21 January 2008

Computers and Essential Computer Programs

As a modern comic self-publisher, you will need working knowledge of a computer and a few key computer programs. If you use a Mac or a PC, this will be no different. At bare minimum, you will need a functioning computer with the following program types:

1) word processor - for writing and editing scripts.
2) image editor - for creating and editing art, and lettering
3) desktop publishing - for putting it all together and getting it to the printer

Some may suggest that you run out and get the best machine, fully loaded with the latest versions of the most popular industry tools. Some may, but I'm not. I'm here to tell you what I use and what works for me.

Let's start with my computer. I'm a PC guy. I'm a PC guy because I like being able to take apart and put together my computer. That's just me, you may be different, but I'm telling you my way and I'm cheap. My computer in a 450 Mhz Pentium II machine with 768MB of RAM. It cost me $100 (including shipping on eBay about 2-3 years ago)plus another $100 to max out the RAM. My current monitor is a 17" CRT it cost me less than $100 (including shipping on eBay). I also have an HP Deskjet D1420 printer, an HP 3400C scanner and a Wacom Bamboo tablet. Those were about $250 combined and while nice, they are not really necessary, so I mention them only in passing.

My operating system is Windows 2000 Advanced Server. I'm a web developer by trade so it's nice to have a local web server for web site development. The side effect is that I learned that the server operating system requires less RAM and it less processor intensive than Windows XP. This leaves more RAM and processor power for my other programs and means that I can invest the money saved elsewhere.

My word processor is Word 2000 because it does it's job. Nothing more and nothing less. As a word processor Wordpad works just as well and ships (for free) with the Windows OS. Having Word in most cases, will allow you to easily open and create a wide ranges of document types. This becomes very handy when you are working with lots of different creators. Google also offers a free word processor at Google Docs.

My document type of choice for writing and editing is RTF (Rich Text Format). This format maintains all the formatting that you really need (bold, italics, tabs, etc) without all the unnecessary junk AND it's readable by most other word processors. This makes it extremely easy to pass documents back and forth. Google Docs also takes care of file compatibility and file sharing.

My image editors of choice are Photoshop and Illustrator both made by Adobe. I use Photoshop 7 and Illustrator 9. They both work well for me. I use Illustrator mainly for lettering and I use Photoshop for almost everything else. I recently discovered that Photoshop 7 does not always work with Windows Vista, so if you're using Vista, I suggest you check invest in Photoshop CS3.

I don't really have a program that's designed exclusively for desktop publishing. All the printers that I use accept TIFF and/or PDF files. For those that accept TIFF files, I use Photoshop to export files as TIFFs and I'm done. For those the require PDF files, I use Photoshop to create single page PDF files of each one of my pages and then I use PDF Split-Merge to merge the pages all together into a single file that gets sent off to the printer.

And that's it. Those are all the programs that I use on a regular basis to produce comics.

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