Make Comics Online With Comicbrush

Tim Demeter is a cartoonist and the editor* of the anthology site, Graphic Smash.  More recently he’s been the Editor-in-Chief of Clickwheel, a site that publishes comics for the iPhone/iPod format.  Now he’s leading the roll out of Comicbrush, a website designed for anyone to create comics from its online toolset.  I’ve gotten a chance to play around with ComicBrush since it was in beta and it’s a pretty fun tool to use.  It’s certainly not going to replace the toolset of many skilled and successful creators but it should be a solid platform for a lot of people with an interest in making comics to do so easily and quickly and post them into a community that can provide feedback.

We got a chance to catch up with Tim on his various projects.

Give me the twitter on (140 characters or less!)

Comicbrush is about introducing comics and comic creation to audiences who might otherwise not give the medium a try. We want to introduce the fun of creating and sharing comics to anyone and everyone.

I need to DISCLOSE here, I got to play around with Comicbrush while it was in a closed Beta.  I had fun.  It’s a very easy site to use. What kinds of feedback did you get during the Beta period and were there any significant changes you made to the site because of that feedback?

Most of the changes we made during BETA were relatively small usability issues.  We’ve been working on this site for some time and
we had gotten to most of the kinks ourselves at that point.  We did however receive some ideas to enhance the service such as greater integration with existing social networks that we are working on right now.

Okay, one geek question – it’s a very slick site, what was it built on/with?

The drawing app is Flash and the store is Ruby on Rails.

Part of Comicbrush is the store where you can buy art packs to use in your comics.  What’s the deal for putting art packs into the store?  Is there an opportunity for outside artists to create and submit artpacks for Comicbrush?

Definitely.  I’ve recruited a stable of artists to create the art packs for us but I’m always looking for new talent.  If you’d like to get involved just email me at timdemeter’at’ along with some links to your work.  If you already have a comic of your own and want to upload an artpack so your fans can create mash-ups  and fan art using your artwork, again, just shoot me an email.

I really had fun messing around with the comic creation part of the site.  There’s a lot of politcal figures in the art packs available right now so it lends itself well to the current election season in the United States.  I just did one to play around with it (see above).  For the most part the tools are pretty intuitive – resizing, rotating, colors, etc.  One of the things I thought worked surprisingly well was the shaping of the word balloons.  What ideas and goals did you have when you set out to design this part of the site?

The goal with Comicbrush is to make creating comics as easy as starting a blog or uploading a YouTube video or any of the like.
Being a creator myself I know what goes into making a comic and what the essential tools would be.  We also wanted all of the tools to be entirely web based and entirely free.  That in mind we didn’t want to try and recreate Photoshop.  Our thinking is that if you know enough to want a clipping path or to do serious transformations on an image you probably HAVE Photoshop or similar image editing software.  Our goal is to provide the basics for the casual creator to fun making comics, though we are working on some power tools for more serious creators which will be crafted more around improving a creators workflow rather than providing straight-up creative tools.

I like the sharing tools – there’s an easily marked email and facebook choice.  Will there be one for straightforward embedding in blogs and other sites?

Definitely.  This is one of top priorities now.  With the drawing app done we now want to maximize what people can do with their creations. We’re happy to hear suggestions about this type of thing.  If enough people tell us they’d like us to integrate Comicbrush with site X we will probably do it.  The fans of Clickwheel asked for CBR files and we gave it to them and we will continue to respond to the needs of our users at Comicbrush.

It looks like you’re storing images with Amazon’s Web Services? Is that a pretty cost-effective approach for what could become a pretty hefty storage requirement for this site?

Amazon’s hosting services are top notch and dirt cheap.  (Hey Amazon, how about a little love for the plug!)

There’s also  a community aspect to the site – the main part of that would be the galleries. Will more social type things be added to that part of the site?  Comments on comics, ratings of comics, friending other users – that sort of thing?

Comments are coming very soon.  I’m not sure we’re going to go the ‘friending’ route though.  There are plenty of sites that do that
already.  Subscribing to a user’s comics or becoming a fan is something you’re likely to see though.

Copyright questions inevitably always come up with a hosted service/site — what is the copyright situation with work created and posted on Comicbrush?

The stuff we have currently is all work for hire stuff.  I’m very conscious of this too and I’m very careful about how I handle things.
When I contract an artist I provide them a very detailed list of what I need drawn, so I’m not asking for any IP even if we do own the art.
The work is straight-up ‘draw this’ and I think we’re paying a very competitive rate for the work.  In time, you will see characters and
worlds created especially for Comicbrush but I’ll be the one coming up with those properties.  That said, we want to eventually include
characters from existing comics and in that case we will not own the artwork, rather we’ll pay something of a flat reoccurring royalty fee
to have the art on the site with bonuses for high sales.


* An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Tim Demeter as a former editor of Graphic Smash.  ComixTALK regrets the error.

Xaviar Xerexes

Wandering webcomic ronin. Created Comixpedia (2002-2005) and ComixTalk (2006-2012; 2016-?). Made a lot of unfinished comics and novels.