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Creating Comic Word Balloons Using Paint Shop Pro

Author: Dysfunkshunal

Tools Needed

* Paint Shop Pro


Skill Level: Intermediate

Time Taken: 20-30 minutes

NOTE: This tutorial will specifically be making use of Jasc's Paint Shop Pro 7 (PSP is currently owned by Corel), however, the interface hasn't changed much and the principles described here can be used in earlier or later versions of the same program. Additionally, these techniques can be extrapolated and applied in Adobe Photoshop or any other photo editing software that contains these same functions.

Also, it should go without saying, that if you are going to be illustrating comics you should already have the story written. This is essential because you need to know how much text you'll be placing on each of your images so that it will fit properly. Poor planning will result in poor results, so be sure you have a solid story and know which text should appear on each frame so as to not ruin a good comic by cramming filled word balloons in odd places. Personally, I use Final Draft which is a screenwriting software to write my dialogue because it helps you craft stories quickly, but simply using Microsoft Word will work as well.

Let's get started…




First, open your image up in Paint Shop Pro. Above is the image that I will be adding text to. I knew that my characters would be saying a lot in this panel, so I was sure to render the image with much headroom for the balloons. This is critical, and I can't stress enough how important it is when you render to know what will text will be in the frame you are rendering. It is also very useful to choose a camera angle that favors the first speaker as the person on the left. This is because we read left to right, and this way your word balloons will not have to overlap, which looks bad and can confuse the reader.

Step 2 - ADD TEXT


Click on the Text icon in the toolbar. In the Text Dialogue Box that opens, scroll through your fonts and choose a good looking comic font. If you do not have any, you can find thousands of free fonts online. I will be using the “Wild and Crazy” font. Select a 10 pt font, click the “Center Align” button, click the “Floating selection” radio button, and make sure that the “Antialias” checkbox is checked (see image).

Notice the text I typed. The female character is speaking first and is going to say more. However, she had a large chunk of text to speak, so I broke it up into sensible speech pauses. I put the word “suitor” on the second line so that they stack nicely as you'll see on the next page.

Lay the text wherever you want on the page. This particular piece of text is followed by more from the female, so I have chosen to lay it on the far left.



Next, select the Shape tool and choose Ellipse. Starting from the center of the text, draw an ellipse that covers all the text (Fig.1) and leave some extra room (HINT: Select CNTL+D to deselect the text if it is still selected). Then, use your Fill tool and fill the image with black (Fig.2). You will have filled over your text, but don't worry. Then, go to “Selections” and from the dropdown select “Modify” then “Contract”. Choose a value of 2. Then, select your Fill tool again and this time dump white in the balloon (Fig.3). Now, choose your Text tool once again. The text you previously typed should already be in the Text Dialogue Box. Drop it into the word balloon (again, use CNTL+D to deselect the balloon if it is currently selected). This will allow you to neatly lay the chunk of text directly in the center of the balloon (Fig.4).

You'll notice that there is no angle spouting from the balloon to indicate who is speaking the dialogue. That is because we have more text to add, and we'll add it to the next balloon.



This balloon is the continuing text of the female character. Like I mentioned, large blocks of dialogue look better broken up into smaller balloons. So we will follow the same principles for her remaining dialogue, with a little change to add the angle so we know who is speaking.

First, see how I laid out the remaining text in the Text Dialogue Box (see image). You must decide how best to break up your text to “form” it so it best will fit into the balloon. The ellipse is narrow at both top and bottom, so it is wise to have the first line contain only a word or two, the next line more and so on and so forth, then doing the reverse as you near the end of the text. This takes some experimentation but is essential in making your balloons and text look their best.

Now, I placed the text at a short distance from the original balloon (Fig.1), keeping in mind that this text will also be in a balloon, and I only want the balloons to intersect just a bit (Fig.2). Make sure they overlap, so we can merge them later. Next, select your Lasso tool. In the Freehand Dialogue Box, select “Point to Point”. Hold down the Shift key and click inside the selected ellipse. Move your cursor to a point near the speaker's mouth, then click again. Now return the cursor to the inside of the ellipse a little distance from your original click, then double-click. You will have extended out your ellipse with a triangle that indicates who is speaking (Fig. 3).

Repeat the previous actions of filling the selected ellipse with black, contracting the ellipse by a value of 2, fill again with white, then re-add the proper text and center it (Fig. 4).



You will see the balloons are separated by a black line. To fix this, simply select your Paintbrush tool and a small value (around 5). Choose the stroke color as white and neatly paint out the black line. Now your balloons are as one (see image)!

Step 6 - REPEAT


Follow the same steps for any other speaking characters in your scene. In the finished frame (see image), I knew the male character had much to say so I broke his dialogue up into three separate, natural balloons. Doing this also allows you to manipulate the balloons so that they fit within your scene space.


1. Use Common Sense:

Obviously, the balloon closest to the speaker's head should be the balloon that contains the speaking angle. Plan accordingly.

2. Don't Put Balloons Over Characters:

It is generally unacceptable practice to have a word balloon obscuring a character or any other important scene element. The word balloons are not meant to be a physical part of the scene, but rather just a device to move the story along.

3. Don't Clutter Your Balloons:

It is also generally unacceptable to have a word balloon that barely encapsulates your dialogue. Leave the dialogue with room to breathe, so to speak. Crowded balloons don't look right and draw attention away from your comic. If you find yourself needing to crowd a balloon because you are running out of space in the frame, you did not plan properly enough when rendering. Re-render the pic with more space for the dialogue.

4. Practice:

Good ballooning takes a little practice to know when/where to break up text chunks, the best positioning of text in the frame, the perfect centering of the dialogue, etc. If you are unsatisfied with the way your frame looks when finished, start over and do it differently. You'll be surprised how it will make the frame feel if it's redone properly.