March To-Do List
Get out your calendar and start circling dates. It’s time to do a little webcomics planning.Read more
Manga Studio 5 EX – exclusive member benefit
Members of Webcomics.com were eligible to participate in a chance to get one of two free copies of Manga Studio 5 EX.Read more
Friday Archive Dive: Word Balloon Aesthetics
You don’t need a subscription to read today’s Friday Archive Dive! Even if you’re not a member of the site, you can read the entire post, which originally ran Feb. 16, 2010. If you’ve ever been curious about the kind of […] ↓ Read the rest of this article...Read more
FCC approves Net Neutrality
Earlier today, the FCC approved Net Neutrality. According to NPR: The Federal Communications Commission approved the policy known as net neutrality by a 3-2 vote at its Thursday meeting, with FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler saying the policy will ensure “that […] ↓ Read the rest of this article...Read more
Why would someone send me fake traffic?
The topic of fake traffic was brought up in the forum recently, and — aside from providing a tutorial on blocking it — I started wondering about the root cause. In other words, why would someone want to generate fake […] ↓ Read the rest of this article...Read more
With April 15th getting closer and closer, here’s a handy guide to some valuable tax help to ease your suffering.Read more
Mailbag: How to Stop Brush Lag
Q.: Sometimes, when I do digital inking on my Mac, the onscreen brush lags behind my stylus. It makes it hard to work! How can I stop this?Read more
You don’t need a subscription to read today’s Friday Archive Dive!
Even if you’re not a member of the site, you can read the entire post, which originally ran Feb. 16, 2010. If you’ve ever been curious about the kind of information, tutorials and advice that you’ll get as part of your subscription to Webcomics.com, this is a good sample.
Word balloons are so common — so freely accepted as a part of a cartoonist’s visual syntax — that many of us haven’t given the subject a whole lot of thought. Looking back at my own work, I know I didn’t for the first several years. If you haven’t read the post on Three Common Word-Balloon Mistakes, take a second and look it over. It provides some good structure for today’s discussion.
And, as is the case with any discussion of aesthetics, these are not meant to be taken as written-in-stone dictates. But the philosophy behind the aesthetics should help inform your own process in developing your own personal style.
It’s time to look at word balloons again for the first time.
There are several ways to make word balloons. Put the tern into a search using the button at the top of this page and you’ll find several.
But, for my taste, all good word balloons share some traits:
- The body of the balloon is circular — not rectangular
- The tail should has slight curve to it and points to the speaker’s mouth
- Tails never cross
- Text is centered — vertically and horizontally in the body of the balloon.
- The style of the balloon matches or compliments the style of the illustration
In the first panel of the example below, you can spot both crossed tails and tails that fail to point out the speaker.
Although, I’ll admit, the most entertaining part of the strip is imagining a jumbo jet intoning: “Who is paying you to release those birds?”
Here’s my process. I draw my balloons using a circle template, but you can get the same effect digitally by drawing actual ellipses and applying vector commands (such as Punch and Union in FreeHand; Pathfinder -> Subtract and Pathfinder -> Add in InDesign or Illustrator).
Standard: OK, now that you know how to do an elegant-looking word balloon, what do you do with it? Well, aside from pointing the tail to the speaker’s mouth, there’s not much left to it, right? Wrong. There are many different strategies for placing a balloon in a panel — and each has a benefit in terms of composition and text handling. So, let’s get the obvious out of the way. This is a standard placement. There’s a little space between the panel borders and the balloon. It’s equidistance from both the top and the right-hand border.
Docking: Of course, you can butt the balloon up against the panel border.
I’ve seen this referred to as “docking.”
I have to admit, I’m not crazy about the look, but it eliminates dead space above the text (and to one side, if you dock it to the top and side of the panel), so it’s a favorite for getting more words into a panel.
Remember, docking the balloon doesn’t eliminate the necessity to keep a consistent spacing between the text and the borders of the balloon.
Knock-out: I remember the first time I saw this technique. It was in a Hagar the Horrible strip. I immediately fell in love with how it opened up the otherwise cramped confines of the newspaper-strip set-up.
