the bubble.
I used the square selection tool for this and included more area than just the bubble, as in photo 015.jpg.
Moving to the blank canvas next to the photo I pasted in the bubble.
The reason I placed this blank canvas next to the comic is to see where to position the bubble. This has to be away from the figure, photo016.jpg.
Having left plenty room between the bubble and figure I moved on. I drew three circles between the thought bubble and where the head of the figure will be.
The bubbles decrease in size as the go away from the bubble.
The most exciting part
Next is probably the most exciting part of making comics with photographs. That is getting the bubble over the photograph.
I used the magic pen tool, and clicked it the area outside the bubble and circles. This caused the bubble and circles to turn grey and leave the rest white, photo 018.jpg.
GraphicConverter has a fairly extensive number of options to paste things. This includes nine different parts of the canvas.
I used another one here. I used paste into selection. The photo fits in around the thought bubble and circles, photo 019.jpg
Now at this stage things might go slightly wrong. The circles might be positioned wrongly.
The smaller one might be over the head of the figure, or too far way from it. If so I just undo in the exit menu and go back a step.
If this happened I’d just redo the smaller circle placing it more appropriately. I would paste in the comic again and see if it was better. Normally it would, if not I would keep going until it was right.
Now the old practice makes perfect rule comes into place. This happened a few times when I first started making comics like this.
After a while my judgement improved and I rarely get it wrong now. When I did misjudge it, it was by a very small margin.
What making comics with photographs is all about
With the photo and bubble in position I just saved the new comic, photo 020.jpg. There was just one step left. That was to add my name.
There’s a ninety nine point something chance that nothing more will ever happen to any comic.
Maybe the creator will publish on their own website like I’m doing. However some get picked up and gain popularity.
Just like you never know what song or book will be a hit, you don’t know your comic will never be popular. So I always add my name, and if you make comics you should do so also.
The final finished comic is photo 021.jpg. I publish Pondering Percy on Diesel Drinking Dinosaurs.