Creating a comic is a labour of love encompassing huge amounts of work. Formulating the storyline, working out the structure, bringing the characters to life and giving each one a voice is a lengthy process which takes time and dedication to complete. So when the final stage, the printing, doesn’t result in the comic you had envisaged, it can feel like a real kick in the teeth.

Seeing your comic in print should be a cause for celebration rather than a disheartening culmination of an uphill slog so read on for a foolproof guide to printing your comic successfully.

Although there are some aspects of printing where specialist knowledge is a must, printing a comic book requires some understanding of what bleed means and everything else is fairly simple.

As with all things, proper planning is the key to success and the best results come when you include appropriate file print marks and ensure that the paper, binding, covers, and lamination are all of a sufficiently high quality to do your work justice.

Comic Sizes

If you are thinking about print early on in the process, you can draw your artwork to fit the size you want your finished product to be. If you already have your artwork, then you will need to work out which is the best size to print it.

Did you know that the industry has standard sizes for printed comic books, depending on their country of origin and genre?

US Standard: 170mm x 260mm

UK Standard: 157mm x 240mm

Manga Standard: 127mm x 191mm

 

The prevalence of US comics has made US Standard the most popular size, a status quo which prevails in part because stockists tend to have shelves which are designed to fit comics of this size.

It may seem like an odd factor to consider, but if you do decide to print your comic in a larger size, you may find that stores may not want to stock it for that reason alone, whereas smaller comics don’t face the same problems.

The UK standard size and Manga standard sizes are also popular, but don’t overlook the familiar A4 or A5 sizes – there are a surprising number of indie A5 comics about!

In case you are having trouble envisaging the various sizes – print factories trim A4 sized paper down to create both US and UK Standard sized comics, and A5 paper is trimmed down to create Manga Standard.

Print File

For the purposes of this example, let’s assume that you are going to be creating a US Standard sized comic book with dimensions 170mm by 260mm.

Let’s also assume that you have chosen to bind your comic book with Saddle Stitch (also known as Staple) binding. This is the most popular type of comic binding and while there are other types of binding available, to learn the basics we are going to stick with Staple binding. Other binding types require different Quiet Areas, adding an extra layer of complexity.

It’s time to learn about what it means to have Trim Lines, Bleed Area and Quiet Area in your print file and how to ensure you understand what to expect when including them.

Your print file includes all these different areas in order to ensure that the automated process which will create your comic book has some room for slight variation between individual pages.

The machines used, while incredibly accurate, will inevitably experience some movement as the thousands of pieces of paper they process are cut. Even a tiny movement of the paper can change the position of the ridiculously sharp cutting blades, so factoring this in at the design stage is crucial.

Your print file will allow you to understand how your final comic will look as well as conveying your wishes to the machine operators.

Trim Line

This is a fairly self-explanatory element to the design – the line on which your comic book will be cut to produce the pages of the desired size and therefore the edge of your design. For a US Standard comic book, the Trim Line will be 170mm x 260mm.

Cutting machines are set up for their blades to fall fractionally outside this Trim Line, usually by less than a millimetre, but this is why you will need to consider the area beyond your art, known as the Bleed Area.

Bleed Area

Whichever size you pick for your comic, you will need to include a Bleed area on your print file. This should extend for at least 3mm beyond the Trim Lines in every direction and should be a continuation of your artwork. But don’t stick your best stuff in this spot – the idea is that it will be cut off!

The need for the Bleed area is to account for the slight movements of the blades as the machine cuts the paper. If the cut ends up slightly outside the trim line, you don’t want to end up with a beautiful piece of work with a white outline around the edge.

The bleed area means that there is a degree of tolerance which will preserve your work even if the cut is slightly outside the Trim Lines.

 

Quiet Area

The Quiet Area is also known among those in the know as the Danger Zone and the space inside the Quiet Area is sometimes called the Safe Zone.

One of the functions of the Quiet Area is similar to that of the Bleed Area. By maintaining a quiet area of 5mm inside the Trim Line, you have a margin of error for the cutting blades so that if the paper shifts a little during the process and they fall slightly inside the Trim Line, they won’t be cutting off anything vital.

The other reason that the Quiet Area is so important is for the aesthetic appeal of your comic. Text and important elements of your artwork should never be in the Quiet Area as if they are jammed right up to the edges of the page you risk them not looking their best.

 

Technical Requirements

When you submit your artwork to an online system, there will be technical requirements to meet to ensure that your artwork comes out the way you want it to.

You can submit Jpegs and other files to some online systems, but these may not yield the best results. If you want your artwork to be as high quality as possible, then PDFs exported using the ‘highest quality print’ setting on inDesign will ensure that you aren’t losing any detail in your files. Check your images as well – if they are lower than 300dpi they may appear grainy and poor quality when printed.

You should also make sure that your files use CMYK colour as if you use RGB colour files then they will be converted to CMYK anyway for the printing machines. The end result should be close to your original, but it may not be exactly what you wanted which is never a good way to feel about your finished product.

We recommend certain colour profiles for the best results: ISO coated V2, U.S. Coated SWOP v2 and GraCOL2006.

Print File Summary

So, now you know how to get your print file ready with your new-found knowledge:

  1. Your Bleed Area which runs from the Trim Line to 3mm outside the Trim Line
  2. Your Quiet Area which contains all the important elements of your comic, particularly any text
  3. Your Quiet Area will stop 5mm before your Trim Lines
  4. Use CMYK colours
  5. Your print files should be high-quality PDFs
  6. If you have been using a template on top of your artwork, don’t forget to turn it off before you send it to be printed!

 

 

Ready to print your comic? Head over to Mixam for an instant quote. With endorsements from the Etherington Brothers, they’re quickly gaining a reputation for excellent print quality and service.

Artwork by Sires Jan Black