If you want to get your point across, it pays to tell a good story – and while presentation programs and web-based templates do a passable job, there are other ways to achieve similar results – and maybe have some fun at the same time. On the face of it, Comic Life for Windows and Mac is a program for telling stories using digital photographs, but with a bit of imagination you’ll discover this versatile page layout program has all manner of uses.
A wide array of uses
Earlier versions of Comic Life set the standard for creating not just photo-based comics with captions and speech bubbles, but many different kinds of printed communication – posters, invitations, step-by-step tutorials, souvenirs, scrapbooks, photo collages – in fact anything that uses visuals to tell a story.
Essentially, you choose a layout, drag photos from your library onto the pages (they’re positioned and re-sized automatically) add captions and speech bubbles, any extra graphics and then style the whole page using various effects and colours. Version 2.0 for the Mac (there’s no Windows equivalent yet) builds on these features, re-jigs the interface and also adds more of the good stuff: including more comic-style fonts and panel layouts.
So what’s been added to the latest edition? First up, while earlier versions included page layouts, now you get full-blown templates which include panel layouts, colour schemes, graphics, styles and so on. There are only 19 of them, but each comes complete with multiple pages for instant, paint-by-numbers comics – as well as plenty of bare-bones panel layouts that you can embellish in the same style.
It’s now possible to add 10 new standard shapes like arrows, triangles, ovals and squares or create your own complete with smooth Bezier curves, drop shadows, fills and gradients. Speech bubble tails’ (the bit that points to someone’s mouth) have been improved so you can alter the bend in a tail as well as its general position – this means you can bend it around objects in a photograph that you want the reader to be able to see. It also allows for much finer positioning of your speech bubbles.
Version 2.0 also offers better control over the way words wrap inside bubbles and captions, which means you don’t have to faff around re-sizing them manually or adjusting the margins. The result? Fewer white spaces and neater text. Elsewhere, there’s a quick and easy Facebook uploader that does all the necessaries like creating a photo album, defining who can see it (everyone, friends only and so on) and then shooting it up to the site.
The new interface is colourful and intuitive enough, although the program does feel a tiny bit sluggish compared to the previous version. Even so, Comic Life 2.0 has so much to offer at such a good price that it’s definitely worth the upgrade for anyone who enjoys making photo comics – and anyone who looks beyond that will recognise all sorts of other ways that this excellent product might be used.
The flexibility of the layout and editing tools mean that this is also a good choice for anyone who wants to create other kinds of publications - scrapbooks, collages, posters, party menus, tutorials and so on. Highly recommended.