Setup (part5) Finally! ComicPress!

It’s been so long since I’ve installed ComicPress that I really don’t know how to do it anymore. These days I just copy my stylesheet from one comic into another, and then replace the header with the correct one. The things I tend to change are:

  • Background image. I like pattern8 for repeatable background images, although you can always create your own if you’re patient enough to make sure things line up properly!
  • Text and Link colors. If you’re going with a dark background color/image make sure your text is light enough to read. If you have a light background color/image use a darker text. Pick link colors that blend with the feel of your comic – you don’t have to stick to plain black and white. Check out this fantastic Color Wizard to see what kinds of color schemes look great (or not so great) together!
  • Boxes. I don’t know how easy it is in the CSS editor because I use Firebug (below) and get into the styles editor that is just code to muck around, but if you have a REALLY complicated background image, you may want to have colored boxes around your text – otherwise I tend to leave the boxes transparent to “pull” the whole theme together. This is purely a readability issue, and isn’t always necessary!
  • Header Image. You’ll definitely want to hide the text at the top that has your comic’s name, and replace it with a header image that has your comic’s name, and some bad ass art to show off your comic. Even if it’s a stick figure comic you want that bad ass art up at the top!

Video that Comes with Comic Press:

Frump (the guy who maintains ComicPress and Comic Easel) has a great video on how to set up. He moves his camera around a little bit, but you can still see enough of what he’s doing that you’ll be able to figure it out:

What I do differently:

I don’t use chapters (I set my stuff up a few years ago, and I had to migrate over to Comic Easel and all that fun stuff. I messed up a bunch of formatting, and now I don’t mess around with chapters. I’m certain that it’s easier to fix than I imagine, but I just haven’t bothered to mess around with it.

I also tend to get into the guts and us CSS that I find in the Appearance>Editor. I use a Firefox browser with Firebug to help me locate and change CSS.

If you’re interested in going that route, I did a lot of experimental learning (and site breaking) on my own, and then recently found this video. This lady is SUPER helpful with learning how to use Firebug and how to work with CSS.

I used this to put in my header, and different layers of background. I think nowdays you can do most of this from within the Appearance>Customize area, but I’m a bit old fashioned! Either way, I’d HIGHLY recommend putting in an “image” header and hiding the text header – I know I said this already, but I’m saying it again: having an actual image header looks so good, and sometimes people just ignore this. It drives me crazy.

Plug-ins I use:

There are a lot of recommended plug-ins for wordpress and comic press. I use a bare minimum because I hate messing around with this stuff, and because sometimes plug-ins will break your comic site. Just remember to load and install plugins one at a time, and check to make sure your site is still pretty where the viewers can see it before you move on to another plugin.

Easiest way to get these is to go to your wordpress dashboard, then to Plugins>Add New. Search for the plugin and download them from there! I’ve included links to the ones I recommend, but it’s only so you can see (and make certain) you get the ones I’m talking about, instead of something similarly named.

One-Click Child Theme – You NEED this one, even if it looks optional. After you get ComicPress to look the way you want it to by following Frump’s video and playing around with it, you’re going to follow the instructions on the One-Click plugin and make THIS your new theme. Any theme (not just ComicPress) you use and like, you should make a One-Click version of it. Child themes help protect your site when new versions  of a theme roll out, and they keep you from losing a lot of the customization that you’ve put into it.

Askimet – this helps with spam, and by “helps” I mean it hides about 1000 pieces of spam I get, and only maybe  2-3 slip through to my email every once in a while. It’s pretty crazy awesome. It comes installed with wordpress, so just follow the instructions to get your API key and activate it!

JetPack is the plugin that tells me that people actually read my comics and blog (on a good day, maybe about four people or so) while  Google Analytics is the one that tells me I’m alone in the internet and that no one cares and I should quit drawing comics and go get a real job. Everyone seems to recommend both and I figure that between the two of them, I have a better idea as to who’s actually seeing my stuff. (All two of you!)

Neat to have:

All In One Favicon let’s you put a little icon up in the tab of your browser for your comic! If you look, typodmary has a little ghost thingy. It’s not very visible, and I need to do another, more readable one for typodmary and all my comics. This video shows you how to make the .ico images you need for a favicon.

