How to Make Digital Comics Pt. 2 (Page sizes and resolution)

After last week’s post on How to Make Digital Comics I quickly realized there is an awful lot of you out there looking for this kind of information. So thank you for dropping by and checking it out. Feel free to leave comments or questions as well!

This week I want to talk about page sizes and resolution.

When it comes to drawing your artwork for digital comics you should really keep your page size in mind. There are already a number of different types of digital comics out there today. Off the top of my head we’ve got the landscape oriented comic like Michael Jasper and Niki Smith’s “In Maps and Legends, Alex de Campi’s  panel specific “Valentine or your normal, everyday comic that’s simply being ported over to digital as is. These would be the comics from the Big Two, Image, Dark Horse, etc that are identical to their print counterparts.

I should also point out before we get too far into this — page sizes? It’s all personal preference. Maybe you want a landscape comic. That’s your decision. There really is no right or wrong way. When I first started making digital comics I came to the realization that I’d much rather utilize the proper dimensions of the devices. So first and foremost I focused on the iPad. An iPad’s screen dimensions are 768 x 1024 pixels in portrait mode. It also has a resolution of 132 dpi (as of this writing).

Once I knew its dimensions I was able to play with some of my previous comics and port them over. The first thing I noticed and you’ll have noticed this as well if you’ve read some comics on your iPad, was that the page doesn’t fill the entire screen. There’s a very large blank area on both sides of the comic. (Left and right sides.) Here’s an example from Kurtis J. Wiebe and Riley Rossmo’s wonderful comic Green Wake.

Green Wake #5 page example

This is happening because the art was drawn at a size that doesn’t fit an iPad. And why would it really? Print comics are one thing and an iPad another. Maybe in the future we’ll see this change but for now it’s highly unlikely. But that doesn’t stop us from making comics the way we want to… it may mean that our print version will be a slightly different shape but that doesn’t concern me anymore.

I ended up coming to the conclusion that if I draw my pages at a magazine size I can pretty much fit the iPad perfectly. For those template geeks, here’s the template that I use: Click here.

To the side is an example from my art book that I’ve since adjusted to fit the screen properly.

Art book example

So now you scan in your artwork, adjust your image size down to 768 x 1024, 132 dpi and presto, a page formatted specifically for the iPad that fills the screen! I’ve actually created a separate template file that’s sized specifically for each device that I just drag and drop my artwork on. That way I can adjust the page if I really need to.

[Update Mar 2012: The iPad 3 has now rolled out and it’s HD which means its stats have now updated as follows: resolution 264 dpi, pixel dimensions 1536 x 2048.]

Below is a screengrab showing how I’ve used it. You’ll notice that I’m still keeping in mind AND USING the page guidelines on the template like the bleed, trim and live area. I wouldn’t mind printing my comics as well some day so this way they’ll be properly formatted for print as well.

Magazine template example

 

But like I said, decide what works for you or what’s right for the project. You may want a single paneled comic similar to Comixology’s Guided View for instance. Or maybe you want your comic to be read easily on phones. Any time you choose a different device it complicates things. You will have to do some extra work.

One thing I haven’t touched on too much is the resolution of the pages. I’ve seen a lot of talk on the net about this. The consensus seems to be to just make them 72 dpi. (Web resolution) But I’m not sure I agree. If a device supports higher dpi, I say go for it. Sure your files will be a little larger but the last thing you want to do is give your customers/fans an inferior product. Some people may simply want to view them on their computer as well. They’d obviously  benefit from a higher resolution in that case.

An iPad’s resolution is 132 dpi, the Kindle2 167 dpi and the Nook Colour 196 dpi. These will change in the future as the technology increases and gets better and better each year but for now that’s where they stand. [Update Mar 2012: The resolution for the iPad 3 is  264 dpi.] The great thing about digital is that nothing is ever obsolete. Say 5 years from now the iPad supports 300 dpi, you could simply re-do your dpi on all of your pages and upload a new file. You’ll have the ability to do since you kept all of your original files in a safe place right? Right?! Always, always keep an untouched file somewhere. What if you need to adjust your lettering? What if you need to increase your dpi? What if you need to adjust your page size? Make sure you have that original file. It’ll come in handy, I promise you.

I did find out from one digital distributor recently that they require their files in 300 dpi. When asked they responded that it was in preparation for the devices to change and to allow the text to be read easier. I did some experimentation myself and sure enough, they were correct in regards to text. Although I did not notice ANY difference in the artwork itself even when zoomed. It looked exactly the same. I would still focus on the device’s dpi for now until told otherwise such as in this case.

Speaking of distributors I think that’s what we’ll talk about next week.

As a sidenote since I only seem to talk about the iPad lately, Kindle 2’s dimensions are 520 x 622 pixels and the Nook Colour 600 x 952 pixels.

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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