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Balloons and Titles and Captions, Oh My

Once the photos have all been placed and resized, it’s time to add a title, some speech balloons, and captions. I decided to add an image in the top-left panel to serve as a backdrop for my title. Like everything in Comic Life, titles are drag-and-drop. You simply click the word POW in the bottom center of the interface and drag it to the position you want. Next, a dialog box opens that lets you enter some text for your title. Click the Place Lettering button to add your text. When the text is selected, you’ll see the Style drop-down list at the top center of the interface, listing the text style you’re using. I went with the default setting, but there are dozens of presets to choose from, utilizing different fonts and gradient fills. On the right, you can see the lettering’s style attributes listed. Here you can change the fill of the lettering from solid to gradient, select solid or gradient fill colors, rotate the gradient fill, change the lettering’s outline attributes, and so on. You can also give it a drop shadow or even a glow by setting the shadow’s color to something that’s lighter than the background image and adjusting the offset and blur settings accordingly.

Besides dragging a title’s handles to deform it, you can also drag on its interior grayish circle to move it or drag on the pink two-way arrow to rotate it. While attempting to move the title font I had a "happy accident" (shown in Figure 5). Instead of clicking the grayish circle in the center of the text I grabbed and dragged the bottom center control point and created the text title effect you see in the finished comic. I’d like to see this kind of freeform text envelope distortion—called Bending in Comic Life—make an appearance in Illustrator; it’s just that cool. In the Lettering Attributes area, you can further manipulate your text by clicking the Skew and Stagger buttons.

Figure 5

Figure 5 Bending title text

What would a comic strip be without speech balloons? Comic Life has these in spades. Balloons, which are found in the same area as text and captions, can be locked, have straight or curved tails, and have different fills and gradients. Like text, balloon gradients use two colors; you can rotate their fills, assign shadows to them, and change the shadow’s offset and blur. Select the center gray four-way arrow to move an entire balloon, drag one of the green handles to resize it, or drag the orange handle to move its tail. By using the special Extend balloon, you can create multiple joined balloons. As with most objects in Comic Life, you can choose from a list of presets and also save your own custom balloon styles. After you drag a balloon onto a panel, just start typing to change the default text to whatever you want. For the most part, I used regular speech balloons and a few thought balloons, but you can choose from a whole gamut of comic staples including exclamations and whispers. As you can see in Figure 6, changing balloon styles can really convey a certain mood.

Figure 6

Figure 6 Changing the mood with a balloon preset

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