The Basics of Designing and Self-Publishing Your Independent Comic Book

Among the likes of many types of popular media such as music, films, and literature; comic books have gone through different eras and styles over the years. Just as popular music cycles through different genres, comics have gone through different styles of narratives and illustrations to coincide with current events and pop culture, which may make it difficult when deciding how to design your independent comic book or graphic novel for print.

For example, the Golden Age (pre-1950s) of comic book publishing focused on the idealistic hero, who combated whatever evils were plaguing the world at that moment. The Silver Age (late 1950s-1970s) incorporated advancements in science and modern inventions into the stories and the hero’s characteristics. This was followed by periods tackling social issues (Bronze Age) and turning away from the traditional hero (Modern Age).

Display of Comic Books from older time periods

Series of Silver and Gold Age Comics – Source: Ryan Brunsvold

 

Throughout this whole transition there has been a resurgence of comics in recent years being re-imagined into other media such as television and movies (see The Walking Dead and Guardians of the Galaxy). Examples like this may be correlated with the spike in interest in comics and. This coupled with the fact that computer-based design programs have made it easier to set up and create beautiful illustrations and animations allows amateur artists and independent comic publishers to create their own comics and make them look professional grade.

However, even with a modern hero and a striking design, a comic book is not complete without a proper printing job. For your comic book to seem legitimate and get noticed, it would be best to have them professionally printed so that they have proper color matching, bleeds to cover the whole page surface, and correct alignment between full page spreads. Luckily, we offer affordable pricing for comic printing, and expert advice and design tips.

Four important factors to consider when designing your independent comic book

comics-blog

  1. The standard size of a comic book

Just as the themes of comics have changed over the years, so have the traditional size of the pages. Although the first comics were printed about an inch wider than they are today, they have standardized over the years. Today, the traditional size of a comic book is 6.625” x 10.25”, but comics can also be printed in custom sizes. Graphic novels on the other hand don’t have a standard size, but common sizes include 5.5” x 8.5” or 6” x 9”.

  1. Choosing the right style of paper for your comic

Do you want your comic to be glossy and shiny? Or how about flat and subtle? Your printer will be able to help choose the right paper stock for your project and can provide printed samples for you to compare. Typically if you want the comic to have a shine to it, you will be printing on gloss or matte coated stock. Gloss coated will be brighter than matte, but matte will still have some reflective quality.

Uncoated paper on the other hand will have a flat, natural look and is more commonly used for printing comic books. It is also common to print on uncoated inside pages, with a gloss cover.

Important Note: Check with your printer to see if they will be printing digitally with toner, or on an offset press. Toner naturally causes the printed ink to shine, so even if a comic is printed on uncoated paper, it may still appear glossy. An offset press will leave virtually no shine.

 

  1. The weight of your paper

You should also decide how heavy or thick you want your paper to be. We prefer to print comics on 60lb or 70lb uncoated text stock to give them a weight that’s sturdy enough to last through multiple reads, but not too heavy to be cumbersome. This thickness also prevents dark colors from showing on the reverse side of a page. If you are unfamiliar with different weights of paper, consider that standard copy paper used in your home printer is normally 20-24lb.

In printing terms, a plus-cover booklet is when the cover is a thicker stock than the inside pages and a self-cover is when the cover stock is the same as the inside. So you can also consider having a thick glossy cover, with thinner uncoated pages on the inside.

 

  1. Choosing your binding

Almost always, a comic book will be saddle stitched; meaning large sheets of paper are folded in half and stapled to the correct finished page size. This is a cost efficient option, and creates a lightweight and easy to store comic. Graphic novels on the other hand may be better suited as perfect bound books to give them more of a traditional “book” feel.

 

Any additional questions about comic book printing and specific features available should be discussed with your preferred printer. There are several additional options which can make your comics stand out such as spot UV coating.

 

Avoid Issues By Saving Your Artwork Properly In InDesign For Printing

There are a few simple rules to follow when saving a print-ready design made with InDesign and it all starts with setting up your InDesign document properly with bleeds.

 The following paragraphs will enlighten you to a few golden rules to follow when it comes to saving/exporting your design to make sure it’s ready to go to print. 

