Making of a Dio-Story Part 3: The Speech Balloons

You know, I was considering skipping this one entirely, just to tick off Mike, but I know a lot of people have been wondering about this, so I figure in spite of my desire to tweak him, I’d help other folks out.  ;)

I’m going to cover a few different ways to produce the desired speech balloons, using a few easier ways to do it first, and then finishing off with my own personal way.  Some of these methods require specific software, though some of it is easily attainable.  To demonstrate the Speech Bubble Creation methods, I’m going to use an image that I am planning on putting into a review coming up shortly.  I’ll try each method and let you determine which one works best.

Method 1: BlamBot

I know the first question…  Blambot?  What the heck is a Blambot?!?

Blambot is a site from a talented group of artists that provide letters, fonts, and effects to comc book professionals, and they offer some of the same services to the general public through their website.  There are a lot of “pay to play” offerings there, but there are also some free resources, like Word Balloons.  Here’s my problem with this method.

First, you need to download the .zip file, which extracts to .eps files, that are vector images that can only be opened and used (transformed, etc…) by Image Editing software.  If you’ve got the Image Editing software already, frankly, it’s a whole lot easier to just use my own preferred method (which we’ll discuss a bit further down).  Not only that, but you can try using the .eps files, but you risk distorting them if you enlarge them too much (because Photoshop converts them from vector to raster images) and you end up with a blurry, somewhat cruddy looking balloon.  So, this is a method, but in my mind it’s clunky and not very user-friendly.

Method 2 – PowerPoint

This is another recommendation I’ve seen made, but unfortunately it’s fraught with the same issues as the Blambot solution.  PowerPoint has “Clipart” available, and some of that clipart involves Word Balloons.  It’s possible to insert a Word Balloon into a Powerpoint slide, and heck, that slide can even be your dio-story image… however, like the Blambot solution, these are pre-positioned vector images that would require lots of transforming and rotating in order to get the desired effect.  It’s definitely possible (especially if you don’t have Photoshop) but in my mind, it’s not the most desirable.

To me, the choice is clear.  Granted, you need photo editing software…preferably one that works with layers (which most of them do).  But if you can do that, making Word Balloons is a few simple steps away.

Method 3 – Make ’em yourself!

First, I start with my blank image:

Based on that image, I decide where I want the balloon and what words I want the subject to say.  I actually type the font out first.  I use “DigitalStrip” which is a comic dialog font that can be found for free at the aforementioned Blambot site.

For the font orientation, I just try to follow a basic oval shape and adjust the structure of the sentences so it fills out a circle/oval as closely as possible.  It’s never perfect, but it usually works all right.  You also want to obviously make sure you’re not going to cover up too much of the image or block the person that’s talking.

Photoshop works in “Layers” as well (as do most other image editors out there), so in the case above the background image is on the first layer, and the font is one the second layer.  It might look like this:

So the next step is to pop another new layer in between those two layers, essentially creating a sandwich around your new blank layer.

On this layer you want to create a selection using the oval selection tool.

Next you want to choose the “Polygonal Lasso” tool, which looks like a normal lasso, but with the angled shapes, so you make sure your lines are straight.  This is important:  HOLD DOWN THE SHIFT KEY and click inside the oval selection area.  Once you’ve activated the polygonal lasso, release shift, then draw a line up to the character’s mouth.  Click once to create part of the polygon, then draw another line close to the first back down inside the oval selection.  Click on last time, and you’ll end up with your “frame”:

Next you just make sure you’ve got that new layer selected and then fire up the paintbrush, select “white” for the foreground color, and color in the lines.

Of course that looks a bit “flat”.  In order to make it stand out a bit, you need to use the “Stroke” layer style.  It’s called a “Layer Style” in Photoshop, but may have somewhat different names in other programs, but I believe the “stroke” term is universal.  In Photoshop you’ll find it here:

And you’ll want to adjust the settings to suit your needs.  I use the following:

What that essentially does is add a dark outline around the frame of the layer (which remember, is just your selection).  So now you end up with your final result:

Now you’ll have to trust me when I say it’s a lot easier than it looks, as long as you have the right software.  There are always ways around the software issue.  If you read my previous post I gave you a lot of resources (some that were free) for your photo editing needs.  If you need some more help, there are a lot of places out there that offer tutorials, including Word Balloons:

Heck, there’s even YouTube:

I hope you found this helpful, and please let me know if you have any questions!  I know this isn’t an easy process, but I think it will be worth it in the long run.  Stay tuned, more articles are coming! 

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