Monday, 2 May 2011

Setting up comic pages for printing

Setting up comic pages for printing

I asked in a poll if people would be interested in a tutorial for making pages print ready, and there was a good response to it. So here it is.
I in no way am the authority on this task, but I do print comics, and set up files for printing, and work in a place that does printing. This is how I do it, and it works.
I print through Ka-Blam printing, so I set up based on the specs paid out by Ka-blam which funny enough, are fairly standard.

To get started you need to have a bit of an understanding of what it is you are doing. Creating print files means you’re creating a high enough quality file for your printing company to print, with proper margins, and colours. Most print companies ask for a specific file type, resolution, and dimensions.
You need to know at the very least what size you are printing at(the final comic book size). the rest can come later (in regards to this walkthrough, anyway. Its good to plan ahead).

This tutorial is working around my specification for my comic, Hello,Albertosaurus.
My comic is going to be:
6x6 printed
Perfect bound
Full colour

Make a template, or download one.

You need to have the Live area, Bleed, and Trim area noted on your template. These margins are a constant on every template.
Trim area: Trim area is the edge that is extra so the machines cutting your pages have a little bit to trim off so your pages are full bleed. Your trimmed size, is your actual comic size PLUS .125” (1/8th"). In my case 6.125”x6.125”.

Make a new document in photoshop at that size with 300 DPI resolution. that .125” is what will be cut off in your final comic. Then make your trim margin 1/8th" in from the edge of the document.
I like to use the Guides in photoshop. You grab and drag the edge of the rulers on your document, and pull the line to the measurement you desire, then release the mouse button and you have a guide on your document that doesn't ever show up anywhere except photoshop. Do this for all 4 sides of your page.
I won't describe the guides, you can learn about them here.

Next is the Bleed.This is where your artwork should extend to. The bleed area is just so that if the machine trims your art will bleed right to the edge of the page perfectly, without little undesireable lines or edges. Only non-essential art should be in here. NO dialogue should ever extend past the live area border. The bleed margin is .25" IN from the trim margin. Again, grab your guides and pull them in. The space you just created i nthe middle is your live area! Live area should be

You've now created your trim, bleed and live area. should look something like this (minus the pink).
I added the shades of pink to illustrate the areas.
You now have a template ready to go. I generally delete all the layers on the file, and leave only the guides.

Now you need to have a completed comic page to make into your printed page. If you're working at a standard size, there are Canson Comic boards available that have the trim and bleed areas noted on them in blue lines, these are an awesome option! In my case, I make my art 2 inches bigger than the printed size so I can scale them, and wing it. you might want to make notes of the bleeds and trims on your page. Thats a tutorial for another day...
You need to scan your comic page.
If you're doing Full colour, scan it at 300DPI minimum. When I scan I always immediately save my scanned file raw, as a .tiff. Tiffs are great file types since they don't degrade over time like a .jpg does.
If you're scanning black and white pages, scan it in Black and white, NOT grey scale. Black and white will give you the clearest and best printing quality. Scanning in grey scale will leave you with some very undesirable blotchy and blurry results.

I do very simple colour editing on my file using the Levels.
You go to Image>Adjustment>levels...
and you will get a dialogue box pop up. make sure the preview box is checked and nudge the 3 arrows around until your file looks as close to your original as possible.
I generally pull the outside ones in a little.
Next, I copy and paste my page, into my template file.
Alternatively, you could set the guides on your page file each time, but I think that's pretty tedious.
One I paste it on, its always too big, so I simply use the transform tool (Ctrl+T) and scale it down to fit my template, being mindful of the bleed and trim areas.

As you can see, if I leave mine like that, I'm going to lose my antelope on the foreground of the bottom panel, and the front of the van. I am going to add black borders on these pages, so I can nudge them up and cover the rough edges with the black borders. Easy Peasy.
You see how simple the guides are? they're always on top, and (once locked) are fixed in place so I can work freely without making sure a layer is always on top, or fuss around.
Next, I'm going to add my gutters in.
I create a new layer, and using the select tool, make a box around one edge, as wide as I want my edge gutters.

I select the area, then go to Edit>Fill... and choose my colour (usually black) and fill the box. I then deselect it (Ctrl+d) and duplicate the layer, and move the new layer to the top. This created my top edge. I duplicate it again, rotate it 90degrees for each side, so I completely box my page in black.

Here is my layers for the 4 edges, and the page in the preview/ navigation.
Doing this this way created a very uniform edge.

I then continue this process for the internal gutters, because I like them all the be exactly uniform. If one of the gutters doesn't go the length of the page I use the select tool to select the extra black gutter and hit Delete and it clears it from the layer.
Nice and CLEAN!

After I get all my gutters laid out I merge all the gutter layers into one layer.

THEN SAVE! Save often! my files aren't gigantic, but this work is pretty tedious and I'm generally doing something else in the background like rendering film or something, and that eats a lot of computer concentration! Crashes in photoshop only happen when you HAVEN'T saved. Save often!

Next up is the dialogue boxes. My comic is largely narrative, so my Narration is captured in little square boxes, while dialogue is in talk bubble boxes.
There is a million ways you could do these, but my favourite way, is exactly how we did the gutters. I use the select tool (rectangle) for the narrative boxes, and the Ellipse select tool for dialogue.
 I use Fill to make the boxes white, and Edit> stroke... to give a little border on the boxes.
To get the little Tail on the dialogue boxes, I start by typing the text on the page using the text tool, then take the selection tool, using the ellipse setting and make an ellipse around the text. One I have the text encircled in my marching ants, I switch to the Polyagonal lasso tool.
This is the poly-lasso tool. creates straight edges.
See the steps below. Pls note, I couldn't seem to screen cap the action. :/
Step one: ellipse, step 2: using Poly lasso tool, while holding down SHIFT, draw in the tail. It will ADD to the selection.

Create a new layer below the text, then go Edit> fill ... Choose white, hit ok, then go Edit >Stroke... Choose black, and the pixels (I used 3) and hit okay. you then have a white dialogue bubble.

Once you've got all your dialogue in make sure that it is ALL within the live area! Very important! you don't want your dialogue caught in the spine, or worse, Trimmed off!
Now all that is left is saving the file. you know it's the right dimensions and resolution because you've made an awesome template, so simply save your file with your page number (IE Ch1-pg12) and save it as a .TIFF file. You're page is ready!
Lots of print places ask for Jpegs but Jpegs are awful, and should only be used as a web friendly file (example, if you make a web version of your comic, save your web page as a .jpeg. Jpegs are faster loading. I am always annoyed when I company doing printing asks for Jpegs.

Some tips:
Keep your files organized, especially if it's a long going comic. always save the PSD's of your print files. in case you notice a type at some point, its an easy fix. same if the files are printing the wrong colour or something.

If you're looking for a great place to get your comics printed, I highly recommend Ka-Blam. Not only is the quality good, it's affordable and they list your comics in their database too (you get the money for the sales), so you don't even need a store front. Great promotion! They also have the ability to list in Comics monkey for distribution to stores, and digital Planet for digital copies. Very nice!

Hope that was helpful.

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