This section of my site will deal with making comicbooks accessible for the visually impaired and the blind
I will be going over different scenarios and methods - These I will also post about on my newly created reddit forum
https://reddit.com/r/comicsforblind where I hope to spark discussin on this topic
3D printing is your ideal sidekick when you want to make pages for a comicbook that can be read by the visually impaired.
With 3D printing you can create pages with tactile readability and feedback for visually impaired / blind.
There are different styles in which pages can be created, I will also try to post a few examples as to how you can design pages.
There are furthermore a multitude of tools you can use for modeling your 3D prints - In the section tools I will try to list a few.
Here is an example of a 3D printed comicbook page:
IMAGE 3D PRINTED PAGE
A lot is happening in the 3D printing scene, we've gone from the amazing RepRap concept by giants like Adrian Bowyer to the PRUSA printers by Joseph Prusa becoming something akin to affordable household appliances and now a whole new resin capable 3D printer type is cropping up in the landscape making incredible sub millimeter precision a reality in your home printer so the opportunities to create fully accessible materials that can be explored by blind/visually impaired have never been bigger.
One way to produce pages readable by the visually impaired and blind would be through combining 3D printing and vacuum forming
True you could do the same with 3D printing alone, however as printing materials cost might be a prohibiting factor in case you needed to make multiple copies of your comicbook, this section will deal with the combination of the two techniques in order to give you a cost effective solution as thin polyethylene sheets normally associated with vacuum forming can usually be obtained quite cheaply, hence cutting your production costs for your comic significantly.
One way to produce a 3D printed comicbook page would be by creating 3D models of the image you wished appeared in the panels on the page - Then flatten the design of each panel to the intended page depth and then print the design.
You would then follow up with replicating the page using vacuum forming (see vacuum forming).
This is an example of panel on a 3D printed page that has been vacuum formed.
Using one of the techniques, layering or engraving you could create a stand alone page, the techniques will be discussed in separate sections.
Here again, to save time and cost you can consider vacuum forming if you want to create multiple versions of a page (see vacuum forming).
This is an example of a laser engraved panel.
LASER ENGRAVED PANEL IMAGE
Vacuum forming is a type of thermoforming, a sheet of plastic is heated to certain temperature, then stretched onto a the
mold and sucked against the mold by an induced vacuum.
Here is an example of a very rough prototype panel created using vacuum forming and laser cutting techniques.
PANEL PROTOTYPE IMAGE
So you've decided to create a comicbook readable by the visually impaired, but how to create pages?
Using a 3D program you can create pages with relief and textures that will allow a visually impaired to feel the look of the images.
The relief structures will give the images definition.
At the same time texture can be used to give additional detail to the reader for tactile feedback, you can do this either au naturel i.e. try to replicate the natural look, or you could do this more symbolicly, imagine different patterns for different depictions, snow, grass, water, rock etc. what you use all depends upon what style you want to create the pages in.
One example would be a very stylized approach for tactile feedback that you can add to your pages.
As for speechbubbles I would recommend using Braille text, notice there may be different types of Braille depending on where in the world you may be so please be aware of this.
Also Braille users may use shorthand, this could possibly also be used with success depending on the amount of text etc. in your comic.
IMAGE EXAMPLE BRAILLE SPEECHBUBBLES
This is a braille set I created in TinkerCAD it can be downloaded and used to build a 3D printable speechbubble or an action description page describing the panels thus conveying dialog and action to the blind / visually impaired reader.
It is released under a creative commons license CC-BY-ND, not sure if it should have been a remix instead of ND license - In any case please do use the bricks to create descriptive pages or dialog boxes in your comics that you are making readable by the blind/visually impaired.
In addition to the regular pages a descriptive page breaking down panels is a really good idea, you can see these as
descriptions of the action going on on a panel.
For example, “Woman comes running toward a car”, “Man runs away from bear”, “Raindrops trickle down wall, creating a pool below on the ground”, sunlight reflects in binoculars and so on.
Naturally such a page needs to be written in Braille - The following is a braille set I created in TinkerCAD it can be downloaded and used to build the 3D printable description page describing the panels and possibly dialog and thus conveying these to the blind/visually impaired reader. It is released under a creative commons license CC-BY-ND, not sure if it should have been a remix instead of ND license - In any case please do use the bricks to create descriptive pages or dialog boxes in your comics that you are making readable by the blind/visually impaired.
If working digitally you could easily export each layer and then splice them together either for 3D printing, or for laser cutting using a number of tools. The following is an example of how you would do something like that with a page like this.
(image from Rain an upcoming comicbook written by Einar Petersen - Image Credit Max Caddick)
So you don't have a lot of 3D experience, or you want to take a simple approach when converting your comicbooks to a 3D format readable by the visually impaired and blind.
This can be done in a few steps taking you from a raw image in your comicbook and then using the following simple layering technique to create a 3D effect that can be felt by finger-reading.
