Saturday, November 20, 2010

another insta-discussion!

When replying to something that Petra had said, I wrote something that I decided made a better topic. I will paraphrase, since I'm not sure I left it in the posting.

After viewing a good amount of captions in my lifetime, I can usually tell who made them. Doesn't work all the time, but I usually can figure it out by its design, content, theme, overall plot, and even spelling mistakes!

I've mentioned this before somewhere, but I seem to have a style that is remarkably "Dee" so that I am not particularly worried about someone plagiarizing my work. Its why I don't have a watermark of "Dee" posted on it. I think that most people I know would tell me if someone has been passing off my work as theirs.

Anyway, I think its due a recognizable style, and that leads to the discussion topic. I am hoping I can get the readers to be a bit introspective.

DISCUSSION QUESTION: How would you describe your style if you had to do so? Would others be able to say, "that caption is definitely from your brain" if they hadn't seen who it came from? What would you like to develop going forward?


  1. Well, I think my style would be dark but sexy. (for most of them) But I have gotten dirty and mean on a occasion.

    Now, how others see my work I'm not sure.

  2. My style... I think in one word, I'd say my caps are fun. I want to make the reader smile, and feel a slight bit turned on. I also like being creative, and coming at things in different angles. It's also my belief that a caption should take one panel... anything longer is more like a storybook with pictures. I do like looking in my gallery and seeing how just in a year and a half how much my design and style have changed.

  3. I would say mine are overall humorous and filthy.

    Although, I think Kaitlyn's comment is going to start another instadiscussion.

    I'm curious to know how the comic style multi-panel captions fall in your view.

    Also what place do you think there is for storybook with pictures? Is it completely separate from caps, or tangential?

  4. I think what tends to mark my captions are design more so than content. I tend to use certain kinds of pictures and I often use similar designs. Sometimes I see a design element and I want to play with it and see how it works out.

    Overall, I would have to say my caps are very flexible. It's always evolving. . . eclectic would be a good word for it.

  5. Hmm, I don't know if I have a particular style. I guess I do, but I wouldn't really be able to say what it is. I mean I feel like I can do a caption that is silly or serious, innocent or devious, dirty or filthy. I know that I do tend to like things ranging closer to the "X" scale, but I don't think that answers the question you are asking.

    One thing I try very hard to do in my caps is set the tone with little things. I'm not classically trained to know what visual styles evoke which emotions, but I know how things work on me.

    For example, I try to choose a background color that invokes a certain mood, dark colors for passion or foreboding; light colors for playfulness or jokes. I try to use a font that indicates a tone of voice for the people talking, something that is in all caps if the speaker is angry, fonts with hearts or similar to girlish handwriting for cute and/or sissy caps. In single panel caps, I like to place the image to the left or the right depending on whether the picture happens "before" or "after the action in the text. If the text is leading up to what's happening in the picture, I put the image on the right. If the text is a reaction to what has happened in the image, the pic goes on the left.

    I'm not sure if any of this is my style though, I think it is just elements of design.

    I do find that this idea of artist's style or "voice" is something that makes me avoid using things like Comic Life. Like Dee said, you can look at even a thumbnail of a caption of hers and know almost immediately that she wrote it. With Comic Life caps you can't always do that, the style is built in, or at least it can be.

    That isn't meant to be a knock against Comic Life or those who use it. It certainly doesn't detract from an artist's personal style. Once you start reading the text of a CL cap, you can easily tell that this is a Smitty cap or that is a Jennifer cap. It's just that for me, having that unique look or feel is something I crave. I'm not sure if I have it though. I may change styles too much to allow people to look at a thumbnail of a caption and say, "that's a Petra cap."

  6. Ya know I never really thought of having a something I would call 'My Style'. I just make a cap in a way that I'm comfortable, and tweak till I think it looks right. But looking at my caps, I see a style emerging.

    I'll be honest, I'm not sure how I feel about that. One of the reasons I started doing caps is to have an outlet for my creativity. Beyond writing which is still a fairly new outlet for me, I used to work a lot in Photoshop that let me vent out my creative juices. Now that I'm doing it for me (as opposed to a client) I figured I would explore layout wise. There are a few of my caps where I remember trying out a particular layout, but the rest seem to fall into a single style. I'm not saying that I don't like the layout style, but it wasn't my intent to create caps that have largish images, rotated slightly with the text following the edges of the images.

