Do you fancy creating your own comic strip or animated film? We explain how some free software will help you make the most of your cartoons
Producing comics and cartoons used to be a laborious process. Skilled artists would need to draw, ink and colour everything by hand, frame by frame. Even a short comic strip could take hours or days to produce, while production times for animations were measured in months or even years.
Now, though, digital production tools can make the whole process quicker and simpler, and it’s easier than ever to get started creating your own web comics or animations.
In this article, we’ll show how free image-creation and animation software can be used to make comics and moving cartoons. We’ll also explore ways to show off your work to the world.
Whether you want to make a static web comic or a hand-drawn animation, drawing software is required. Microsoft Paint is an obvious option, but it’s very basic and doesn’t support layered images.
Instead, we would recommend using the GNU Image Manipulation Program, or Gimp for short. So begin by downloading the latest version of Gimp.
When done, double-click the downloaded file and work through the installation wizard. Launch Gimp from the Start menu. When it starts, three windows will appear: the main image window and two panels labelled Toolbox and Layers.
These contain all the tools needed to create images. To start drawing, open a blank canvas by clicking File and choosing New. Select a canvas size and click OK; for this workshop, we’ll use a 640x400-pixel canvas.
The Toolbox panel contains a selection of drawing tools: there’s a pencil tool, a paintbrush tool, an eraser tool and a bucket-fill tool (for filling large areas with colour). By default, the drawing tools are used to sketch freehand: click to select the pencil tool and try drawing on the canvas to see how this works.
To draw a straight line, hold down the Shift key while drawing. To change the line’s colour, click on the coloured squares icon in the Toolbox panel and click the colour you want (adjust it using the colour sliders if necessary). Click OK.
When a drawing tool is selected, more options relating to that tool will be shown at the bottom of the Toolbox panel. There are also more advanced tools available in Toolbox, including smudge, tool and clone: these can create extra texture or detail in an image, so do try out some of these options.
Any mistakes can be reversed by selecting Undo from the Edit menu, or pressing the Control (Ctrl) and Z keys.
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