The Need To Bleed

Adding bleeds from the start, BEFORE YOU EVEN START, is crucial. Think about it, you’re working on a 200+ page catalog and then you find out you have to go back and extend the bleed of every single object in every single page!! I really think if that happened to me I’d be Keanu-level bummed…

Should Have Added Bleeds Keanu

Packaging vs. Exporting

There are two common options when sending your file to your favorite printing company. You can choose your preferred route, although one is easier and produces a smaller file size:

1. Export to PDF

You can easily export your file to PDF format and send one single PDF to your printing company.  Saving as PDF embeds all your fonts and linked images into one file; nowadays this is the preferred method.

2. Package…

Packaging all of your document fonts, linked images, instructions and native InDesign file is another option you can exercise when sending your files to print. This option does create a pretty large file size that might make it a little harder to transfer to your printer vs. a PDF that could be half the size.


Save It Right The First Time

To save your InDesign file as PDF:

  • Click  File > Export  .
  • Enter your filename
  • Click Save
  • Select the [Press Quality] Preset

InDesign Export To PDF - Press Quality

Compression

I recommend leaving the compression to default values. For printing you only need 300 DPI images. If any of the images in your document are above 450 DPI, InDesign will automatically downsample the image to 300 DPI to reduce file size.

Color Image Compression:

InDesign Monochrome Image Compression Settings

Grayscale Image Compression:

InDesign Grayscale Image Compression Settings

Monochrome Image Compression:

InDesign Monochrome Image Compression Settings

Marks and Bleeds

To be safe, you can always simply select “All Printer’s Marks” although the most important options to have selected here are Crop Marks and Bleed Marks. Crop and Bleed Marks usually go together when any of the art, anything being printed, reaches the edge of the paper. A crop mark denotes where the paper will be cut to the final size while a bleed ensures that a white border is not present at the edge of the paper when cut.

Learn more about Crop Marks, Bleed Marks and the Cutting Process in printing.

Marks

InDesign Marks and Bleeds Settings

Bleeds and Slugs

If you set up your document correctly before starting your design as I stated at the beginning of this post, then it’s safe to select “Use Document Bleed Settings”. The slug is primarily to be used by you during design so we’ll just leave that unchecked.

InDesign Bleed and Slug Settings

Output

The default settings found in the Output options are pretty general and apply pretty well in all situations within the U.S.
Check with your printer first since it is possible that they have a preferred profile that works best with them. Otherwise, leave it as is – CMYK – U.S. Web Coated (SWOP) V2.

InDesign Output Settings

 

This is box title
Time for you to contact a modern printing company who will be able to use your PDF when saved with these settings. Honestly, you need to look no further as you are already in the right place: The Marsid M&M Group offers both digital printing and offset printing, foil stamping and embossing, custom die cutting and mailing services all with fast turnaround, all done in-house.

 Give us a call at 1877-mmprint or visit our website www.mmprint.com 

InDesign Tips to Speed Up Your Catalog Design

 

We sort out great websites for you to download free for commercial use fonts or free for commercial use vector art and write tutorials and tips for designers.

 

Why do we even bother? Well, honestly, it makes our job easier!

 

Truth is, we can use the most state-of-the-art printing presses like the Konica Minolta C8000 we acquired recently, but if the files are not print-ready and well crafted, the outcome can literally be garbage…that goes in our paper recycle bins of course!

In my experience:

  • 80% of the outcome of a print job is dependent on the design files
  • Most times, a graphic designer acts as a liaison between us (the catalog printer) and the customer
  • Many times the customer is the designer

Therefore, we sincerely want the designer/customer to be proficient with their design tools and so, we offer the resources to learn how to do so.

 

Keep reading to learn how InDesign can speed up your catalog design and make you a truly efficient designer…

Catalog Printing - Indesign Master Pages

Adobe InDesign Gives You Design Superpowers

 

Well, not really. But it does make the process of designing a catalog 10x easier!

One of the most tedious part of designing a catalog for print is well, repetition.

What would you find repeated throughout a catalog?

  • Headers
  • Footers
  • Backgrounds
  • Logos
  • Watermarks

 

Adobe InDesign Master PagesWhat can we do about it?

Adobe InDesign answers that question for us with “Master Pages”.

Notice how in the top area of the image there is a graphic of a page labeled “A-Master”. Notice the pages below it are all labeled “A”. That means that any changes done to the A-Master page will also appear in all pages labeled “A”.

Now isn’t that nifty??

You can place any repetitive information that will be found throughout your catalog in the A-Master page and it will be found on all of your pages marked A.

