|Josiah's Sprite Comic Guide
Part 7: Creating Simple Special Effects
If you've made it through the previous six guides you should now know all the basics of making a sprite comic. But what if you want to spiff you comics up, you know, do something a bit fancier? Whether it's a simple glow or a giant explosion, good special effects can really liven things up, while bad ones could leave your comic looking kinda amateurish. There's a million kinds of special effects and the whole process of creating them is something that you get better at the more you try and experiment. So, while I can't teach you anywhere near everything, I can give some pointers to get you started.
Effects in MS Paint
No matter what version of Windows you have, Paint is a bare bones art program. If you check the Image menu you'll find options to flip, rotate, resize, and skew images or selections and to invert the colors. And, well, that's about it. If you want many special effects in Paint you'll have to draw them yourself. And that basically boils down to how good you are at pixel art. For example, you can draw a thick outline around an object to add a glow of sorts and you can try and pull off translucency effect by using a color that's partway between the background and the translucent object, although that can be pretty tough to do effectively by hand.
Unlike Paint, which has virtually no built in special effects, Photoshop has so many that it can be overwhelming to a new user. It can take years of work to truly master all of Photoshop's features. But anyway, most of the special effects in Photoshop can be broken into two categories, filters and layer styles. And, if you couldn't tell by the title of this section, we're gonna start with filters.
Blur: If you want to soften or smooth something up, make it look a bit fuzzier, or any of a dozen other things, just apply a normal blur.
Those three account for the vast majority of my filter use in PV but that's barely scratching the surface of what filters can do. Like I said, take an hour or two sometime and play around with the different filters. Apply one, undo it, apply another, and compare results. Trying tweaking the settings on a filter and see how different the result is. When you get comfortable with that, try applying a combination of several filters to an image. It's amazing what you can do with a bit of creativity and the right combination of filters.
Photoshop Layer Styles
While many special effects in Photoshop are done with filters, for some things you'll need to give layer styles a try. You can access layer styles from the Layer Style submenu of the Layers menu but it's easier to just double click on the layer you want to modify in the layers palette (Note: you need to double click on the thumbnail or an empty area, not on the title or visibility check box). Once more the best way to learn how to effectively use layer styles is to play around with them for a while but here's a quick rundown.
Blend Mode, Opacity, & Fill: Opacity is simple enough, 100% is normal. Anything less and the and layer will start to become translucent. Fill Opacity is similar except that it only affects the layer image itself, not whatever layer styles you apply to it. This can make for some neat effects if used right. Blend mode is much more complicated and deals with how a layer is displayed in relation to the layer beneath it. It would take too long for me to explain the details here so just play around with it and you should get a basic idea of how it works.
A Few Tips about Special Effects
First off, and most importantly, don't over use special effects. It can be tempting to use fancy effects all the time, especially when you're just starting out or just learned out to do some cool new effect, but you need to learn to resist the temptation. Put too many effects in and your comic is going to look overcrowded and a bit amateurish. For example, you don't need motion blurs each time something moves (trust me, I over used motion blurs early in PV) and you don't need explosions or fancy lighting effects in every other panel. Look at your strip, think about what parts, if any really need special effects, and work from there, being careful not to get carried away.
Special effects can add a lot to the graphical presentation of your comic but they can take a lot of time to master and need to be used with care. But they can also be a lot of fun so play around and enjoy yourself, just don't overdue it.
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