#FAQDevin – How do I prepare a comic for print?

Keep the questions coming, blah blah, you know the deal. : )

Today’s is from Vincent Y. (@vincenty128):

To print online comics, how would one start preparing to do so? I know it’s a fairly large question, but any advice helps.


Thanks for the question. I’m not the biggest expert on printing, but I know a little bit. Let’s start with color mode. Monitors, TVs—anything with a screen—these display RGB color. Lots of tiny Red, Green, or Blue lights within the screen combine to make all the visible colors you see. Print works differently; colors are mixed from a set of basic Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, or Black pigments. This is known as CMYK color. Art programs can approximate what this looks like if you change the color mode of the file from RGB to CMYK, and it’s something you should be aware of. CMYK allows for far, far fewer color combinations, and if you’re not careful it can be easy to color in RGB with hues that don’t/can’t exist in print. Print shops will usually convert files to CMYK before they print, but don’t leave it to them.

Then there’s the issue of resolution. As a general rule my working file is never lower than 300 dpi—the baseline for what is considered acceptable for print. You can go higher than this (I sometimes work at 600 dpi) but your file will get exponentially larger. Anything under 300 dpi prints with jagged, aliased edges and looks terrible… if you’re dealing with a raster image, that is. Some people work a vector program like Illustrator into their workflow (vectors calculate lines independent of fixed resolution).

Make sure the physical dimensions of the file (in inches, centimeters, whatever) reflect the dimensions of the printed page. It’s fine (encouraged, even) for the file to be larger than necessary because raster images reduce without distortion. Use grids and guides to center/align all the page elements so that things look professional. Proofread.

Beyond that, I would recommend reading Jason Brubaker’s Unnatural Talent for advice on how to self-publish. Maybe Patrick can chime in with further advice in the comments… he knows way more about publishing than I do.

Send questions to @devinafterdark on Twitter with the hashtag #FAQDevin. Thanks!


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