Featured Panels & Gutters & Zip Ribbons Software

Comic Life Magiq: My Troubleshooting Experiences

To be honest, I was not always happy with Magiq.  When I first downloaded the 1.0.2 version, it had a problem with displaying and exporting images. The results looked fuzzy and blurred in spots, and not up to par with Comic Life Deluxe.

Deluxe image export:

Magiq 1.0.2 image export:

My experience with Macintosh software taught me that, when in doubt, check the preferences. Deluxe used to have something similiar when WYSIWYG image filtering was turned on- so originally I thought it was a variation of that issue.

There were some toggles which appeared related, such as "New Comics Image Filter" under Preferences and the drop-down menu under Format>Comic. No such luck, even when testing high at 300 and low at ye old web-ready 72 dpi.

I investigated possible solutions with my source images. I thought perhaps they were too high or too low to properly internally display. Nada. I was miffed, to say the least. Magiq was written to utilize Quartz (the core graphics framework) that was already part of Leopard. My iMac  at the time was running 10.5.3.

The next logical step was to hit the plasq forums and see if anyone else was having the same or related problem. No luck there, either.
So I posted an initial query with a description of what was going on, and the links to the above images.

An important thing to remember about user forums is that participants come from a myriad of different skill levels and experiences. Most are civil. Some act like a schoolyard bully, and some just want to appear to be the most knowledgeable in the room. It’s best to ignore those and stay professional. I generally work under the assumption that if you are rude to your waiter, you  get the "special" sauce in your meal, no extra charge!

On the other hand, if a tech responds to their users in a disrespectful or unprofessional manner, it’s a good indication that you might want to look for an alternate software title. If I feel the need to report a problem, I stick to the facts. I find it usually gets me further than if I throw flames, insult the creators or technicians of the software, even if they’re acting huffy, oblivious to my specific problem, or could be moving a little faster thank you very much.

In this instance, plasq responded right away to my forum post and asked that I contact them directly, and upload the images via their submission form. Unfortunately that form did not work, so they were instead zipped and emailed directly. In all cases I got an automated confirmation of the receipt of my initial query as well as my follow-up queries.

A month later, Magiq version 1.0.3 came out and I was contacted by plasq and asked to give it a shot. The results were outstanding. The Magiq image is equivalent and arguably, slightly better than the Deluxe version.

Not all troubleshooting experiences with software and hardware will end this well.  Sometimes one will need to dig a little deeper via Google, or in third party forums to find another solution with a different product. One of my favorites is Mac OSX Hints.

Fortunately with plasq, they are enthusiastic about their software and very pleasant to deal with, often a good sign of a healthy product and company.


Graphics Panels & Gutters & Zip Ribbons Sequential Art

Making a Comic in Comic Life Magiq

Comic Life Magiq is an unusual product in plasq’s software line, as it’s not meant to be a replacement for Comic Life Deluxe. As an avid fan of the latter, I wanted to see if Magiq addressed some of my wishlist in templating and layout for my web comic. For folks not familiar with Comic Life Deluxe by plasq, not to worry. There will be some comparisons with Deluxe throughout the article, but the article is designed to get you going from the ground up. There is an assumption that you already have some content available.  Make sure that before you start it is formatted and ready for print, web, or other.  The good news for those in the "iApps" demographic is that this product has some templates created for your snapshots and keepsake type items so you can play with your photos and create dynamic photo and scrapbook albums. These templates already have what you need in terms of a layout, fonts, and captions. All of these can be further customized.

Let’s briefly look at the GUI. The first thing I recognized as an Apple ProApps user was the "I am a serious program" gray background, which sets the tone for Magiq’s introduction. It could possibly be intimidating to those familiar with Deluxe. But once you get passed that who-rearranged-my-furniture feeling, the GUI does make sense. The top has a navigation strip for browsing pages and some general options.

The toolbar on the left contains most of your custom options for each item selected within Magiq. It also has a wonderful feature in the enigmatic button named "Focus." When something is selected within Magiq, you hit the Focus button and it will lock down everything in your document except that isolated item. From there you can safely modify it without interfering with other parts of the comic. This is a great boon for content creators who have many objects and items. In order to get back to the whole document, simply click the button. The "Front" button duplicated the "Arrange" menu item in Deluxe (an identical feature of the same name in Adobe apps.)  This allows an object to be pushed forwards and backwards in order to have the right overlapping desired.

The bottom toolbar has word balloons, captions, FX lettering, and templates. It is set as a default to "ALL" which I like to keep on. However if you don’t have as much screen real estate, you can select individual views by clicking on the icons representing the different components.

The toolbars to the right contain your templates and panel layouts, the browser, and thumbnails of the selected content of your browser.

In the middle is your workspace. Like Deluxe, most everything in Maqiq is drag and drop. Here I already selected my template, and dragged a layout over from Panel Layouts.


One important word about the browser:

It will not automatically refresh. Which means any new content added will not show up.  This can be easily remedied by clicking this icon located in the upper right corner.

Let’s make a comic!

When you open Magiq, pick a blank layout to start with.