If you find that you need to have some of the pages with a different layout, you have 2 options…

  • Simply drag the page labeled “[None]” to the page that will be different. This removes the A-Master layout
  • Create a new Master such as B-Master so that you can use a totally different layout on other pages

 

This feature alone will save you countless hours that will be better spent designing the body of the catalog.

 

Now that’s efficiency.

 

Here is a youtube video from Lynda.com that explains how to use InDesign Master Pages in detail:

 

Please comment with any InDesign advice or tips you may have and don’t forget to share this post!

Adding Video to your Printed Marketing Materials for Free

 

In this post we will explore in detail how to beef up your printed marketing materials by adding your own custom video and making it easy for your customers to share the video as well.
I am sure some of you reading this right now are imagining small screens, wires and batteries or mini-DVDs glued to the inside of your media kits. Well, that’s not the case, it’s not that complicated and it’s free!

Adding the video to your printed marketing materials is done in 3 easy steps and all 3 tools needed are available freely on the Internet.

Video Distribution Step One

Video Distribution

The first step, assuming you already have a video that you would like to distribute to your customers, is to upload your video to the web. There are quite a few websites that will host your video file for free, some of the most popular being Youtube and Vimeo.

 If you are tech-savvy or have an IT person who handles your website, you can also upload your videos to your own website hosting server.

By uploading your videos to the web, you make them available and easily accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Most video hosting sites as you may already know, have a commenting feature where people can leave comments about your video and you can respond to their comments.

 

Link Creation Rope

Creating a Link

In this second step we will create a link to the video. Both Youtube and Vimeo automatically create a link for you and you simply copy and paste it. Most video hosting sites will do this for you as well.

After we have uploaded the video and generated a direct link to the video, we are going to make it a link that we can track to see how many times it has been used, shared and who shared it.

There are many free URL shorteners available that give you free tracking tools that provide basic Analytics with information regarding the use of the link you shortened. Here are a few of the most popular ones, I recommend you create a user account so that you can log in and view your results:

I tend to be partial to bit.ly because I like how easy it is to create a shortened url and the way they present the link tracking information.

To create a shortened URL, simply paste the video URL into the big blue text box and click shorten. Easy as that.

The Bit.ly analytic panel gives you different ways to look at what happened to your URL throughout its life:

  • A visual chart with the amount of daily clicks
  • Cool feature called Conversations which shows who is talking and sharing the same link on social networks plus a count of how many times it has been shared on various social networks.
  • QR code and a sidebar to share the link on your social networks right from the bit.ly page (go to settings to authorize this).

Being able to analyze the results of your efforts is a very valuable tool. If you can tell what did well and what went wrong with your marketing, you can use this information to improve your marketing and drive better results on your next campaign.

 

QR Code Connecting Print to Video

Code Connection

The final step in adding video to your printed marketing materials is to create the connection between your video and the paper your marketing material is printed on.

Most of you may be familiar with QR codes by now since they have been around for a while. You might see them quite often on catalogs, magazines, postcards and many other direct mail printed materials; not to mention packaging and even in commercial stores like BestBuy use them to show video product demos in the stores.

If you would like to learn more about QR codes, I highly recommend you read my post that contains information about QR codes and a list of Free QR Code readers and generators.

For this specific tutorial we will be using a QR code to direct the user’s mobile smart phone to a video that you uploaded per the instructions in step one. Why use a QR code? Well, how many people do you think would want to type a URL that looks like this – bit.ly/egm7XG – into their smart phone browser? By using a QR code all the user has to do is tap his QR code reader app and scan the code.

Let’s get to it! Creating a QR code is simple. Go to one of the free websites I listed in the blog post about QR Codes. Try them all to see which one you find easier to use and feel free to share with us in the comments below.

For this example I will use the www.BeQRious.com website to generate my QR code:

BeQRious.com screenshot

Simply paste the shortened URL you created in step 2 into the text box labeled “Enter web URL:” and click the Create Code button.

You will see on the right an image of a cellphone with a QR code on the screen. That is the code that was generated by your special and unique URL.

Now, if you are feeling a bit antsy, go ahead and fire up your QR Code reader app on your smart phone and scan the the code right on your computer screen. Make sure it works correctly and directs your smart phone to the video you uploaded in step 1.

If it doesn’t work, go back to step 1 and make sure you used the correct link for the video, in the URL shortener and that you used the correct link generated by the URL shortner, on BeQRious.com (or whatever qr code generator you decided to use).

Wa-la! That’s it. Download the QR code and insert into the design of your marketing materials.

