201: Writing & Publishing: Digital Comics, Part 1

Digital Comics: Overview

For this project you will interpret a short story of your choice (from the provided collection of student short stories by Bryan Fry’s creative writing class) as a digital comic strip using photographs and graphics you research and edit yourself. We will discuss examples of ways in which written material is interpreted using visual strategies (image mode & illustration, sequencing, hierarchy, color, fonts), and look at examples of both printed and digital comic strips.

Part 1: Image Sequence & Digital Photography

Our creative goal is to find, sequence, and edit digital photos to tell a story. Based on our discussion, you will recreate or interpret your story using found images edited using computer software (Photoshop) meant for resolution-based imagery (bitmap/raster images). Plan to interpret your story using a minimum of five digital images, each from different sources. You must have permission to use the images, so they need to have creative commons licenses or be in the public domain. Edit these images to suit your creative goal: How can you use framing/cropping and image adjustments (color vs. black & white, saturation, blurring, collage effects, clone stamp, etc.) to make these images suit your needs? How can you edit and arrange these images in order to tell a story using the power of juxtaposition and sequencing? Pay close attention to image resolution and plan for a consistently-sized final presentation to be printed at high quality (300 dpi) on an 11×17 sheet of paper. For details, see “What You Will Turn In” below.

This example from Timothy Samara's "Design Elements: A Graphic Style Manual" demonstrates the power of sequencing.

This example from Timothy Samara’s “Design Elements: A Graphic Style Manual” demonstrates the power of cropping, juxtaposition, and sequencing.

What Are Bitmap Graphics?

Bitmap—also know as raster graphics—are computer images which are based on a grid of small dots known as pixels. Each of these pixels is assigned a particular color or shade of gray, and when viewed at a distance these dots combine to compose an image.

Bitmap images are usually in formats such as JPEG, GIF, TIFF, or PNG and have an associated resolution, or level of detail. Images on computer screens are generally 72 pixels per inch (ppi), while images for print are much higher, at least 300ppi. A higher pixel resolution means there is more visual information stored in the image, which can be enlarged or viewed at larger physical sizes without distortion or blurriness.

Pixel resolution is different from spatial resolution, or the physical size of the image. Two images can be sized at 10 inches wide, which is the size they would print on a sheet of paper. But a 10 inch wide image at 300ppi would be 3000 pixels wide, while a 72ppi image would only be 720 pixels wide. There would be 9,000,000 total pixels in the former, and only 518,400 in the latter.

Bitmap images are generally created or manipulated using Adobe Photoshop, which are saved in the PSD format. Photoshop allows you to make changes to resolution, image quality (black and white versus color, brightness, saturation, etc.), transparency, and to composite different images together using layers. Photoshop also has type, shape, and painting tools. Finally, you can use Photoshop to save your final image in one of the other formats listed above, which are required for various types of output (for example, to post a photographic image on a website, you will likely save it as a JPEG).

Required Readings



  • Image Resolution (view or print the PDF, created by your instructor) and download accompanying image files: image-res-demo
  • Photoshop Workspace (Adobe Help, 5 minutes)
  • Edit Your First Photo in Photoshop (Adobe Help, 23 minutes)
  • Use additional Photoshop tutorials as needed from Adobe Help. Here are some suggestions (If there is no link, search for a tutorial in Adobe Help or elsewhere):
  • Crop Tool
  • Blending Modes
  • Image Adjustment Layers
  • Clipping Masks
  • Alignment
  • Clone stamp or healing brush
  • Selections
  • Layer masks

Image Research Resources


Learning Objectives

Visual Literacy:

  • Making meaning by choosing, editing, sequencing, and juxtaposing photographs

Digital Techniques:

  • Basics of raster/bitmap graphics in Photoshop
  • Image resolution
  • Scaling images proportionately
  • Cropping images
  • Layers
  • Image adjustments/enhancement
  • Saving images in various formats for print and web viewing: PSD, JPG
  • File organization

Research Techniques:

  • Locating, downloading, and crediting public domain or creative commons licensed images
  • Locating appropriate instructional tutorials to expand technical knowledge of digital tools

Recommended Workflow

  1. Download 10 or more images you think you could use for your sequence, making sure they have enough pixels for good print quality. Copy the relevant information you will need in order to cite each image into a word doc. (This is the citation checklist you will need to fill out to hand in.) Put these files in a folder called “originals”.
  2. Open each image systematically and adjust to 300 ppi, making sure resample is unchecked. Resave in a folder called “work”, this time choosing Photoshop, or PSD, under the format option.
  3. Now you are ready to work on each Photoshop file, editing the image so it will suit your purposes for the sequence. Remember to save the layers you create in these files. You will need to flatten these layers temporarily in order to transfer the image to your final sequence file, or use the “copy merged” choice from the Edit menu.
  4. You may choose to crop each image before transferring it to your final sequence file, or you can do it in the sequence file itself using clipping masks.
  5. Make sure the final sequence file is 11 x 17, 300ppi. Save layers here as well.


What You Will Turn In

Reminder: Comic strip must be at least 5 frames, using 5 Creative Commons-licensed or public domain images, each from a different source. See your instructor if you are an advanced student working with more than 5 images.


  1. Digital comic printed at high quality on an 11×17 sheet of paper (Make sure to print the night before. Go to CougarCopies in the CUB if the AML printers are down.)
  2. Written reflection sheet (download and print).

Digital Files:

Your files/folders must be named, organized, and saved exactly as specified here, all within a main folder named: “yourlastname-yourfirstname-01” (So my main folder would be “becker-kristin-01”). You will lose a point for each time you fail to follow these instructions. Capitalization and spaces count when naming files (No caps! No spaces!):

  1. In a subfolder called “originals”: All 5 original images that you use in your final comic strip, saved exactly as they were downloaded.
  2. In a subfolder called “work”: Each of your separate images with all Photoshop work intact (keep layers if they exist), saved as PSD at 300ppi.
  3. Your final Photoshop file with all images cropped, placed, and ordered to make your comic. Layers should be intact. Name this file “yourlastname-yourfirstname-01.psd”. (This should reflect exactly what you printed to hand in.)
  4. Your final file flattened in Photoshop (no layers), saved as a high quality JPEG: “yourlastname-yourfirstname-01.jpg”
  5. Citation checklist, saved as word doc, with appropriate credits and links to each of your five source images, named “yourlastname-yourfirstname-01.docx”

TBA: Digital files will be handed in via a shared class folder on the AML server OR on your thumbdrive. Your instructor will announce this shortly. Stay tuned…

This is the rubric that will be used to grade Digital Comics, Part 1.