After it loads up and you see the GUI, go to Comic Life Magiq>Preferences. I set my "New comics filter images" to 300 dpi.  I want to make sure when I do my export that the image will be of good quality. Going from 300 to 72 dpi should be a lot cleaner than going 72 to an even lossier 72 dpi.  Also from Preferences, you can turn off sounds should you not find them amusing. Also, you can customize the library browsing, and units of measurement.

Next, go to File>Page Layout. From here you can select from a plethora of media sizes which have been expanded greatly from Deluxe. The Tao of I.T. Al is a custom layout of 600×600. I created this setting by setting the size I wanted and then applied it. To make it a template, simply go to File>Save As Template.  It will then show up at startup with your other templates.

When done, go to "Panel Layouts" in the right toobar and select a layout. Start dragging images from the browser, also on the right. If your folder is not showing up, you can drag it into the browser. And good news for those who like organization…it remembers this folder whenever you relaunch the program. As you drag your layouts and pictures, don’t worry If it is not exactly right. We can further modify it.  Notice when you click once on image, you see panel editing handles.  Clicking twice creates the image handles. In either case, you get this outline with tools:

The top purple arrows allow you to rotate. The bottom green arrows move the selection. The green handles around the image resize it. 

What is most interesting is the bottom orange tool, which calls up this popup toolbar:

This toolbar allows you to edit the paths on your objects, much like a vector graphic program (like Illustrator) would.

  • The first icon is the Shape chooser, which brings up a popup menu where you can turn your object into a variety of polygons.
  • The second is the selection tool, which is pretty much like every selection arrow tool known to man.
  • The third icon is the line bending tool, which allows you to grab a point and turn it into a convex or concave curve.
  • The fourth is the Line/corner smoothing tool which smooths out paths by straightening lines and rounding corners.
  • The fifth and six icons are the Add Point and Remove Point tools respectively. The last two are the Add Part and Remove Part Tool, which will come in handy later when we get to word balloons.

When you select your image, you’ll notice this icon to the upper right of your selection: 


When clicked, this will open up a graphics palette that will allow you to manipulate your images.

The Graphics Palette contains the following choices:

  1. Colors contains various color correction and manipution tools, as well as inversion and cropping.
  2. Cut-Out contains tools for cutting out parts of the image, chroma keying, appyling shapes, and masking options.
  3. Warp adds distortion effects similiar to photoshop and liquifying tools.
  4. Skin (pictured above) is interesting as it allows you to paint some textures into a graphic. Here I took some "flames" and applied them to the background to make it look like the building caught on fire. Filter is the familiar photo filter options. Paint allows you to paint several types of brushes directly on top of your image. "Reset Layer" will reset the image back to its former status. When you are finished, click done and it will return the edited graphic back into the normal Magiq GUI.
  5. Filter, although it sounds photoshop-esque is in fact various blur tools.
  6. Paint contains paint tools, including a 3d tube brush, which allows you to draw on top of your image. Right here is where you want to paint a mustache on your cousin.

Once the images are fully tweaked, it’s time to add some dialogue and captions. Simply choose the balloon or caption desired and drag it onto the canvas.

The default font is Lint McCree Intl bb 12.0. To select a different font, simply go to the left toolbar and select the "T" icon. There is an expanded list of fonts provided by Magiq, but you can also access your System fonts by selected that option at the bottom. Unfortunately, there does not seem to be a way to reset the default font. My workaround is to copy and paste balloons already have the desired font settings.

To those familiar with Deluxe, the feature of adding a connecting balloon appears missing. However, it’s been put into the popup toolbar accessed by the orange icon.

To add, simply hit the green "plus" symbol and an additional connected balloon will appear. This can be moved into a different position with a simple click and drag. To remove the additional balloon, select it and then hit the red "minus" symbol.

To make extra tails, do the same thing by clicking on the Add Part tool. To remove, click on the Remove Part and then the tail.

Note here that you can edit the balloon paths much like any other object in Magiq.

When you are done, go to File>Export. You will see a plethora of tabbed options with various configurations. You can send it to Email and Flickr (which has options for permissions on viewership.) HTML creates a webpage with thumbnails of your comic whichcan be used "as is" or be taken into your favorite HTML editor and be further manipulated. Image gives you the options to export as JPEG, GIF, PNG, or TIFF. You can also export it to iPhoto, iWeb, or as a PDF.

Congratulations. You have a comic!

If I had one gripe, it is that Magiq does present a problem to Deluxe users as you cannot open a Deluxe document within Magiq. If you have a large backlog of Deluxe documents, this creates a problem should you need to re-open Deluxe in order to back up and edit your comics to another medium.  For now you need both programs if you plan to migrate.

Graphics Panels & Gutters & Zip Ribbons Sequential Art Software Workflow

Creating a Web Comic with Comic Life

First, this article assumes you have content (even if it is only in your head) and ready to tackle the technical aspects of web comic creation.  In short, many artists still work traditionally by scanning their pencils and/or inked drawings and digitally coloring them in Photoshop.  However just as many create their work digitally either in Photoshop, Illustrator, or various 3D software programs.  The main rule for web comics is it needs to be developed quickly, in order to meet those daily, bi-weekly or weekly deadlines.  Which leads us to Comic Life Deluxe.