Although this is an article about making art, making comics and writing fiction, I’m going to have to start by talking about computer games briefly. As usual, there’s a (vaguely) good reason for this that I hope becomes obvious later.
The day before I wrote this article, I ended up buying a modern re-release of a classic computer game (“Quake“), since it contained a couple of extra level packs that I didn’t own. But, I was genuinely shocked at how much larger the system requirements and file sizes were when compared to the original mid-1990s version of “Quake”. Although there are probably good reasons for this, when compared to the lean system requirements and file size of the original game, the modern re-release just seemed bloated.
This then made me think about how to avoid the same type of problem when it comes to making things like art, comics and writing. So, here are two basic tips:
1) File formats: One way to save memory, reduce loading times etc.. is simply to do some research into file formats. When saving digital copies of your work, choose the file format that works best for the practical purposes that you want to use it for.
For example, if you’re an artist or a photographer, then saving your images in a file format that includes less compression is probably only useful if you plan to make professional prints of them, or use them in professional settings. Likewise, if you’re making digital art, then keeping a higher-quality copy (since you don’t have a physical original) can also be very useful too.
But, if you’re just posting them on your website, posting them on social media, attaching them to an e-mail etc… then making a copy of the images that uses a more compressed file format (such as “.jpg”) will probably be much better. Yes, there will be a very slight loss in image quality (which will probably only be noticeable if you look very closely at the image), but the smaller file sizes are much more suitable for these practical purposes.
Likewise, some image editing programs – such as an open-source one called “GIMP” – even let you control the level of image compression when you save a file as a “.jpg”. But, MAKE A BACKUP COPY before you start experimenting with things like this. I cannot emphasise this enough!
As for writing – when writing drafts of these daily articles, I always save them as “.rtf” files. Since they don’t really include any seriously fancy formatting, this simpler file format keeps the file sizes a bit smaller and also means that, if I ever decide to use a different text editor, then all of my drafts will be compatible with it (since “.rtf” seems to be compatible with almost everything – unlike, say, formats like “.docx”).
So, do some research into file formats and choose one that works well for the practical purposes you’ll be using it for.
2) Planning and limitations: One of the best ways to stop art and comic from gobbling up too much time and effort when you are actually making them is simply to either plan it in advance or set yourself some limitations when you are actually making it.
For example, when I’m making my daily paintings, I almost always make sure that the paintings are the same size (18 x 18 cm, if anyone is curious). This small size means that, regardless of how detailed my art happens to be on a particular day, it’ll only take me 1-3 hours to fill an area of that size with art.
Likewise, when I’m making webcomics, I almost always try to plan them out in advance. I also usually set myself an informal limit for how long each comic will be (eg: most of my current webcomic mini series tend to be six comic updates in length). This stops my comic projects turning into bloated, unfocused open-ended things. The additional planning also allows me to refine the dialogue, panel layouts etc.. at an early stage, whilst also ensuring that I won’t be troubled by writer’s block when I’m actually making the comics too.
With prose fiction, the best way to reduce bloatedness is – of course- editing your fiction after you’ve written it. But, setting yourself an informal word limit or making some basic plans when you’re writing short stories etc.. can sometimes be a good way to keep the narrative focused in your first drafts.
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