    Now of course layout is only one part of the 'style' of the cap. I'm sure we could all imagine someone copying our layout style, while missing the general tone of the cap that we add with our writing style. My writing style seems (at least to me) to be a little dark, with a lack of humor. Whenever I add humor to a cap, it is generally to make the dark parts 'darker' by comparison.

    Dee mentioned people putting a watermark on their work. I've always been conflicted on that. Having a background in photography, I can tell you that I really found it offensive for someone to sign their name to an image that wasn't theirs. In the caps I create, the story is completely mine, and the layout is completely mine, but none of the artwork/photography is mine. So I've never felt right signing my name to it. I don't let that feeling stop me from using their art, but only because I don't have a studio and stable of models willing to do the poses I would require for my caps (man o man that would be heaven to have that!).

    On the flip side of my feelings, when I see people sign their caps, I can feel the pride they have in their work. I also find it helpful to track down the artist to either thank them for their creativity, or look further into their work. For example it was one of Dee's images that originally got me over to the haven. I found that wicked cap (of the transformed man as part of a chair while their 'master' chided them about their position) at 'Rebecca's World', but had to do some research to find Dee over at the Haven.

  7. I see what you mean about comic life, Petra, but on the other hand I don't see many people using layouts the way I do in it anyway. It's actually kind of cool to look around and find that I do indeed have a lot of layouts no one has done before. Or if they have, I haven't found them. Comic life is so easy to use I don't there's an incentive for most people to play with it.

  8. I don't play around with my lay out much, partly because of tradition and history of the sort of caps I used to read at the old lycos groups.

    But when I do, I really love how it turns out in the end. My Halloween cap that won at the haven recently, is due in part I think to the lay out. It's simple but fun too look at. ^_^

    And I've always done different colors at least for my different characters, even in MS Paint.

  9. First of all I have to say that I'd for sure see a Dee, Caitlyn-masked, Petra, Jennifer or smitty cap. Dee and Petra, you both have this "clean style" ... as you described Petra, Pic on the left or the right or on top and then text where the free space is. I think you can see that you both use Photosthop. This is what Caitlyn does too I think. I think you have a pretty nice style. Your picture always has this special form and the text flows around it. Smitty, your caps are always multi-panels and the way you write the conversations in the caps is unique. Jennifer uses many many textboxes that also leads to a unique style.

    I think the best proof that you can develop a 'style' with ComicLife is Bren. I think everyone can say they would recognize a Bren cap immediately. But now to the question. I don't think I have a style. ComicLife is purposive to me since it's very easy to use and (to quote Bren) "made to create caps".

    I actually don't really care for a personal style. With my caps I want to make a little present for the receiver. So I won't restrict myself by saying all my caps are 800x600 pixels. If I feel I need more pictures I put 2 on a panel or even make more panels. When I feel I need one excellent pictures and more text to it I resize the panel to match what I've planed. I think alot about each cap and try to include what I know about the person, what I've experienced with them etc etc.

    Now that I wrote this I see that this is probably the only reason why I put my "Martha" at the end or somewhere where there is some free space.

    I'm happy when people read a cap and they think "Oh, she remembered this or that ... oh, she really worked with what we were talking about ... oh, I can't believe she really used so many true aspects of my life."

    What I want to develop? Hm ... I always hate it when I have great idea in my (German) mind and don't now how to make it sound smart, funny etc. in English and I end up describing things very plain with basic vocabularies. Sure, I could look up all these words but hej, I got a real life and I already spend at least 1 hour with each cap. ;) But I want to improve that. I always help myself by using the picture as good as I can because "a picture says more than 1000 words".

    Anyone still reading? lol ... I just had to think of something else. I'm always jealous when I read your texts, Dee. You usually have 3 small paragraphs and you get the chronology of the story. I can't do that. I don't want to blame my English again but I'm a very structured person and I think that shows. When I write a cap the story has to be logical to me. I need the classic pattern of a drama by Shakespeare. I need a reason for the TF, a method, it has to be clear what happened before and what happens to the new girl. If something is missing I tell myself: The story doesn't work yet. Then I'll work on it until the story makes sense from the beginning to the end.

