Creating comic strips can be an effective method of communicating for the young and a great way for teachers to encourage reluctant writers to start producing stories. There are a growing number of free comic strip websites available online where visitors can easily digitally create their own comic strip story.
As our next 123ICT computing competition will be to create a comic strip which promotes Online Safety (full details of this competition will appear on this blog shortly), I thought that it might be useful to share with you my experiences of a couple of comic strip websites that I have tried out recently.
Make Beliefs Comix
The first online comic strip creation tool that I tried was Make Beliefs Comix. With this tool, students can easily create their own comic strips and a variety of characters allows the freedom to write about many topics.
An advantage of this tool is that you do not have to create an account or log-in to use it. However, in order to save it to your PC, generate a PDF, or email a link to the comic strip you do have to provide an email address. There is also an option to save the comic strip online but you have to create a free account to do this.
I enjoyed using the tool but found it a little bit basic in some ways; however, it did provide enough functionality and features for me to quite quickly create a reasonably respectable cartoon strip (below):
You begin with three blank panels, which can be increased to a maximum of 18, and start by adding items from the following categories to your panels:
- Balloons & Prompts (speech bubbles, etc. for typing text in)
- Greetings Cards
- Words (EEK, POW, ZAP, etc.)
- Background Colours
Each category is located below the strip panels and each of these provides a scrolling display which has a number of different items to choose from, although I found the choice sometimes a bit limited. You select an item by clicking on it and it will appear in the panel that you have selected.
Below the panel that you are working on, a small menu appears which provides a Menu Help, Dialogue Prompts and editing tools that let you move, scale, bring to front, flip and delete any of the items that you placed in the panel. Again, whilst I found these tools mostly adequate, they were at times a bit limited – you cannot alter the pose or expression of characters for example.
I managed to create my short, six panel, online safety comic strip in a little under an hour ( I could have taken longer by adding backgrounds and other effects) and overall, I was quite pleased with how Make Beliefs Comix performed. Yes, there are other comic strip creation tools available that provide more functions; however, for a completely free application which is very easy to use, I think that is definitely worth a try and I also think that children will enjoy creating stories with it.
The second online comic strip creation tool that I tried was Storyboard That. This tool has many more functions and features than the previous one that I tried; however, it requires creating an account and you are only allowed to create two free comic strips per week. There is a premium subscription version for education which has considerably more features and unlimited use – it also has a 14 day free trial available. I would suggest trying the free version before contemplating trialing the premium version.
I found Storyboard That very slick and versatile to use and in about an hour, I created a very presentable comic strip (below):
The following video gives a brief overview of how Storyboard That works:
The ability to change the pose and expression of the characters in Storyboard That is really useful. There is a whole host of features with this tool that allows you to produce extremely presentable comic strips. I have not listed them, as I did for the previous tool reviewed, because I feel the video above provides sufficient insight. Each of the categories (characters, backgrounds, etc). have sub-menus and the items in the sub-menus, provide further choices. Each of the items that you can add to the storyboard panels are all very editable. One minor annoyance that I found was that I could not find a laptop to add to my comic strip from the items provided in the menus. There is the option to upload your own images to add to the comic strip with the premium version, but not with the free one. I got round this by choosing a background that had a computer in it.
Both of these comic strip websites did what I wanted and each had some really good points and some not so good points; however, considering they are both free to use, there is nothing really to complain about. I suggest that you give them both a try, along with any of the others that are freely available online that you may wish to explore. You might just find what you are looking for to get those reluctant writers going and also perhaps inspire your class to enter the forthcoming 123ICT Online Safety Comic Strip Competition, which promises to have great prizes!