How to Make Digital Comics Pt. 1 (File types and creation)

When I re-did this website a few months back one of my primary objectives was to change how I was posting blogs. Most blogs post random snippets of art and the odd spattering of witty type. I’d rather take a different approach for the next little while. I’m much more interested in sharing what I’ve learned about comics and now, specifically, digital comics.

You see — I have this sick fascination with digital comics right now. It’s quickly becoming all the rage in the media and with good reason.

Digital is here and it’s here to stay.

So why don’t we delve a bit further into digital comics… how does one make a digital comic?

I’m creating digital comics right now. That’s the reason I’m writing this post. To share with all of you what I’ve learned so far and to help you prevent some of the mistakes I’ve already made. A quick lesson then — digital comics typically use a cbr/cbz, pdf , epub or mobi file format. Cbr seems to be the file type of choice for illegal downloaders although most digital comic distributors want to use pdf for some reason. I don’t quite understand that line of thinking. Yes, most computers have the ability to view pdfs but your general comic reader populace prefers cbr and you can grab a cbr image viewer for free via the internet anyway. Why not just give them what they want? More than likely it’s due to DRM protection.

But before I go into a rant about that, let’s make a cbr.

One thing I was not aware of is that to make a cbr, you use rar compression. And to make a cbz file, you use zip compression.

Let me state that again: CBR uses RAR Compression, CBZ uses ZIP Compression.

When I created my first cbr file, I had the compression switched. It resulted in basically twice the page count in my book. The first half was blank pages and the second half was the book. Ha! (I should also point out that this was only when viewed on my iPad. When I viewed it on my computer, it turned out fine. So test, test, test! Or send it to someone to test if you don’t have the device you’re aiming to put it on.)

Another weird thing — at least in my experience — when creating the rar file, you have to make sure all of your files are directly in the area toSimply Rar screenshot be compressed. You can’t just drag over a folder containing the files. So folders=bad, no folders=good. (As seen in the graphic…)

To create a rar, download something like Simply Rar for Mac. I suggest turning on “test files” in the check box to double check that everything worked. You name your file, tell it where you want it to be saved and presto, you have a rar file. To create a cbr file now, you just rename it using the extension cbr.

That’s all well and good, Adam, but what about everything else? We’ll get there, we’ll get there. Next time we’ll talk about page sizes, resolution and all that fun stuff.

Lastly, I’m no expert.

I’m simply presenting to you the information that I’ve come across and the challenges I’ve faced. My hope is that you’ll learn something along the way and that some of the information here will become useful to you.

I encourage you to comment below with any questions and to share this post back out to everyone around you. Like you, there’s many other would-be creators dying at the chance to learn something new about creating digital comics.

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About Adam

Adam got his start in comics illustrating and colouring the book Shuddertown from Image Comics/Shadowline. He’s now concentrating his efforts on self-publishing and a larger move into writing novels and helping other authors get their work published. He recently launched his first small press publishing company, EnemyOne, which was realistically over 10 years in the making. He enjoys reading comic books and in particular old, pulpy, crime novels.


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  • Thomas Ledbetter

    One question: I have a Windows Computer, and I have WinRAR, but it can’t compress pictures. What program do you recommend for a Windows Computer to do the same thing?

  • Avantika

    Hi, I’m a complete newbie who wants to get into digital comics/cartooning but have no idea where to start. Do you have a complete step by step process for beginners (I only know how to draw cartoons!). Hoping you can help…

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  • Rich

    Hey Adam,
    Have you checked out

  • Juanito

    Hey, this questions maybe a little of topic but I’m trying to find a way to blank out the text boxes in pdf comic files to use for teaching english. Any ideas how I could achieve this digitally. I’m using a mac and ipad. Thanks in advance.

    • Adam Geen

      Hi Juanito,

      I’m so sorry I missed this question. If you still need to know, you might be able to use a program called Skitch. You could essentially take a screenshot of the file on your desktop and add little boxes or arrows or whatever you like using the program. You could theoretically do it in any graphics program really, but I think Skitch is free.

  • Aki

    Hello Adam. Hey thanks for the useful info here. But as for the digital comic, I prefer to use pdf format since yeah it as easy as that. Btw, did you publish your digital comic into mobile apps? I’m looking some advice with it since I’m working on my third digital comic now.

    • Adam Geen

      HI Aki,

      You could definitely use a pdf file. I have in the past as some people didn’t have the ability to read it otherwise. No, I didn’t bother doing anything app related. My thinking was that most people probably already have a ton of apps on their devices and they’d prefer not to download another one. All to read a comic, no less. I think it’s asking a bit much when you have Comixology and the like already. It seemed more like a hassle than anything, having to learn how and develop it for what seemed like little gain.