I use this one quite a bit in my comics. The secret to doing it well, I think, is not to get too close to the corner. See that little triangle that gets formed in the upper right of the example? If that triangle gets too small. the effect gets wonky. Of course, you can always make the body of the balloon so big that it eliminates the triangle entirely. But, again, to my taste, it’s not as elegant an effect.
Overlap: Scott uses an overlapped word balloon in PvP quite often.
Paired with a transparent PNG file, he gets a really cool effect on his site.
I think the key to using this technique is restraint. Floating the balloon too far away creates a disconnect between the balloon and the panel — which is counter-productive.
The two should work as a unit.
Bridge: Now, I’d been reading comics since the late 70s — and working on them since the late 90s. And I’d never taken notice of this approach until a couple years back, when I was paging through an old Batman comic and saw this.
I gotta tell you, I think this strategy is brilliant.
I can tell you from experience that it sets up some really interesting compositions and — since some of the space that it uses comes out of the gutter — it’s a good way to get more words in.
I can also tell you from experience that the key to doing this well is keeping the tail away from the gutter. If you get it too close, it looks awkward.
Burst balloon: If you’re doing this digitally, doing a starburst is pretty simple, but hand-drawing a starburst can get a little tricky.
Here’s what I do. I start by pencilling a standard word balloon and then I draw a larger ellipse around the body of the balloon.
Then I draw a zig-zag line between the two guides.
If I keep the angles roughly consistent, I can make it all the way around without it looking ugly.
Compound balloon (1): You can divide the word balloon of a single speaker in the same panel.
This is useful if the speaker is interrupted by another speaker or if the speaker is delivering two separate thoughts in the same panel. Or, heck, it’s even a darned useful way to indicate a pause.
I prefer the connector tail to be a natural extension of the balloon tail.
Compound balloon (2): Of course, there’s nothing that says that you need a connector tail between the two parts of a compound balloon.
You might choose to mash both balloons together. But, again, in choosing where to intersect the two balloons, I try to position them so they meet in the zone indicated by the tail.
Earlier today, the FCC approved Net Neutrality. According to NPR:
The Federal Communications Commission approved the policy known as net neutrality by a 3-2 vote at its Thursday meeting, with FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler saying the policy will ensure “that no one — whether government or corporate — should control free open access to the Internet.”
The policy helps to decide an essential question about how the Internet works, requiring service providers to be a neutral gateway instead of handling different types of Internet traffic in different ways — and at different costs.
“Today is a red-letter day,” Wheeler said later.
The dissenting votes came from Michael O’Rielly and Ajut Pai, Republicans who warned that the FCC was overstepping its authority and interfering in commerce to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. They also complained that the measure’s 300-plus pages weren’t publicly released or openly debated.
However, there’s something in the ruling that Net Neutrality advocates aren’t crazy about…
The topic of fake traffic was brought up in the forum recently, and — aside from providing a tutorial on blocking it — I started wondering about the root cause. In other words, why would someone want to generate fake traffic to my site? Doing a little digging, I found a rather surprising answer.
Q.: Sometimes, when I do digital inking on my Mac, the onscreen brush lags behind my stylus. It makes it hard to work! How can I stop this?
You don’t need a subscription to read today’s Friday Archive Dive!
Even if you’re not a member of the site, you can read the entire post, which originally ran last year. If you’ve ever been curious about the kind of information, tutorials and advice that you’ll get as part of your subscription to Webcomics.com, this is a good sample.
It’s something we professional artists are often called upon to do: Name a price for our work. And, for many of us, it’s one of the most daunting challenges we face.
When I was teaching my weekly class at Hussian School of Art in Philadelphia, I asked my class, “What’s the worst thing you can hear from a prospective client after you’ve quoted them a price?”
“‘That’s too high,'” offered one student.
Incorrect, I countered. (That’s actually a very good response.) So what’s the worst thing you can hear?
I gave them the correct answer: “‘Yes.'”