I also used to have twitter and instagram plugins that would allow people on typodmary to see my twitter feed, and my instagram feed, but those plugins broke. That’s another thing that happens: maybe you get a few good years out of a plugin, but then the manufacturers stop updating them, and they break. It is always sad when that happens. There are plugins I can use, but I’ve not been willing to search through them all to see what’s right for me (which is to say, if you find a good one that you like that works with comicpress, let me know!)

 

Small World Giant Monster (throwback)

posted in: comics, odds and ends | 2

These were the pages that prompted Era of Great Wonders.

All I knew was that I wanted to draw giant monsters, but I couldn’t really think of any sort of story.

smallworld1

Page one started out as a gray scale mess, and while I always tell people to “never go back and fix your art,” I did go back and fix this when I was trying to talk John into doing the comic. (This was YEARS ago. I think it must have been around 2009?)

This was all done in photoshop, and the text is an art layer that I “wrote” in – meaning that when* I made a typo, it was impossibly difficult to fix.

smallworld2

This was about as far as the story went. I knew I wanted these two kids to be the first to see the meteor swarm, and for them (and the reader) to be able to look back and know that this was the last “normal” night of their lives, and that whatever fell from the sky wasn’t just rock and minerals, but was the start of the giant monster invasions.

…and then I didn’t know where to take it from there. I drew a few more sketches of giant monsters destroying a city, and then lost confidence in my ability to write this story.

smallworld3

I don’t suppose those giant monsters look familiar to anyone who’s read All the Growing Things?

smallworld4

And that’s it. I can’t even tell you what’s happening in the second to last panel. Maybe it’s building a web? I have no idea.

After John and I finished up The Vagus Street Rehabilitation Project, John wanted to take a break from horror and do something a little different. I don’t know if I consciously remembered Small World Giant Monster or even showed it to him, but at any rate, I told John I wanted to draw giant monsters, and he started working on Era.

 

* “when” not “if”

Setup (part4)

Alternate title:

WordPress, why won’t you love me?!
I’ve done everything you’ve asked for, EVERYTHING, and I just don’t know what else I can possibly do to make this work!
(with tears of frustration)

But that’s too long of a title, really, so we’ll just go with Setup Part Four.

This post assumes that you have your owe domain name hosted on a server that you can gain access to it. For the record, I use ixwebhosting – this isn’t an affiliate link, it’s juts to let you know where I’m coming from.

Step 1: mySQL

My host comes with mySQL databases. I don’t really know what this means, other than I need them for wordpress to work okay.

While inside ixwebhosting, I click on the “add new database” and follow the instructions carefully, (creating a new database user if I need to) and taking notes as to what my database name is, what the database admin’s name is, and what the database admin’s password is. After you fill all that stuff out, you’ll also need the database hostname.

Step 2: Opening up wordpress

Download the wordpress file from earlier and unzip it onto your computer. You’ll need to use winRAR or winZIP or something similar to open it. Once you extract the files you’ll need to open the folder and look for the one labeled “wp-config-sample.php”

You’re going to need something that can open that file. I use Activestate’s Komodo. If you’re going to do any sort of webdesign at all, I LOVE this program, even though I don’t use it much. If you’re just going to use it this once, that’s fine, you can delete it when you’re done (but why would you?!)

In the wp-config-sample.php file, fill out four areas. Make sure you don’t mess up the quotes, ONLY replace the text inside the quotes, and make sure you don’t add any spaces!

Replace the ‘database_name_here’, ‘username_here’, ‘password_here’, and ‘localhost’ with your notes from when you made the database in step one. (Localhost is where you copy the database hostname.) (Also, sorry if this sounds super pedantic, but I’ve messed up those damn apostrophes before, and they’re super important.)

Save this file as “wp-config” (removing the “sample” from the name.) If Komodo asks if you want it to add the php extension, say yes.

Step 3: FTP

Now you need to get this onto your server. You can use the internal ftp that comes with your hosting, but I don’t really know how to do that.

I used filezilla to connect to my host server. Filezilla is probably the easiest ftp thingy I’ve ever used. Just fill out the connection details, and if you’re really a goof like me, there’s even a “save this connection” area, so I don’t have to remember my passwords or sign-ins.

