I am prepping for some shows I will be attending (MECAF in May and Kids Read Comics in June). I didn’t have any new comics printed since last year, so I decided to make up some minicomics featuring my short Zombie Bunny comic. I’m also reprinting my Captain Bacon comic which I sold as a mini last year.
I love doing these quick homemade type books, and I love buying them from other artists as well. They’ve got an indie-artist-handmade-craftiness to them that I like vs. the pro printed books.
I’ve seen other artists make both down-and-dirty-photocopied-stapled numbers and the really-fancy-expensive-paper-individually-screen-printed kind. Mine are on the cheaper side, but I decided to use some colored cardstock to pretty them up a bit. I thought I’d share my process. Enjoy, and MAKE COMICS!
Creating the PDF file
First, I placed my pages in Adobe InDesign.
To make the booklet file, I went to File > Print Booklet.
This will rearrange the pages so they are ready to be printed and bound as a book. My books are simple half-page size, meaning they are meant to be printed on standard size paper, then folded in half to make the book. They are bound together by staples in the center. To do this, I specified 2-up saddle stitch in dialog window. I also clicked the Print Settings button at the bottom to specify letter-size paper, landscape orientation, and center the pages.
Now, you could just hit print to print your booklet, but I find it a whole lot more convenient for me to save a PDF. Then I don’t have to mess with settings and exporting and stuff later. I used to do this by using Adobe’s PDF printer, but it doesn’t work for me anymore (not sure why, but I think it stopped working when I updated my OS). I also can’t use Apple’s default “Save as PDF” option that I use in other programs (hard to explain, it just doesn’t work ok?). Nowadays, I get around this by specifying “Postscript file” as my printer. This saves a .ps file which can be opened in Preview and exported as a PDF.
This whole process usually takes some finagling to make sure the page order is correct. I usually get some setting or two wrong the first time. Make sure you print only one booklet at a time and test that it all comes together correctly before you go making a ton of them. Alternatively, if you can’t get the booklet plugin to work, you can make your own mockup by folding blank pieces of paper together, numbering the pages, then taking the pages apart to figure out the booklet yourself. Then place pages manually in a new InDesign file in the weird page order and export it that way.
Once I have my booklet PDF file, I can now print my pages! If your comic is in color, it helps to use the brightest white paper you can find, with a heavier weight too if possible. The paper I used specifies “bright white” and is 24# instead of the standard 20# of most copy paper.
To print the pages front-and-back, it takes a little brainwork depending on your printer. I will print a batch and specify “Odd Pages Only”, then turn the pile around and put them through the printer again with the Even numbered sides. Pay attention to the orientation your printer spits out the paper so you don’t end up with upside down pages. Because it is often a different paper stock than the interior, I’ll usually print all the covers separately in a different batch.
It also helps to know how to work your printer’s settings. You can usually set the quality higher or lower, specify types of paper, color adjustment, etc. If you can make these just right, you avoid jagged lines, poor color, or unnecessary ink wastage.
In case you are wondering, and I’m sure someone will ask: My printer is an Epson R1900.
Binding and folding
With everything printed, it is ready to staple. I have a long arm stapler for this. It is a regular stapler that uses regular staples, but you can fit the paper in a lot farther. I can specify the guide for a certain distance (5.5 inches, half the length of the paper). It helps to test it out on a scrap piece of paper first to make sure it is in dead center of the paper.
Books are stapled three times, top of the staple facing out on the cover side.
Books are then folded in half with the help of a bone folder to make a clean crease.
As an extra step, I usually trim the book so that the pages are nice and even. With a booklet this thin, I don’t really need to, but with thicker books this is really obvious and it makes the book look a lot better. I use my handy rotary trimmer. If you don’t have one or the book is too big for a trimmer, an xacto knife and a straight edge works too.
If you would like one, come and visit me at MECAF or Kids Read Comics! But if you can’t, I’ll also be putting these up in my shop after my shows are done. Keep an eye on it!