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Formatting comics for both print and digital

I found this article for MacWorld interesting. Jason Snell attended the San Diego Comic Con and compared creator’s love-fest with Digital comics for the iPad this year with yesteryear’s worry about digital comics.

The part that interested me was this subject about whether to format your online comics for print (book collections) or for digital delivery.

At Comic-Con, several comics professionals pointed out that many comic creators are now considering how their work displays on the iPad’s 4:3 screen during the creation process. “The dumb thing we do for digital now is create it for print, then ram it into digital,” Waid said. “Landscape mode is more fitting [for iPads and computer screens]. We should design for digital first and worry about print later.”

But most comic-book retailers are inflexible when it comes to stocking books. “Comic shops don’t want things that are the wrong shape,” Kurtz said. “They want me to change the shape of my book to fit their shelves.”

The most common way to serve both markets seems to be to design a comic as a series of landscape images. Stack two of those landscape images on top of one another, and you’ve got the traditional portrait aspect ratio of a printed comic book. Thom Zahler, writer and artist of the Love and Capes webcomic, said that he specifically designs his comic in that fashion, and paces his story according to the rhythm of those half-page chunks.

There has been much discussion regarding the tendency for some webcomics to keep the same format as print comics even though they have the endless pixels. What struct me about the cited statements above was the strategy of Thom Zahler who stacks two landscape images so that they can run horizontal for digital, but vertical for print which reminded me of the pre-Watterson era (many comics still hold to this format) when Sunday comics were essentially forced into a certain number of predetermined size and quantity of squares so that the newspaper could stack or re-arrange them to fit their pages.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Community Comments

#1 C. Hart
@ 7:08 am

Interesting article. I didn’t think this was a big issue with cartoonists.

Basically, I formatted my comic strip in the interest of quantity. I wanted it to be small enough so that I could post a strip 5 times a week.

How it would look in print was not even a consideration.

#2 David Jones
@ 9:31 am

I am just the opposite of C Hart. I do my strips with Print in mind. I do my strips Just Say Cheese and Charmy’s Army at 300 DPI at about two times scale in the master Photoshop file. After the work is completed, I resize and save as a Jpeg for the web. It takes more time, but I feel I will have a better time preparing that best selling printed collection in a few years… lol…. Dream big, live big…. BE big!.

#3 Tom Falco
@ 10:40 am

I do the scanning as large as possible at a high dpi for magazine and newspaper publication. I am published often in magazines, then I reduce it down to 72 dpi for online publication.

You may think you will never use the higher res for anything, but someone may want to publish the cartoons in the future, including yourself in the form of books, calendars, etc. and it will save you a lot of work not have to rescan and recolor, etc. when that time comes.

#4 Kat Ruhl
@ 12:30 pm

I would imagine with the ease of purchasing online people will become more and more disinclined to purchase at retail stores, simply because it’s easier to find what you want online. For instance, I’ve been waiting for half a month for my local comic shop to get the next issue of Fear Itself: Deadpool in. The issue is out, it came out on the 20th, but the shop can’t get it in for whatever reason. We found another shop about 30 min away that we’ll try this week but if they don’t have it I’ll have to turn to the internet to purchase.

With more and more people creating comics that comic shops don’t want or can’t sell people will turn more to online purchases. With that happening eventually we’ll have no problem creating books in the landscape format that many digital comics would benefit from.

#5 Anne Hambrock
@ 1:22 pm

One aspect of the difference between print and digital not addressed in the article is that of color. Because the ipad is backlit it offers a level of luminosity for color that one can only dream of in print.

I have written extensively on the subject here:


and here:(scroll down to get to the bit about color)

#6 David Jones
@ 2:05 pm

The only hiccup in doing stuff online is that it is so easy to bootleg and distribute your digital work. I see it with video games, movies and music. Think how bad these ebooks are bound to become. I did not intend for the word “bound” to be a pun referring to books. My life is one big pun….

That being said, I embrace the technology and hope to get filthy rich with my upcoming ebooks.

#7 Rich Diesslin
@ 3:42 pm

If you are already working digitally, seems like format should be whatever fits your main markets best or simply your preference in creating. Nice to hear of some innovative formats, but Alan nailed it on how somethings change but stay the same … print put limits on and now popular digital media are doing the same. The main problem for the digital is that size and ratios will change a lot more frequently than print – as quickly as the next trend.

Perhaps just keep thinking the golden rectangle (the mathematically most pleasing format?) and let the chips fall where they will. Although I’m mostly work in a square format, but no requirement to take my own advice. ;)

#8 gueddar khalid
@ 10:34 am

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