I recommend you download the vector/PDF version of the code (if available) as it is created in vector format and can be enlarged or reduced to just about any size without losing any quality. I personally try to keep it no smaller than 1 inch x 1 inch.

IMPORTANT!!!

Rule #1 : TEST, TEST, TEST.
You must make sure that the code is not too small or too blurry to be read by the cameras on smart phones. You must test the QR code among different phone models and different QR code reader apps to make sure it works appropriately.

Printing Terms Infographic – Color Quick Guide

We strongly believe that an informed customer can make all the difference in print jobs going smoothly and without misunderstandings. I’m sure it goes for any industry.

We strive to offer a unique and pleasant experience when working with us. By providing our customers with informative collateral we not only educate our customer, but we also ease the lines of communication which instills confidence in our customer that what they are ordering is exactly what they want. It’s logical, it makes sense.

With the recent popularity and practicality found in infographics, we decided to release a series of Quick Guides of printing terms and print related infographics to offer to our customers and anyone else who can use them. Please feel free to share this!

For a more in-depth look at color, visit our Colorful Guide to Understanding Color.

Printing Terms Color Quick Guide

 

 

 

 

Creating Outlines from Type in Illustrator and InDesign


Outlining Type in Adobe Illustrator and Indesign

Why Do We Need to Outline Our Type?

Before sending a file to a printer, there are a few important steps that must be considered.  One of those is making sure that the type in the document is turned into outlines.  If the printer needs to make an adjustment to the file (fix color, adjust bleeds, etc.)  and the type is not outlined, there could be font issues that cause the copy to change or re-flow.  Sometimes these changes may not be noticed until after the job is printed.  It is a very simple process that only takes a moment.  Once it is done, the type is turned from a type box to vector outlines and can no longer be edited.  This tutorial is for Adobe programs such as Adobe Illustrator or Adobe Indesign. Always remember to check your copy before converting to outlines, because it can not be edited afterward.

Outlines Versus Type

How to Create the Outlined Type

In the above Image, the top line of text is type while the bottom line is outlines.  As you can see the outlines no longer have editable type; they have the individual vector points of the outlined shapes.  In order to outline the type, one needs to select the type box as a whole so that it looks like the below image.

Selecting a Text Box

Then if you are on a PC, press CTRL + SHIFT + O, or if you are on a Mac, press CMD + SHIFT + O.  The type can also be outlined from the top menu by selecting “type” then selecting “create outlines” from the drop down menu.  Afterwards your type will turn to paths and look like this image below.

Outlined Type

Finished Type Outlines

Now the type is outlined and safe to send to the printer. Remember to check that the other parts of the document are ready to go to pre-press before sending it to your printer.  Outlined type can be helpful when creating typographical designs; it removes the need to work with type boxes and allows direct editing of the shape of the characters directly.

Design Tutorial: Offset Path Tool in Adobe Illustrator

Offset Path Tool for Adobe Illustrator

Using the Offset Path Tool in Adobe Illustrator

This tool is one of my favorites within Illustrator.  It does exactly as the name suggests, it creates a duplicate of an object with the path set off by a specified distance.  It can create replicas of different size with standard distances between the original and replica and easily creates concentric shapes. It is great for creating large or smaller versions of objects or creating outlines that are shapes.  It is also great for creating outlines around large groups of objects and creating shadows that are actual objects that can be edited independently from the object that would be casting the shadow.

Adobe Illustrator Offset Path Tool Dialog Box-Miter Limit Join Offset

How to use the Offset Path Tool

The offset path tool can be accessed from the Adobe Illustrator Menu from Object >> Path >> Offset Path. It will open the offset path tool box that asks what distance to offset the path, what type of joins for the corners and the miter limit. The distance used in the Offset field can be entered as a positive or negative which will make a shape that is either larger or smaller than the original.

Multiple Examples of the Offset Path Tool

Different Offsets

In the above image the offset path tool is used to create multiple concentric copies of the original shape in different sizes.  In the purple example I created a smaller concentric copy by using negative values, while in the blue example I used the a positive value to create a larger concentric copy.

The offset tool can even be used to create multiple copies that can sit within one another.  This effect is achieved by applying the offset tool twice as shown in the red and black example.

Illustrator Offset Path Tool Join Options Bevel Round Miter Ends

Different Join Types

The joins field in the offset path tool box modifies the type of angles the ends of the offset will have. There are three types, the miter which is a pointed corner, the round which is a rounded corner and the bevel which is a squared corner.

