Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Why Worry About Trim?


How to Become a Comic Strip, Comic Book and Graphic Novel Artist

Comic page sizes

The size of original comic book art used to be 200% larger than the printed size. This was done because it was easier for the artist to draw details and covered some mistakes when reduced.

The economy caused companies to try to save on paper and ink costs so comics are smaller than they were and the original art paper size has shrunk.

Now the original art is 150% larger than the printed size. The current paper size is 11" x 17" and the drawing area is 10" x 15". This is what you commonly are told.  If you work for a large company that gives you the paper to draw on, then you don't need to know any more than that.

It's a little more complicated than that. If you buy your own paper, you need to know a little more.

Bleed refers to art you want to go to the edge of the page - the trim size. However, if you want art to print to the edge, then your original art has to be drawn beyond the trim size to the bleed area. There also has to be a safe area to include lettering to be sure it doesn't get trimmed.

NOTE: If you self-publish you will make more money by creating comics with no bleed. You get charged for all that excess paper that gets trimmed away!

So these are the sizes you need to make. 

Live/Safe area is 9" x 13.5"
Bleed area is 10.5" x 15.75"
Trim size is 10" x 15"

These are the standard original art paper sizes. However, you can draw at any size that is proportional to the printed size. The ratio is 2:3. So if you have a small scanner you can make things easy for yourself. You don't have to draw on 11" x 17" paper and scan each half of the paper and put it back together on the computer. You can draw at a 2:3 ratio that fits your scanner.

The printed size of the current American comic is 6 3/4" x 10 1/4" (6.625" x 10.25"). 

With the current digital tools available and better printing technology you no longer have to do things the same way.

All caps were used as the standard for comic lettering because the ink would spread and close up in the small spaces between letters "a" and "e" for example. Using all caps presented new issues. A word like FLICK could not be used because the ink would spread and the word would become something else. Shield your eyes children! 

The point is that the early creators of comics wanted to use upper and lower case letters. They were forced to use all upper case by the poor quality of the paper and printing technology. So now with better paper, digital and printer technologies the creative choices are open once again. We can use upper and lower case letters which are easier to read. We don't have to keep using all caps because "that's the way it's always been done."

Likewise with drawing digitally. There's no need to draw at 11" x 17" on the computer and reduce it down. You can draw at the printed size and zoom in to 150% and you're drawing as if it is 11" by 17". There's no need to letter or color at the 11" x 17" size. You will keep your file size small and be able to see what it looks at printed size. You may also save time as you won't have to wait for your computer to render, redraw or catch up with you since your file size will be smaller. 

With original art you don't want to miniaturize. Which means drawing the same detail on a car that's far away as a car that is larger and closer to the reader. This helps to create atmospheric perspective and gives the illusion of depth. You still don't want to do this digitally, however the better quality of e-book readers and zoom in technology do open up some creative possibilities that didn't exist before. Think about it.

So here are the sizes you need to be aware of when creating a comic digitally at print size.

Live/Safe area is 6" x 9"
Bleed area is 7" x 10.5"
Trim size is 6.625" x 10.25"

*Note: Printers only need an 1/8" bleed. Any more is just a waste of your time and space.

A general guide for comic book lettering font sizes to use:

For print comics:
Light text (meaning not a lot of words)
size/leading = 7.35/7.75

Heavy Text (meaning you need to squeeze a lot of words on the page because it's probably over written)
size/leading = 6.35/6.75

For web comics:
Light Text
size/leading = 10/12

Heavy Text
size/leading = 9/11

A good guide is to use no more that 25 to 28 words per balloon or caption.

Next…  I'll have some templates for you to download or maybe I'll only make it available to people who I see follow me.

Subscribe to me. I also would like to see your comments. Is this helpful to you? Are the explanations clear and complete?

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copyright 2012 H. Simpson
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