FireAlpaca: Digital Art Lite

During the creation of my group’s webcomic, I took up the role as artist. I had learned how to create digital art via Photoshop during this semester in a different class, so I considered using it for the webcomic. However, I don’t actually own the program on my own computer, and drawing in the digital lab would be way more time consuming than doing it with a cup of coffee in the comfort of my own room. So I decided to use something free and easy work with. GIMP was the recommended program for our class, but I get confused pretty easily and already got used to the works of Photoshop, so I decided to go with a different program I was already familiar with.

The program I used is called FireAlpaca. It’s free to download and caters toward digital art in terms of comics/manga production. Syncing the program to a drawing tablet takes no time at all – I just plugged in my ten-year-old Wacom Bamboo and it registered immediately – and the program has an “Add Panel Material” function. This function lets you set line thickness, generates a border for you, and then allows you to cut through your page and create as many panels as you need. Once you make one panel, you can slice through that panel and make it into two!

This tool saved my life as I went about the comic drawing process. It was easy to generate consistent pages and alter the panel styles enough to make each page different. There were some issues, however; the gutters automatically went vertical or horizontal unless I held down shift as I drew them, and if I was trying to make a diagonal line from a corner, sometimes it wouldn’t register and other times it would cut some of the panel’s corner up, which was a bit frustrating. I just learned to avoid corners when drawing panel lines in order to prevent this problem from persisting.

FireAlpaca, like I said before, also registers the use of a drawing tablet, so I could draw every part of the comic in the same program that the panels were. The drawing tools are simple and comprehensive, so it only takes a little messing around to understand and get the type of drawing tool you want.

This program was great for my group’s webcomic purposes, although I’ll emphasize that it is really, really simple. There aren’t many effects available for very detailed art, although there is a paid version that I’m sure is much fancier.

Still, there are many facets of this program that I have not used, so I won’t knock it too much. FireAlpaca works perfectly if you’re looking to try out digital art and don’t have the chops to work a snazzy paid-for program. For future Graphic Novel students who would likely need a simpler start to the comic-making process, I would highly recommend checking FireAlpaca out. It’s easy, simple, and probably my saving grace during the drawing part of my group’s webcomic.

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