    Here and there I tried to copy your style Dee (even in a cap for you), trying to write less and yet tell the same. This is also something I may think about more in the future.


  10. @ Petra & Everyone else, but mostly Petra

    I use Comic Life. Now, I'm not fighting against you or anything, so I'll put that up right now. I just wanted to comment on how I use Comic Life.

    I love looking at the way my captions have evolved overtime, but every single cap (except for a few during the great depression of not having a computer) was made using Comic Life. Most recently, I have taken to creating a template and duplicating the page for each caption. I have also added a border in reference to the way I used to make captions, and sign my name in the border. Because despite the picture not being mine, the words are, and that's where my talent lies. I am a storyteller by nature.

    After playing with the different features of CL, I have definitely developed a style with it. If you browse the gallery at Transformation Media, you can spot my captions 9 out of 10 times.

    I will agree though that when starting out, Comic Life has a very distinct look about it, but would argue that anyone could create their own style with it.

  11. Well, obviously, my style is based on comic books. And I do my damnedest to keep a real comics look, right down to the typefaces I use, even if I'm working with a photograph, not a drawing. And, of course, they always deal with forced feminization and usually hypnosis or mind control.

  12. I'm sorry if my comments about Comic Life ruffled any feathers. That wasn't my intention at all. I hope there are no hard feelings about it. I should have been less specific about things. I think any framework or tool for making captions can lead to a "default" look and feel. That includes Comic Life, Photoshop, MS Paint, GIMP or whatever.

  13. You didn't say anything bad Petra. First of all, if someone has feelings for the program they have a problem lol.

    When someone says they have their own style (like Dee, smitty, Bren ... ) and they also say that you can immediately see it when you look at caps ... great, I will tell you that I can immediately tell if they used ComicLife or something else. Yet I can't tell if they Photoshop or Paintshopt for example.
    I think that's what you meant Petra. ComicLife is easy and makes it very logical to create a cap ... and it's not made to create high class art or something. Which doesn’t mean though that you can’t use each program in a way to create something that sort of looks the same, hence … a style.

    But whatever program you use, these caps are only made for a small community and to give someone joy for some time. So, fuck the style. LOL

    NOTE: Before you kill me Dee ... I know you are proud of your style and I like it too. :) But I meant that no matter if someone considers their caps having a style or not they are only caps ... made to make people smile or happy or whatever. To use a mathematical reduction: picture + text.


  14. I'll be the first to admit that I've never even tried Comic Life. But the only reason is that I am very comfortable using Photoshop. I get an idea of what I want, and I just do it with Photoshop. I have used it for so long that it is just an extension of me. I have used plenty of other graphic programs, and find that most of them have enough variety in the controls to cater to most people's 'vision'. It's just a matter of how hard/easy the controls are to make that vision come true.

    If you want to cut a piece of wood down to size you can use a saw, a jigsaw, a circular saw, a dremmel, an axe, a knife, a hammer or even a spoon. Regardless of tool used, that piece of wood is coming down to size. The tool used is whatever the artist is most comfortable with.

    I assume that Comic Life was designed with comic books in mind. In some caps you can see that, but other people use Comic Life and it looks like it was done in Photoshop/Gimp/Paint.... For example I never would have guessed that Kaitlyn used Comic Life. Even after reviewing several of her caps just now, I wouldn't have though Comic Life.

    What I'm trying to say is that the program used to create your vision is only a small part of the style. I hate dragging out old axioms, but you can't judge a book by its cover. To think of it in terms of photography, it would be like saying 'Black and White film is always cold and dark'. But Black and White film can make very warm, very airy images.

