Creating a comic strip using open source tools

Creative Cartooning

Article from Issue 220/2019
Author(s):

Did you know that the Elvie cartoon strip in this magazine is created entirely using open source software? With this behind-the-scenes look at the process, you might be inspired to create the next big webcomic.

It was a little over five years ago that the Elvie cartoon appeared in the first issue of Linux Voice, but its genesis dates back far further. Way back in 1994, two friends, Mark (your correspondent) and Vince (a talented artist), installed CorelDRAW from a magazine cover disk in order to play around with vector graphics. A shared interest in cult TV and science-fiction led to their first comic series, The Greys, under the name of Peppertop Comics [1], with Vince creating the artwork to go with Mark's words.

Life got in the way, and the cartoon fell by the wayside. By 2009, however, Mark had been experimenting with Inkscape [2] – a free software program for creating vector graphics. They decided to migrate the old comics to the new software and try launching the series as a webcomic. It was a moderate success, with a fan following that encouraged Mark and Vince to continue pushing out new cartoons every couple of weeks. Keen to encourage their readers to start playing around with FOSS, they made the source files available for download. Each strip also included additional Easter eggs, which could often only be found by downloading the files and opening them in Inkscape.

A commission for a weekly cartoon in a local newspaper followed. Again, Inkscape was used as the main program of choice. But to give the new strip a different feel, they chose to use hand-drawn graphics that were scanned, then converted to vectors in Inkscape. This approach let them build up a large library of backgrounds, characters and props that could easily be reused again and again, speeding up the creation of the cartoons to maintain the pace of weekly publication.

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