What’s the worst thing you can hear after you quote a price? “Yes.” — @Webcomicscom on negotiations http://wp.me/p4lKly-38x
Because a rapid (and often relieved) “yes” is often an indication that you’ve quoted yourself too low. And it’s impossible to negotiate upwards.
It is, however, possible to negotiate down. And that’s what you’re aiming for in a price negotiation: A downward negotiation.
That doesn’t mean some kind of bizarro-world auction in which you start downward bidding:
$250? No? Do I hear $225?
$225? $225? Do I hear $200…?
Rather, what it means it that you begin identifying and modifying the variables involved in the project — and in so doing, reinforce the value (and the scope) of what you’re being commissioned to do. Some common variables I identify include (but are not limited to):
- My investment of time
- Their deadline
- Usage rights
- Editorial / Art Direction changes
My investment of time
This is a great indicator of the whether you should accept the job or not: How much time is it going to take? If this is simply a reprint of one of your existing comics, then there’s almost no time involved for you (and your opening price should reflect that). But if you’re being a commissioned to do a larger project, you have to realize that this project will take valuable time. It’s time that you would otherwise be (a) enjoying your life or (b) working on other jobs that could be bringing in a greater amount of money.
If there’s a significant time aspect to this project, it’s going to likely block you from taking other jobs (or doing other things independently… such as develop merchandise) that could potentially generate revenue.
If your opening price is too high (and if the time aspect is too great), you may offer an alternative. For example, instead of doing an original illustration, you might have something in your archives that would work. Or you might offer black-and-white art instead of color.
Say it with me:
Your inability to plan does not constitute an emergency for me.
The tighter the deadline, the harder you’ll have to work to hit that deadline. That means you’re well within your rights to charge a higher rate for you work. And, in all seriousness, it means they have very little time to screw around with haggling a price. You have the upper hand in a negotiation like this, and it’s OK for you to exploit that. You’d better believe they’d do the same if the roles were reversed.
Conversely, if the deadline can be adjusted to allow you more time to work, you’d be justified in lowering your price.
We discussed usage rights in detail in this post from the archive. If your client is requesting a wide array of usage rights (print, electronic, ongoing use into perpetuity, etc.) then she should expect to pay a premium for those rights. If your price is considered too high, then perhaps it’s suitable to restrict those rights. For example, adjusting on-going rights to one-time rights would allow you to drop your price considerably. And restricting the rights from universal to print- or electronic-only could do the same.
Editorial / Art Direction changes
I always walk through this process with someone who is commissioning me for my work. There’s a definite process to what we do:
- Final Approval
- Final Art
At every step along the way, the client has a chance to help to shape the final art into something that he will find useful and appropriate for his needs. After the final approval, any changes made to the art will have to come with a new price. If the client wishes to avoid that cost, it would be wise to tune in during the initial stages of the development of the piece.
Taking the “I’ll know what I don’t want when I see it” approach should not come cheap. Again — this is a time-investment issue for you. The time a client like this costs you by making you chase your tail is time you could be earning more money. If you don’t recoup that revenue, it is lost.
But it’s unfair to spring these expenses on an unsuspecting art director. Be sure to make this process clear from the very start.
It should go without saying that once you arrive at a fairly negotiated price, you should codify all of the variables into a contract that both parties sign. Contracts do not indicate distrust. Rather it’s a perfectly to polite way of saying, “this is the process we’ve agreed upon and here are the outcomes that will be generated.” It’s there to protect both sides from misunderstandings and unwanted surprises.
I’m at a crossroads on a webcomics issue that I’ve taken for granted since the very first comic I ever posted on the Web.
Do I really want to host reader comments on my site?
On one hand, there’s the obvious: Hosting reader comments on-site means an increase in pageviews, an increased sense of belonging for the readers, and a quick conduit for calling attention to minor errors or typos. Plus, it’s words on your site — and that’s good for SEO.
On the other hand… well… reader comments can get downright discouraging. They can be a negative effect on your creative well-being. And, sometimes, they can get out-of-hand, offensive and inappropriate.
Is it worth it?