    Like Dee said in her original post "design, content, theme, overall plot, and even spelling mistakes". These all go toward a particular artists style. Just looking through, I wouldn't say that Petra has the most 'unique' visual style. But there is no mistaking a Petra cap once it has been read. And I have to disagree Martha. I believe that even if a person tries to NOT have a style to their caps, they will end up with one. Just by their picture selection, vocabulary, story method.... these will eventually help define their style. Even if they put no effort into their layout at all. Consider books... would you confuse Shakespeare for Stephen King? No.... its because of their styles. And we've taken out half of the "picture + text" equation.

  15. Sure, you are right Caitlyn. I just saw that I mixed up the words layout and style in my post. I know what you mean and I totally agree. I wrote in my first post that you can recognize each style by the way the text is written (Dee for example) ... the content of the story (smitty for example) ... so, sure, the style is there in this sense.
    I guess I was mainly talking about the layout.

    That you don't recognize a ComicLife cap probably has to do with the reason you haven't used the program yet. :) Once you know and see what it can do you see a ComicLife cap immediately.

    By the way, it wasn't an equation since the = was missing. ;) I just tried to generalize what you need for a cap ... and as you said "you can't judge a book by its cover". So what helps a very stylish or whatever layout when the pictures are always boring, don't match to the story and the story is plain?

    I hope it's clearer now what I meant. Thanks Caitlyn for correcting me. :)


  16. @ Pretty Sissy Dani

    I am honored that you dropped in here to talk a bit about your captions. I was a huge fan of your going back to your old site in the late 90's. The Stepton Slaves is a classic of the genre. I will have to check out your blog, hoping that you still write stories like that!

    @ Everyone

    As Caitlyn pointed out, I wasn't specifically referring to a layout in particular. Some people do Comic Life really well (Bren, Kaitlyn, etc..) and some people spend 10 minutes learning it and call it a day. I think it is some of those lazy bastards that give the program a bad name.

    I've also seen some great captions made in Powerpoint and PDF's. Considering Rachel's Haven has I think tutorials for 8-9 different programs, ANYONE can get better if they just put a tad bit of effort into it!

  17. No ruffled feathers, Petra. And I think we should feel comfortable to be blunt here for the sake of open conversation.

    I agree that most comic life caps tend to all look the same and lack a unique style, but honestly I think that about a lot of caps period. I hope that doesn't sound too conceited and no I'm not talking about anyone here.

    I think one enemy of innovation is the praise problem. I can find numerous picture sets, make unique layouts for each panel of a fifteen panel cap, try and fill each panel with dialogue ensuring every page has at least one thing I haven't written before and post it on the Haven (or anywhere really) and have it largely uncommented upon and viewed a little over a hundred times.

    Meanwhile someone can find a single image write text for it in another easy to use program and get way more views and comments. It's not that my cap is better because it's longer and harder to make, but you can see where it effects incentive to get creative with the layouts etc. Other factors play a much bigger role than that and its largely subjective.

    But I have to try new things because its the only thing that keeps it interesting for me. A lot of people don't seem to be driven by that and are fine with fairly generic layouts. I don't think one is inherently superior and I know a lot of people prefer simple layouts and single caps. And I even like a lot of these and think they do what they do way better than I ever could. I just know how to do caps my way and I know that whatever program I use in the end that my caps for better or worse are pretty unique.

  18. @ Martha

    Sorry about that. I just re-read what I posted, and I feel that I wrote that in a harsher tone than what was in my head. I see in your previous post that you meant layout, and by changing those words, I completely agree with you.

    One thing that comic life seems to bring to the party (from what I've read about it) is that it can easily give a cap some visual flair with little effort/learning required. Many people that use it would otherwise be using something as simple as MS paint, and end up with a picture, some white space, and black hard to read text. I think we can all thank Comic Life for helping out these people.

    To answer "So what helps a very stylish or whatever layout when the pictures are always boring, don't match to the story and the story is plain?" I think that just shows that just because there is a style there, doesn't mean it is a good style. I see quite a few caps on the Haven that I would put into this category. I would never say to these people that they are doing bad even if I am thinking that, because they are putting themselves and their creations out there for others. And in the end if they find one person who likes their caps, then they are a success.

    @ smitty

    I agree with you when you say that an enemy of innovation is praise (or lack thereof). I know I feel a little hurt when I put my all into a cap and make something that I believe is wonderful, but it only receives a 'oh thats nice' reply, and only gets several dozen views.

