Storyboard, Schmoryboard

Dec 21, 2021 | shadywoods

I’m still struggling to put all the ideas I’ve collected over the years for Shadywoods the Comic, Shadywoods the Series and now Shadywoods the Feature Film into a coherent script of more than 60 minutes. I’ve also re-discovered some half-written scripts with long forgotten yet witty dialogue that I also want to use if I can make it fit within the overall narrative.

With Phungus & Mowld Episode 3, I finally saw the light and now I do agree, that having a proper storyboard (thumbnail roughs are enough), even for a one-man production like me, might in the end make my job easier. So I’ll also have to create a storyboard for Shadywoods the Feature Film. Then I thought, if I have to draw every other shot anyway and think about the composition, why don’t I just create a comic book, which I can then use as the storyboard. That way I have something I can put out much earlier than the movie, sell it, maybe create a little buzz (yeah, I know – that never happens, but one can hope) and then eventually release the movie.

Storyboard for Phungus & Mowld (episode 3, in Notion)

For anyone who is about to tell me, that if I spill the beans in the comic book, nobody’s going to watch the film, I have one word for you: Harry Potter. OK that was two words. And fair enough live action isn’t animation – so let’s see… I have more words for you: Asterix, Tin Tin, The Smurfs, Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, and basically all the Japanese Anime belie the naysayers.

Tools for Comic Artists

In my research I have also re-discovered long forgotten software to create Comic Books in a snap for little money. I’m not talking about the 500-pound-gorilla Clip Studio Paint, no, and anything that brands itself with Manga all over kind of puts me off anyway… (Yeah, I’m super biased that way – that’s why I’m really happy that Moho went back to its original name after for a few years rebranding as Anime Studio Pro – yuck).

Comic Life

Tool number one I was revisiting was Comic Life which is available on Mac, Windows and iOS/iPad OS.

Setting up your frames is a breeze, you can also save them as templates, and having artwork clipped by frames or not is also one click away. You can place images you drew somewhere else (or use photos and apply comic filters), then add speech bubbles of all shapes, even linked ones. The lettering tools for sound effects are very impressive, too.

Comic Life lettering tools

Comic Life (as well as their other product Comic Draw, see below) also has a neat script editor built in, where you can write your script before drawing the comic. With designated keywords (that are fully customizable) it can recognize the type of content, and lets you then drag-and-drop according elements onto your canvas from the script (such as speech bubbles, SFX lettering or callouts).

The Comic Life Script Editor (same as in Comic Draw – see below)

For exporting formats you have a choice of several single image formats, CBZ, PDF or ePUB (biggie).

Affinity Designer / Publisher

I was considering to use the Affinity Designer / Publisher combo, and it is actually pretty easy to create comics with the two (all Affinity Apps use essentially the same file format so you can switch between their apps on-the-fly using the same file and making use of functionality particular to either of the apps).

Affinity Publisher (left) and Affinity Designer (right) opening the same file.

Setting up frames which clip the artwork inside, pulling up speech bubbles and callouts is quick and easy (maybe not as versatile as Comic Life, but still very efficient), however Affinity Designer/Publisher only export to single images or PDF for publishing. Some online book stores (Apple Books) insist on getting ePub files. That would mean I’d have to use another tool to convert that and most available tools have UIs that are obviously designed by an army of monkeys, so if I can directly output ePub files, I’d prefer that.

Comic Draw

The same people (plasq) who make Comic Life have another app in store called Comic Draw. Currently there’s only an iPad version, but that’s fine since I’m going to draw the whole thing on the iPad anyway. Comic Draw seems even more interesting, because it has almost all of the functionality of Comic Life with the added bonus of being able to create the whole artwork inside the app. The workflow is quite well thought out.

It’s a little bit like Affinity in that it splits up the workflow into slightly rearranged UI and functionality (Affinity calls those personas). In Comic Draw there’s a script writing mode (yes you can write your comic script with that app too!) where it’ll recognize things like dialogues, callouts and SFX, which you can then drag and drop onto the canvas to instantly create speech bubbles, SFX text or callout boxes from the script.

The Comic Draw design mode (illustrations courtesy of Claudio Grassi • CLOUD-YO!)

There’s a design mode where you setup the panels and draft the images, then in the inking mode the drafts are made 50% transparent and you can finalize your outlines, and finally in the coloring mode you can either use grey tones or give your comic the full technicolor glory it deserves (filters for tones and the likes are also available). For ten bucks this seems a great deal and I’ll be trying this out for comic/storyboarding and see how well it works.

But first gotta finalize a script – my winter holiday’s booked out already it seems.

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