Introduction: Rapid Webcomic Prototyping System (Microsoft Edition)
Using aspects of Microsoft Word and Microsoft PowerPoint, it is now possible for budding artists (including angsty HS teenagers) to make their own professional-looking webcomic in less than 5 minutes (if you're good) per strip. It's also good to get the creative juices flowing when sharing your quirkiness with your friends, as you can fill your comics with inside jokes and caricatures of your friends.
Since someone pointed this out:
Rapid = faster than drawing sprites on paper and scanning (or using an expensive tablet)
Webcomic = I recommend comics you make be published on the internet
Prototyping = You can change the layout of each scene until you find the best layout
System = I do this systematically to arrive at agreeable results
Microsoft Edition = The tools required are the basic components of Microsoft Office programs
You can see some of my existing comics at http://www.xanga.com/cryptopath
And if you can't see the details of my comics, just click the links that I've pasted, which look like:
Step 1: Make the Sprite Database
Start up Microsoft Word and go to the Autoshapes menu, which should be in the Drawing toolbar. If you don't see it, right click on where the toolbars are, and select "Drawing". A drawing canva should appear, which is an integral part of the RWPS.
Step 2: Make a Sprite
Using the Autoshapes in Word, there is an almost unlimited supply of different shapes you can use in your comics. The key is to strike a balance between complexity (which would make your comic look better), and simplicity (which would make production times shorter).
In my webcomic, Freaks and G33k$, the characters consist of circular heads and bodies that look like upside down Dixie cups.
Note that you can resize the drawing canvas as necessary to fit in more elements to your sprite.
Tip: Holding down SHIFT while making circles using the oval tool allows you to make perfect circles.
Tip: Holding down CTRL while making shapes allows you to make them symmetrical in the direction you are dragging.
Step 3: Add Sprite Details
The most difficult part of modeling sprites after real life people is adding features such as hair. I have decided not to add mouths, because I like that solemn, sarcastic look my character has without a mouth. More features means the ability to incorporate defining features for your characters.
The best way to do hair, including my rediculous longish (emo?) styling, is to use the Curve tool under the Autoshapes, Lines menu. Remember to make enough points by clicking, and then double-clicking on your FIRST point in order to make the curve into a shape.
If you make a mistake halfway through your points, you can erase one or more points by pressing BACKSPACE.
Step 4: Populate Your Sprite Database
By using various Autoshape elements within the Drawing Canvas, you can make your sprites. Make sure you implement the "fill" function to give your characters some color. I find skin tones most difficult to replicate, and require much time under the Custom Fill menu to perfect.
You can quickly duplicate a sprite by clicking on the border of its Drawing Canvas and then copy-paste-ing. This allows you to make the characters in various poses.
Step 5: Add Sprites to PowerPoint
Pull up a default blank PowerPoint slide, and then add Text Boxes (without borders, I'd prefer) to give your comic a title and a number (if you're making a series).
Paste in your sprites after highlighting the Drawing Canvas (by clicking the border). Note that you cannot adjust the individual placement of the sprite elements in PowerPoint, so you should put the character into his/her final pose before importing.
Step 6: Layout Your Scene
Add more sprites by ctrl-paste-ing more people into your scene. Then make them talk by adding a speech bubble from the Autoshapes menu. Under Properties, you can also align your text to be in the middle center of the box.
Tip: You can add effects by using unbordered text boxes with stuff in asterixes like *blink* and *scratch head* and *BZZZZT!*
Step 7: Finish Off Your Scene
Add the remaining characters and place them in such a way that the dialogue makes sense. Make sure you drag the speech bubble points so it looks like it's coming from the character's mouth or chest.
Tip: If your character is vertically symmetrical, then you can make him/her turn to face the other way by holding down CTRL while you drag either the 3 o'clock handle or the 9 o'clock handle. Just drag from one side to the other, it should flip your sprite. Or you could use the flip vertical function.
Step 8: Generate the JPEG to Publish
When you are done, save the PowerPoint slide somewhere and you are now ready to generate the image file of your scene. Just go to File, Save As, and choose Save As Type: JPEG File Interchange Format. Just save the current slide if you only have one scene (which is what I would recommend) inside your PowerPoint file.
Step 9: Publish Scene for Webcomic
Find somewhere you publish your newly finished webcomic, hot off the renderer! You can use an image hoster like http://www.photobucket.com or http://imageshack.us (NOT .com!) and post them on your website. Start a cult following with your comics! Express your inner geekiness! Who cares! Just share it!
I personally use the simplistic Xanga servers to upload and host my pictures. You can see the new Extended Comic: The Legends of Cryptopath here:
Step 10: Make MORE!!!
This last step is decidedly the most difficult, but it's very rewarding when you have people come up to you and telling you that they enjoy reading the randomness you produce.
The usual comic strip is Freaks and G33k$, featuring the random true stories from my life. The usual theme is my own geekiness and hobbies, as well as the funny things my friends do.
As of now, I have completed one "Extended Comic" (which is an independent storyline) called H4xx0rZ.
Now I'm working on another Extended Comic called The Legends of Cryptopath, also starring my friends.
If you found this useful, or have any questions, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org (which is a spam reducing dead-email box set to forward to my primary email). Good luck!