    I think there are plenty of reasons for it. For me, I tend to only comment on caps that trend toward what I would want in a cap created for me. I see so many people creating a cap saying 'Oh I saw you commenting on my caps, so here is one for you!". The intent is great (and as always the gift is appreciated), but then I end up with a cap that doesn't fit what I want.

    Another reason is that the caps you and I make are on the fringe edge of the Haven. I look around and see how few members request X rated caps, and most of your caps are XXX (or XXXXXXXXX!!!). But there are several members who go beyond liking your caps... they love them. And I'll put myself firmly in that camp. I know for me that I would rather have a small audience that really REALLY enjoy my caps, rather than a large audience that kinda like my caps.

    I will also say that I don't like the idea of commenting just to comment. I understand the sentiment (praising effort, as opposed to praising content), but when I get a comment of 'nice work' or 'good job' on one of my caps, I tend to think that they meant to say 'I want my post count up and didn't hate your cap'.

    I'm not sure if I've ever commented on one of your caps, but I would like to take this opportunity to say that I love reading your caps. I find the over the top characters/situations/sex in your caps very creative and incredibly unique. I agree that whatever program you use, a smitty cap will always be a smitty cap!

  19. Thanks, Caitlyn, I appreciate the kind words and honestly, while I like your caps, I don't think I've ever commented on one either. But I hope my comments didn't come off as fishing for compliments. I just think it's a reason others probably end up trying to make something everyone will like. Another is since longer caps can intimidate readers, the more effort you put into it the less people are likely to see it. But again to me its all about making the caps you want and then finding the audience for them.

    I agree my caps are on the fringe in a lot of ways. I think these discussions show the differences on opinion on what makes a good story, and the best way to structure caps. I'm glad for these differences of opinion. They keep things varied.

  20. Lots of lovely discussions going on, you must be proud Dee. ^_^

    I will be the first to say, that comic life has saved my caption life. lol, if it wasn't for it I would still be doing my work in MS paint. I've tried to do photoshop, and have had success with it for other projects. I just couldn't use it for capping. :/

    I've always used colors to help make the text stand out, even in Ms Paint. it helped me point out who's who and separate myself from the others that were using MS Paint.

    Even in comic life I still do this. The background of the text box is usually the different color now, but I still do it. Even the over all background color I use, It helps set the mood in the caption, like the series I did for smitty. The picture helps too, if it doesn't match up it will feel uneven to me.

    I might fill it up with text, but to me it usually comes out visually appealing.

  21. And a little bit about commenting since I saw it brought up. I look each and every day to see if anything I've done has gotten comments. I even post my work in more then just two places just to make sure I get some sort of feed back. When I do get something, it usually perks me up and can put me in a capping mood.

    And Since my first days before making my own caps, I've always made a point to comment on any work I read. If I ever don't do that, It's because of some outside reason and I forgot to hit post reply or something.

    @pretty sissy dani: And May I say, Ohh! Dani posted! ^_^ Yay! huge fan of your stories. To this day they still inspire my hypnosis captions and cross dressing tales. :D

  22. @ Caitlyn-Masked

    I'm flattered you don't see the program when you look at my captions. I think that's a great step in the right direction; people can begin to see you instead of just a picture and words put together with a program.

    @ Petra

    I may have said it before, but I'll say it again. I wasn't putting you in the crosshairs when I defended my use of Comic Life. I think it goes back to my other comment about a capper's style going beyond the program they use. I agree people get lazy with it and give it a bad name. Also, I heart you Petra.

    @ Martha

    I am madly in love with Comic Life. In fact, I think CL might propose tonight. *swoons* I could be Kaitlyn Life....

    @ Everyone else

    When browsing captions, I look for certain things. First is the picture. Is it something I want to read about? Is it not my thing? Etc. Second, does it look easy to read or too wordy? I don't want to spend my time on a long winded caption with tiny text, nor decipher burry text. A cap almost needs to be like an advertisement... It should be appealing to the eye. That's what I try to do with my style. It's fun, it's short enough but tells a full story (or enough of it to let the reader figure out the rest).