After connecting to my server with the ftp, select the domain name you want to add wordpress to by double clicking it. (I have a couple different sites on my host, and I don’t necesarrily want them all to have wordpress.)

On the left hand window is where your “Local site” is, select your wordpress folder and open it up so you can see all the folders in there, including your new “wp-config.php” file. Select all of those and drag them to your domain’s “remote site” to the right.

Now to go make a sandwich or something – it’s going to take a while for all of these to copy over.

 Step 4: Install

This is the big moment. Once everything is done copying, open a new tab in your browser, and type in your domain name. If everything went right, there should be a wordpress prompt welcoming you to wordpress, and asking you to fill out your site name, and things like that. If you’ve made it to this point without any accidents, I applaud you: I have never made it here on the first try. Just fill out your info, and you’re ready to go find some themes and play around. (I’ll write about themes next!)

 Figuring out where things went wrong

If your new site doesn’t immediately welcome you with a wordpress setup, and you’re wondering what the heck happened, well, you’re in good company. I can’t say for certain what’s happened on your end, but I can tell you where I’ve gone wrong.

wp-config inaccuracies: make certain that you don’t delete an apostrophe, and that all your text is snug in between the apostrophes in the config file. Also make certain you wrote your name and passwords with the FULL name, ie, write ‘typodsite_jenn’ instead of just ‘jenn’ when it asks for user name. You need the whole thing.

wp-config password: I have a list of passwords that I use, and copious notes on how to use them. One of the things I didn’t realize was that if I change my database user password, it changes it for every instance. Back in the old days, setting up a new database, I’d use a new “just for that database” password that was ACTUALLY linked to my name, not my database. So it changed all the previous databases passwords, and I watched them disconnect, one by one. I finally figured it out and felt kinda dumb. If this is your first database, then just remember to keep that in mind when you set up your next one.

index.html: This happened this morning to me! Anytime you have something with the word “index” on it, your site goes to that first. The new domain name came with a placeholder “index.html” file and after double checking my spelling, my apostrophes, my password – double checking everything I could think to check, I went and looked at my site through the FTP. Sure enough, after I deleted the index.html, the wordpress index.php was able to take control of the site, and suddenly everything worked!

Patience: if nothing else, find someone that knows a little about setting up websites. Have them looking over what you’ve done. Also don’t be afraid to google your heart out, trying to find a clue as to what has happened. You can also email your hosting site and ask them for help – they are incredibly knowledgeable, and can sometimes get into the guts of your site and tell you, “oh, you left out a dash here,” but they’re sometimes hard to get a hold of, and not really interested in “easy” things like wordpress setups.

Next: Setting up a Comic Press theme

Setup (part 3)

I am one of those people that has no idea how to really work with computers or electronic setups of any kind. I’m the person that when I am forced to unplug the tv or xbox for any reason, I use handfuls of carefully labeled masking tape to help me replug in everything correctly.

Websites are a bit of the same thing for me.

I’m not at all a computer person, so setting up a mySQL server sounds like the most intimidating thing I can imagine, and, well, it still is. Honestly, I’m not even sure if “setting up” is the right turn of phrase. All I know is that I click boxes, tinker with things, and before you know it–but far after you expect it, but right around when you’re ready to give up–you have a functioning (more or less) wordpress site.

If I can do this, I can at least walk you through a little bit it, and if nothing else, I can point you in some directions to where you can find better answers!

I feel as if I should point out: I’m not dumb, I just have a different skillsets, and because of this I have a variety of coping mechanisms.

For example: I take copious amounts of notes. These instructions are from a few years ago, when I was setting up another subdomain* site for a now defunct comic I was working on called “smallworld”** The notes still work though, because I used them to set up another website just this morning.

Step 1 (the stuff we do before actually touching wordpress)

Do you want to have wordpress host it, or do you want to host it under your own site name? If you want them host it, go here (https://en.wordpress.com/signup/) and follow the instructions. The rest of this blog post is unimportant to you and you are now ready for the fun “picking out a theme” game!

If you want it to look snazzy like mine, and you want to own it free and clear, and you want to do whatever you want with it, well then you’ll need to download wordpress (http://wordpress.org/download/) and keep reading!