Differences between Miter Limits

 

Miter Limit

The miter limit is how far the points can extrude from angles in the shape. Below there is an example of a high and low miter.  The  default is “4” which isn’t always the best for more acute angles.  The second example with a miter of “20” actually allows for it to be much larger than what is displayed, so it is a bit of overkill.

 

Difference between Stroke and Offset Path in Adobe Illustrator

The Difference Between Offset Path and Strokes

A similar effect can be created by applying a stroke to an object but a stroke and offset path are not the same, although they can look similar. The offset path is a replica that is evenly distanced from the original all around while the stroke is just an outline of a path. Also while resizing an object, the offset path will keep the proportions while the stroke will keep the same stroke size regardless of object size. Above we have an image of a stroke and an offset path around a line of text that has been reduced in size.  Originally when the object was much larger they looked identical but as the object size changed more dramatically the stroke slowly became more out of place while the offset path still looks right. The stroke would have to be constantly adjusted or it would have to be outlined so that it can allow for size adjustments.

Creating Shadows with the Offset tool in Adobe Illustrator

Using the Offset Path to Create Shadows

Creating an offset path of an object is a very handy way to create a shadow for that object. In the above graphic I created a shadow for the word tool by offsetting the graphic and then expanding it slightly. Afterward I used the feather on the offset and matched the color to the background. It isn’t hard and can create a nice shadow that is fully adjustable as an independent object.

Down the Right Path

The offset path tool is one of those tools that you do not hear much about but packs a big design punch when it comes to usefulness. Beyond the basic utilization illustrated in this post, the offset path tool can be used to create unique effects that can vary depending on the shape or object.

Please share any tips or tricks you may have discovered while using the offset path tool in the comments section!

Typography – Choosing Appropriate Fonts

Typography: appropriate typefaces - choosing the appropriate font

 

The Timbre of Fonts

tim·bre/tambər/

Noun: The character or quality of a musical sound or voice as distinct from its pitch and intensity.

Comic Sans Office Note

Choosing an appropriate font for a design is very important.  Like sounds, I believe that fonts have timbre.  They can be described as having intangible properties that normally wouldn’t be associated with type such as being dark, violent, happy, sad, rugged or loud.  With that in mind, a design will benefit by choosing fonts which possess the appropriate timbre or tone and will help set the mood the overall design is meant to convey.

The First Step to Choosing the Right Font

Once the idea is established, a designer will need to understand how that idea needs to be conveyed.  A few points will have to be established in order to  do this:

  • Who is the target audience?
  • What is the idea?
  • Where will the design be?

These are just a few of the questions, but much will need to be determined.  Sticking with the standard who, what, when, where and why will be the simplest way to deduce the how.

Excellent Font Inspiration – Movie Posters

One of the best examples of both appropriate and inappropriate typefaces would be movie posters.  Movie posters need to grab attention and convey the timbre and idea of the movie very quickly. The posters will also have to be aesthetically pleasing at the same time. Since the movie itself already is the idea that needs to be conveyed, the imagery and timbre are already set.  The layout and fonts are what need to be established.  The design just has to focus around has already been established.

The “Cloverfield” poster has fonts that are similar to one you would find in a case report.  It supports the idea that there is a mystery or something can be classified.  The colors and blur on the text make it foreboding and also give the idea that this is science fiction and could be frightening.  After we switch the font to Comic Sans,  it turns into the box for a breakfast cereal; presumably one that is full of mystery.

Cloverfield Poster with Comic Sans

 

I picked two other posters that I felt had appropriate font choice and design. The “Australia” poster has a turn of the century feeling to it.  The colors give off a very rustic feeling and communicates the idea of being outdoors and limited to technology.  The font itself expresses some sort of entertainment or adventure.  It is the type of font you would have found on an old show poster or travel poster.  This typography brings you to the outback or the wild west and prepares you for adventure.
The “Transformers” Poster’s typography is sharp and looks like cut metal. The font is strong and bold.  The combination of the colors and font give it a serious timbre and express action. The typography tells you “Hey, we got robots.” without actually saying it.

Australia and Transformers Movie Poster Fonts

Typeface Lost and Found

Understanding the project and a clear statement is what is needed in choosing the correct typeface. Once determined, the designer will be able to feel what would be right. The typeface is chosen before the search begins.

Do your designs match your Fonts or do your Fonts match your designs?

 

Please leave your comments below…