If you're an indy creator, you might want to look into the cool fonts over at Blambot offers some excellent free fonts for independent creators. Some of the fonts are available for a reasonable fee, which also applies to professionals who wish to use them. Blambot also has a wide range of balloons, sound effects and symbols, all of which are extremely useful and well crafted.

I suggest you turn off anti-aliasing so that the balloons are crisp. It's not necessary though. I also suggest you leave "Constrain Proportions" box checked, otherwise your balloon can rasterize with odd proportions.

Now, to draw the balloon all that remains is to fill it with white and stroke it. This can all be handled from the keyboard to speed the process up. Hit [D] to toggle default colors black & white. Then [X] to swap them, so that white is in the foreground. Then fill the selection using [shift + backspace/delete].

Hit [X] again to swap the foreground and background colors again and then stroke the selection [edit>stroke...]. I use the following settings:

Your balloon should look similar to this:

To finish it off, threshold the entire balloon (stroking can leave and anti-aliased line) and then flatten the image.

This can get a little tiresome after the 10th time, so I've created an action you can use which will make the process even faster!

Balloons can also be created using the path tool. Although a little more complicated, paths work equally well.

First, using the Pen tool, rough in a balloon form around your text.

Next, switch to the Convert Point tool and edit the bezier curves to smooth out the points. This takes some practice to get a good result, so a little patience is important. In this picture, I'm getting close:

Finally, I've got the balloon the way I want it.

Now it's time to edit the shape's properties. Bring up the Layer Style window by double clicking on the shape preview icon in the Layers palette. Alternately, you can access them in the [layer>layer style>blending options...].

Change the Color Overlay to 100% and change its color to white.

look similar to this:

Next, set the Stroke option on and to the following settings:

You can turn off all the other Layer Style options. Make sure your shape is underneath your text layer and it should

From here it's a simple matter of flattening your image to finalize it. Depending on your settings and preferences, you may wish to Threshold the image as well, since it will probably be anti-aliased.

The shapes technique is a little more involved, but shapes can be saved and resused, cutting future balloon rendering times dramatically. They resize well too. The custom Layer Style settings can also be saved, so that your balloons will all be uniform and very sharp looking. ■

9 Output

Once you're done editing your images there are some important concepts to be aware to get the best possible results in printing.

LPI stands for Lines Per Inch. LPI is used as a measurement of halftone size, and was touched on a bit in chapter 6. It's important to check with your printer and know which LPI he or she is using. LPI controls the size of the halftone dots. During the printing process, ink has a tendency to spread a little. This is known as "Dot Gain." If your halftone is too fine for the paper, your dots will all bleed into one another producing a much darker image than you had intended. A high LPI such as 150 is suitable for high quality paper, but would yield weak results on newsprint. A 65-85 LPI would be a little more grainy, but probably print a lot closer in contrast to your original image.

Unfortunately, paper and ink quality is not always in your control. Printers generally have a good handle on these matters, but if you're aware of the some of the printing pitfalls, you can use some common sense to avoid some obvious mistakes.

Knowing the LPI your printer intends to use is important because it can also affect your decision on which resolution to use. As your halftone gets larger, you're not able to see as much detail, so your file resolution doesn't need to be as large. The rule of thumb is your DPI should be twice the value of your LPI. A typical comic page is printed at perhaps 133 or 150 LPI. In this case, 266 or 300 DPI would be sufficient information for this file. Be careful though, since this formula only applied to halftones. If you have any 100% black linework, it will not be halftoned and can appear a bit jaggy at 300 dpi. Lettering tends to be the biggest giveaway. Any black lines that are situated directly against halftones are difficult to spot.

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