Wait, what’s the difference?

One of the problems I’ve found when friends host with wordpress for free, (or even when you pay wordpress to host your site) is that you are limited as to what themes you can use. Now, this may or may not be true, but it certainly seemed that way when I tried to help friends who took that route. You’re also limited to how much CSS** you can affect in the guts of the site when hosting through wordpress.

The upside is that it’s cheaper.

However, as a comic artist I need to be able to go in and tweak my site and play with the art and the CSS to make the site look as visually good as I possibly can. If you’re just doing a regular blog or site, you may not have to do that. No matter what hosting you go with though, I’d strongly recommend you buy your domain name.****

Domains & Hosting

I use aplus.net to buy my domain name, and I host it at ixwebhosing.com. These aren’t affiliate links or anything, I just like their prices and their services. Check around though, you might find something cheaper that you like!

Also, talk to your friends that have their own websites: they’ll tell you who they like to use, and maybe they’ll even be willing to help you set them up! Having a friend or two go over this with you is invaluable!

Because I use two different companies (one for hosting, one for the domain) I have to do a thing where I set up the name servers. This SOUNDS complicated, but was really easy.

I logged into ixwebhosting and created a new “domain” listing using my brand new site name. They gave me the two “domain name server” names that I would need for the next step. I copied those down and logged into aplus and selected my new website. Under “managed domain” I then changed the domain name servers in the required boxes, and then sat back to wait for the next 48 hours for the changes to take effect.

It was really easy! The only dumb thing I did was copy the ENTIRE address for the new domain name server (including the numbers and dots and stuff) but I didn’t need any of those, just the part that said: “nsXX.ixwebhosting.com” and I was all set.

This is a really long post, so I’ll continue how I actually installed wordpress tomorrow!

Notes:

* Ah, remember subdomains before there was multi-sites? What. A. Nightmare.

** Too funny! Small World, Giant Monster was the precursor to Era of Great Wonders, but all I had was that I wanted to draw giant monsters. After showing John the scraps of art I’d done and begging (and pleading) with him to write it, he started Era!

*** CSS stands for “Cascading Style Sheets.” If you’ve ever done any html before but aren’t sure about CSS, don’t worry: it’s super easy to learn! I’ll talk more later, but for now, check out stackoverflow and w3schools.

****Your domain name is your website name; mine is “typodmary.com” Now, it’s a little confusing because something like typodmary.wordpress.com LOOKS like a domain that I own, but it’s not: wordpress owns it, they’re just “allowing” me to use a subdomain. If they decide to delete it, I have no say in the matter.

Setup (part2: software)

posted in: Art Making, odds and ends | 2

I typically draw most of my comics digitally. The practicality of being able to copy layers and save files before trying various techniques makes up for almost all the intimacy and pleasure of drawing traditionally. While I still try my best to sketch in my sketchbook every day (and it’s been two months since I’ve last opened the dang thing) I do almost all of my work on the computer.

Manga Studio

I started drawing out my webcomics in Photoshop, but switched up to using Manga Studio 4EX last year. Manga Studio is a complex enough program that I doubt I understand more than 10% of what it’s capable of. I have a bunch of files and templates I made, but in order to make them, I watched a good couple hours’ worth of youtube tutorials.

Any time I start a new project in Manga Studio I revisit these tutorials, and try to relearn just what the heck it is that I’m doing.

On a daily basis, I find myself adding pages to already created files and templates, penciling, and inking books. At some point I set up a bunch of text presets, and I use those to fill in the words for the comics. I am in constant fear I’ll use the wrong text preset for the wrong comic, and that it’ll… I don’t know… reveal to all and sundry that I have no idea what it is that I’m doing.

After I export my “final” image or page, I open it in photoshop.

Photoshop CS2

It’s an oldie but a goodie. These days, unless I’m coloring a cover, I only use photoshop to resize the page file to 760px wide (by whatever it is tall) and save “for web” as a jpg.

If I am coloring a cover then I use a bunch of brushes and layers and stuff, but that’s another post for another time.

WordPress

This is going to also be a longer post of it’s own! I use a wordpress site, with a comicpress theme on it to help make my comics easier to read. It’s a bit difficult for non computer people to set up, but it’s the best (and easiest) set up out there. At least, that I know of.

