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Comics Sketch is still rough

Comics Sketch mashes up social networking and Webcomic creation, but is it worth exploring? Seth Rosenblatt takes a look.

Although the idea of Dave Chappelle writing or drawing his own comic book might be appealing to some, this is a different kind of Comics Sketch. By taking two great Web flavors, social networking and Webcomics, Comics Sketch mashes them up and wraps it all in a package that's not quite ready for prime time.

Users can read, draw, and share their own Webcomics using the built-in comics creation tools. It's a great idea, but the interface is clunky, the drawing tools are limited, and navigating within the site is slow-going.

The front door of Comics Sketch acknowledges that they're still making changes to the site. CNET Networks, Inc.

The artists' palette features more than 70 colors and the ability to change both line thickness and line opacity. Creators can also change the hue, saturation and brightness of the color in use. Although the only drawing tool is a freehand pencil, you can erase by switching the color to match the background. The pencil also seems to incorporate some kind of auto-straightener--it was much easier than normal for me to draw a perfectly straight line.

There is no text tool, so all captions need to be drawn by freehand. Given the limited interface, though, this is likely to make the comics hard to read more than anything else. After checking out about a dozen different comics, very few had legible dialogue, if they had any at all.

The drawing screen makes it easy to Create a new panel, Save, Delete and Undo, as well as change the width of the panel. CNET Networks, Inc.

The panel creator and manager is interesting, but I accidentally wiped out my comic by hitting creating a second panel and the Edit button before saving. To avoid such boneheaded mistakes, be sure you hit the Save disk icon on the panel you're currently working on. This wouldn't be such a concern if you could import images, but that's not an option. Exporting is "comming soon," as the site would have it.

You can arrange your comics into "books" which keep related strips together. This is an excellent idea for managing multiple strips, using familiar terminology instead of having to reinvent the wheel. The social networking aspects of the site also track hits, views, votes, and ratings, as well as interpersonal communication.

The idea of being able to create Webcomics without having to download a graphics editor or creating a Web site is appealing, and having an instant community to garner some attention and feedback from doesn't hurt, either. If the tools and their interface can be improved upon, Comics Sketch could be far more appealing.