Dummies Guide to Comic Printing

Comic books have been around since the 1930s and have gone through various evolutions over the years. It has spanned different eras, which greatly influenced the varied comic book styles and techniques we have at present. Despite the ever-changing forms of comic books, one thing hasn’t changed a lot since its infancy, and that is comic book printing.

Thanks to the recent advancements in technology, it’s now easier than ever to create and publish your own comic book. The comic book industry has seen a boom in self-published works in recent years, which paved the way for aspiring artists to showcase their medium with other comic aficionados. Whether it’s graphic novels or single-issue comics, comic book printing companies have also stepped up their game and now offer various printing options for artists to bring their stories to life in any form they wish. These days, printing your comic books has never been easier.

Comic book printing may seem like a pretty straightforward process, but prior to publishing your own comic book, you’ll need to go through a couple of steps before you can get your hands on your original comic creation.

How to Create a Comic Book

Every successful comic book starts with an idea. Whether you intend to draw your comic by hand or do it on your computer using a graphics editing tool, you must first determine what your comic is all about. You need to have a clear vision of how you want your story to unfold. Once you have a solid storyline, you can start writing the script, creating sketches, drawing panels, designing your cover, and laying out your pages. After all your content has been created, you can now compile and prepare them for printing.

Comic Printing Process

A comic book is typically comprised of three major elements – size, paper, and binding. You need to decide on these three before sending your files to the printers.

Choosing the Right Comic Book Size

The size of your comic book would greatly depend on your layout. The cost of printing may vary depending on the comic book size, so it’s best to check your options with the printers first to have an idea how much it would cost.

Traditionally, comics and graphic novels have their own unique sizes, with the US Standard (6.7” x 10.2”) being the most popular choice. This is because even today, the comics industry is built around this size with bookshelves, racking, and protective sleeves all made to match the unique size. Meanwhile, Manga Standard (5” x 7.5”) is favoured for Japanese inspired art. The UK also has its own standard size, measuring 6.2” x 9.4”.

Of course, comics can be printed in regular 5.5” x 8.5”, 6” x 9”, or 8.5” x 11” sizes, which can often be cheaper due to mass production of standard paper sizes.

Choosing the Right Comic Book Paper

Comic books usually have different kinds of paper for the cover and content pages. Before sending your files to the printers, think about which kind of paper to use. It’s always more cost effective to have satin paper and a satin cover with a matte finish.

Meanwhile, it’s becoming more popular for perfect bound graphic novels to have satin paper pages to minimize shine on any artwork, while a gloss cover with a gloss lamination gives a premium look and feel.

Paper thickness is also another factor to consider. Graphic novels are best in thicker and heavier paper as it prevents the reverse side of the pages to peek through. The extra paper weight also helps to improve the quality of perfect binding.

If you’re in a budget, using satin paper with a low weight will keep costs down, provided you invest in a thicker cover paper with a matte lamination, which will help to protect the thinner pages inside.

Choosing the Right Comic Book Binding

Traditionally, comic books are saddle stitched or stapled, while graphic novels are perfect bound due to the higher number of pages.

Perfect binding looks fantastic, but requires a certain thickness due to the square spine. Too few pages and it’s not possible, but it is common for publishers to increase the thickness of their text paper so that they can make their comic book perfect bound.

However, most comics are staple bound, either due to the low page count or because it’s more cost effective than perfect binding.

Printing Your Comic Book

Basically, you have two options in printing your comic book – digital or offset printing. A digital printing machine is ideal for small print runs of up to a few hundred. Meanwhile, an offset printing machine is perfect for large print runs of hundreds to thousands of comics.

Digital printing is great for small print runs, however, the cost of printing per book can be quite high. Offset printing on the other hand is more cost effective, but it requires a higher volume requirement and a longer timetable to produce. This is due to the different manufacturing processes involved in the different methods of printing. It’s worth nothing that while most comics are printed digitally, there can be variations in colour and quality between digital and offset, with publishers tending to prefer offset printing.

Finding a Comic Book Printer

Thanks to online printing, artists can now have their comic books printed remotely. Comic book printing companies like Mixam now offer online services that everyone can access anywhere they may be. You can get instant price quotes and even upload your files to be printed on their website.

With online printing providing a more accessible and cost effective alternative to traditional printers, supported by a wealth of advice online, the independent comics industry is growing rapidly. There’s never been a better time to be an indie comic publisher.