Setup (part 1)

posted in: Art Making, odds and ends | 4

I need to stop writing posts in the evening, where everything I say is along the lines of, “I’m so tired, blah blah blah, whine whine whine.”

So, I’m gonna write this now, instead.

I’d been talking to a couple of people the past few weeks about my set up, so I thought I would do my best to share it with you all. This time, with photos!

Set up
Super High-tech!

A. Last year, as a graduation/okay-get-back-to-work present (or business expense?) I upgraded from my old Intuos 3 drawing tablet to this monster. It’s a Cintiq 22″HD, and if it told me to murder couples in parked cars I… I probably wouldn’t, but I would hesitate long enough to have a strong sense of shame about it.

The Intuos 3 was just a touch pad and didn’t have it’s own built in screen, so I was drawing on one surface while staring at another surface. After you get used to it it’s not so bad, except for when your pad gets turned just slightly enough to make every horizontal line a diagonal. The new Cintiq I have doesn’t have that problem: what you see on the screen is what you get. The Cintiq’s stand can be angled so that it’s upright (the way I use it) or it can be flattened, as if you were drawing on a sheet of paper (the way my friend Ben Girven uses it.)

B. Drawing pen. This came in the box with the Cintiq. It was so bright and shiny and brand new looking that I tried to get away with using my old, beat up Intuos pen, but I couldn’t figure out how to sync it up. In the end, laziness won the day and I put away my Intuos pen and started using this one.

Ben showed me that there’s a bunch of different pen nibs that you can use, but I can’t tell any difference between them. He showed me how to change the nibs and told me, “Just play around with them!” But honestly… it’s a luxury that is lost on me. A digital pen is a digital pen.. I just can’t feel any difference when using them.

C.  Cleaning cloth. I use this ALL the time. I am a filthy artist, and this cloth is a life saver. Or a screen saver. One of those. Maybe both.

D. You can sort of see the forehead of a dog. My desk is not just a desk, but also doubles as an animal den. If I’m lucky it’s the elderly dog; if I’m unlucky it’s the cat without a sense of humor. (I have a lot of scars on my feet because of that cat.)

E. Hand-me-down Laptop – this beast is the prettiest lap top I’ve ever seen. It’s also massive and burns with the heat of an angry sun. However, its harddrive is teeny, and is filled up with art software. Ben has offered to help me build a better desktop, something that’s maybe a little less pretty and more set up for my workloads.

F. Unfinished paintings, scraps of art, notes from my community college days (specifically “how to create a body of work) as well patches and other odds and ends.

Tomorrow I’ll chat about what software I’m using, and a little more of my process!

Distractable

posted in: odds and ends, Stuff I Like | 0

I know I get distracted easily, but I meant to tell y’all that I saw this neat youtube cartoon called RWBY while at my friends’ house!

It really makes me want to learn how to make little animated shorts so that I could do my own Maude series, but I know that it’s all harder to do than it looks.

I’ve only seen up to episode 8, but it’s pretty awesome. I guess there are all sorts of hidden clues and hidden stories within the stories, with themes and… er… thingies? Literary thingies? Thingies that after you find out about them, add depth to the story itself. I don’t know what that stuff is called.

Anyways, they’re there if you know to look for them. My friends are really smart though, so they pointed a few of the ones out that I didn’t pick up on.

(And by “few” I mean everything except the red riding hood parallel.)

Weekend Odds and Ends

posted in: odds and ends | 0

Bam! Made cookies and didn’t burn the house down!

I did mess up the recipe a little because I have never met a recipe I couldn’t screw up one way or another.* This time I managed to look at the wrong recipe in the book that was next to the peanut butter cookie recipe, so I only added an extra teaspoon of vanilla, which is a total success for how it could have gone down!

Success is built by the little things.

I’m gearing up for the weekend, so I’ll probably be offline more than on, for the next couple days. Be prepared for a blog post or two on Diablo III when I get back, and if I’m really diligent, maybe some work-in-progress shots from a painting or two.

I really need to get back to painting again, my studio/office is filled with two many unfinished pieces.

 

* Well, there was that one “pour milk into bowl of cereal” recipe – I do okay with that one.