Not that long ago in a place not that far away comic books ruled.
There was a time when a comic book collection was as important as a
record collection. That's right... good old vinyl. While those
where fun times for some of us the younger generation of the
Renderosity community never really got to experience the excitement
of a new comic or for that matter... an old, well thumbed, torn and
faded comic stuck in your back pocket. This was the equivalent of
carrying around your tunes or smartphone with you today. If you
were lucky you might even have jammed two or three folded up comics
in that pocket just to make sure you didn't run out of
entertainment that day.
Ahh... the good old days??? Not really... there was no Wi-Fi but
one can still experience the nostalgia or discovery of comic books
with a simple and budget priced application called Comic Life. When
I say budget priced I don't mean lack of features but a full
featured program that's less than $100... err... $50... no wait...
make that under $30... $29.99 to be exact. In today's world that's
a bargain for any piece of software that actually does
I first used this
little jewel of an application back in an earlier version when I
needed a quick mock up for a client. If you’ve read more than
one of my reviews you know by now one of my keys to good software
is ease of use. Throw in a small learning curve and I'm hooked.
These features are generally lacking in most of the 2D/3D visual
arts applications available today and mostly for good reason. Yes
it takes skill to create good digital art but no one says the tools
have be like wearing a hair shirt or a millstone around your neck.
The better the tool the more creativity for some of us so we are
always looking for an edge... that app that sets our work apart or
is so incredibly efficient you can't help but LOOK for projects to
use it with. That elusive easy button.
"The drag and drop feature of the bubbles
and the panels remove
some of the biggest
time consuming and
technical hurdles in
This is where Comic Life comes in. In my review of iClone 6 I
was looking for a way to showcase single image renders and
remembered Comic Life. Sure enough... not only was it alive and
well it was updated to a new version. After doing a double take at
the low retail price, which I probably did when I first downloaded
it too, I was able to get into my account and get an updated
version up and running in minutes. After deciding on a campy 4 page
comic it was a simple matter to insert the artwork, add captions
and even manipulate the action labels in terms of warping, bending
and scaling. Plenty of thought bubbles and other items that can
really dress up the final version of a comic or graphic novel.
When opening up the application you are presented with options
on various templates and blanks of various sorts. There are scripts
and comics each with their own examples ready for you to use.
It’s not just comics either. There’s also some
How-To, Creative, Life Stories and Educational templates plus
After you choose your flavor you are then presented with a drag
and drop interface for your prepared artwork. This artwork can be
anything from hand drawn fine art or stick figures to 2D/3D
renderings and photographs. Just about any type of image can be
dumped into the panels for use.
The main interface is a simple layout placing the tools and artwork
in front of you. The left side menus show the actual pages in the
publication and the styles used. The drag and drop workspace is
located in the center of the user interface above a large menu bar
with all the bells, whistles and goodies needed to make an
interesting and visually aesthetic comic such as lettering,
captions and various bubbles.
The right side menu contains tabs holding the template set on
one tab and the template library on the second tab. Below these
tabs is a section that displays the selected artwork in a choice of
Photos, Explorer and Camera. This reviewer relied on the explorer
feature on a Windows pc.
PANELS THAT WORK
The core of this product and the one of the reasons for its ease
of use are the artwork panels. They are extremely versatile in that
you can reshape, resize and easily change the style of the panels.
A huge template library is provided that in itself is a tremendous
resource. In fact there are so many different template styles
included that it’s hard to believe this is a $30 piece of
The panels are simple drag and drop affairs. You can browse to your
artwork from a menu on the lower right side of the workspace or you
can drag and drop from any open explorer window (Windows) by just
hovering the artwork over the panel’s interior and releasing
the mouse button. Click on the panel once and you select the panel
for moving or scaling. Click again and you get a set of red shaping
handles (red dots) that you can grab and drag with the mouse to
reshape the panel. Click again and you have selected the artwork in
the panel which can then be manipulated via the inspector panel and
scaled or moved.
ARTWORK SPECIAL EFFECTS
With your artwork selected the Inspector menu gives a wide range of
filters to further modify or enhance your artwork. You can go to
black and white, thatched, pen, paint and many more. There is also
an entire menu of control sliders for Brightness, Exposure,
Saturation, Sharpness, Contrast and Blur.
BALLOONS AND TAILS
Now we come to an important part of this application and one
that makes using it so much fun. The balloons for speech and
thought are extremely versatile drag and drop tools with tails that
can be moved via a handle that allows you to push or pull it to the
There is also a curve handle on the tail if you drag it out long
enough to see a red dot. Combining this with the ability to
scale or rotate the bubbles makes these some of the most versatile
thought and speech bubbles this author has used.
Another very important feature is the ability to get your comic out
in to the wild so the public can view it. As obvious as this seems
there was a popular comic application years ago that was not as
versatile as Comic Life but produced a good comic. Trouble was you
had to jump through hoops. Comic life doesn’t suffer from
this problem as it gives you many export options from the CBZ
format for digital comics to the well known and widely used pdf
format. Comic Life also exports to eBook standard, Facebook,
ePub and images. An email option is also available.
Plasq has created a great tool at a budget price for anyone that
wants to quickly and easily create a comic, graphic novel or other
artwork driven publication. If you possess decent computer skills
and have or can create the artwork to tell a story then you need to
at least try this little jewel of a program . According to the
Plasq website there is a trial available.
M.D. McCallum (warlord720) is a International Award Winning
Graphics Artist, 3D Animator, 3D Sculptor and Published Author. He
is a staff writer and reviewer for the CG Industry news section
here at Renderosity.com. You can find more info on M.D. at