So lets proceed with an example, for simplification I will color in silhuette form and then finally extract an image using cura, you could also split an image into parts saving as layers and then import to programs like TinkerCAD where you can play with merging together and setting heights etc. for each layer as you feel fit.
To illustrate what we are trying to achieve to build here is a quick breakdown of the image.
The image we are looking at is of a man, dressed in a scientists labcoat. He is standing in a pool of water. Rain is falling on the image and splashing onto the man and onto the ground. A pool of water seems to be building underneath the man. Speechbubbles for dialog can be seen above and below as parts of the image. The mans suit has multiple buttons, patches etc. the man has a mustache and quite visible eye brows he looks to be of latin american lineage.
Okay armed with the above lets try and break the image down in 3D replicatable parts either by printing or by laser cutting, I believe the method can be used for both reproduction methods.
00 this is the raw image
01 this is the base layer - In this example it is a blank background but it could be mountains clouds, a cityscape etc. etched into the background, there but barely tactile.
02 This is the pool in which the man stands, notice there are ripples on the surface of the poos, these we recreate by creating empty area in effect creating a “connection to the layer below.
03 The third layer is the person himself devoid of most features
04 On the fourth layer we add distinguishing marks to the man and his clothes, I've just illustrated a few to give you an idea of what we can place in this layer
05 Layer five the rain we see on the image is a bit more tricky, as actually this layer may also need in part to be embossed into the lower layers, here you will need either to set a color that the program you use can understand as one that cuts through all layers or you need to impress the rain upon your image in different layers, it all depends on how hard you want the rain to influence the image and everything in it.
06 Layer six is a speech 7 thought bubble layer - This layer does not contain the text itself but a base upon which you can impress the speech / thought.
07 finally we have layer seven the text for the speech bubbles / thought bubbles - Naturally you could opt to put all text/dialog on the action description page, again that is a design question for the comic book artist/editor to figure out.
So there you have it - A relatively easy way to convert a regular comicbook into an extraordinary format that can be read by the visually impaired and blind.
However you might not have any digital skills then how would you convert your 2D drawing into a 3D format and then fishing out the details, well basically it is like above, you would do it one layer at the time, the following is a simple paper/cardboard based version showing how you could do this, hooray for scissors, paper and pen and a little glue.
Imagine a grayscale image. You would load the image into a slicer - for example, Cura, there you will be given an option to go from dark to light, or from light to dark.
Once you choose an option, Cura will create a 3D rendition of what it thinks the image should look like in 3D.
This enables you to take the 2D grayscale image and convert it to 3D form, this you can then work on in a modeling tool.
Something similar can be done with a flat SVG image that you would like to create in relief form.
You would merely the import the SVG into a tool like TinkerCAD (from https://tinkercad.com ) and then extrude to your intended depth.
As mentioned a tool to use for this process is something like Cura 4.0 or better, the following is a short description on how I just took 23 pages plus cover, front and back and created the raw 3D pages for my sci-fi comic book Implant!
So first I darkened the images to remove edges around images as images become own walls - So to anyone wanting to convert their comic books to a format readable by the blind and looking at converting pages into a 3D format remember to save work in panels without the panels outline on the actual image, I only had the finished page to work with so I had to do a lot of cleaning up in order to produce these raw files. Anyway this is how I did it!
Load image into Cura 4.0
Cura will automatically ask how you want to import in order to generate a height map based on either light to dark extrusion of pixels from the image or dark to light extrusion.
These values here is what you are presented with and what I choose for the initial generation of pages for Implant!
Height (mm) 10
Base (mm) 1
Width (mm) 84.xxxxx
Depth (mm) 120.0
Lighter is higher / Darker is higher (save as lighter or darker) - (My choice Lighter is higher)
Smoothing (slider scale) - (using preset smoothing)
After finishing the generation and saving in OBJ and m3f (cura format) I have proceeded on an outreach campaign to the 3D printing community to see if I can find an available collaboration partner in order to make the files better suitable for 3D printing.
Here is a PDF explaining how this process worked including descriptive images: https://www.dropbox.com/s/ctrz54s0fnoidyb/2Dto3D_raw_page_extraction.pdf?dl=1
You can also create a similar effect to the 3D printing, or the layering technique by using laser engraving, generally color
tones on the image decide how deep the laser burns into the material.
Here is an example of a color toned image and the resulting engraving
TinkerCad is a free webbased tool, originally an acedemic project it was accquired by AutoCAD - It has a simplistic interface
and can be used for both 3D modeling for 3D printing and for laser cutting.
there is a plethora of videos with tutorials on TinkerCAD available out there, the following is just a few to give you an
impression of the versatility
Blender is a free and open source 3D modeling software it allows you to create models and save them to for example STL
format, the format that primarely is used for 3D printing
3D printing Slicers
To be able to 3D print you will need to convert your STL files into socalled GCode