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Preparing comic for print (process talk)

Whenever I prepare new projects, I find myself sharing/rehashing the same information to contributors. So here I’ve finally put it out to the public.

My process is

  1. Draw on paper at larger size
  2. Scan in grayscale/bitmap
  3. Convert to grayscale
  4. Do all my drawing edits (at the larger size)
  5. Resize to working print-size
  6. Convert to bitmap (50% threshold)
  7. Convert to grayscale (so you can use layers)
  8. Tone, letter
  9. Flatten/bitmap (50% threshold)
  10. Ready for print + book layout


I usually draw LARGER, but in the same aspect ratio as the final printed version.



Just make sure to resize the linework to fit the template first, and then tone the resized page.


Have a template (I use photoshop) handy and draw directly in it. Use the rulers and guides on in Photoshop (VIEW → SHOW → GUIDES). I’m accustomed to working with inches despite being Canadian, but I’m also under the impression that most print shops tend to think in inches too.

I’ll work at print size (document size, +/- bleed), 600dpi




If you are drawing 1:1, I recommend just scanning straight into bitmap mode, but if you’re having issues with the scanner picking up your lines (ex. thin/light inkwork), you might want to scan in grayscale mode first, mess around with the levels of the lines, then convert to bitmap (50% threshold).

Here is something I did a long time ago about bitmap conversion. The output in mycase would be 600dpi (instead of 300 dpi in the image, which is how I used to work). Messing around with bitmap modes is also an interesting way to get digital “screentone” effects.

At this point I’ll also do any edits (like redraw faces so they’re less crooked).


  1. Make sure you’re in grayscale mode now.
  2. Resize your image (edit→transform, hold down shift while dragging a corner to keep it proportional) to fit your template
  3. Bitmap your linework (again)

Here is an example of a scanned drawing formatted to fit the digital template (no bleed, but need to consider laser printer/photocopier gutters).



One of my fav places for royalty free tones (make sure you grab the ones for 600dpi, or whatever resolution you’re working at) are created by the gracious Katsumi Michihara, and can be found at (can use them as pattern/stamp brushes, or pattern fill).

So why should you even use digital screentones? For me + Love Love hill, we use them because they can be reproduced very easily with consistently good results. You can photocopy them, you can print them off your own laser printer, and they look great in digital output or offset output. Flexibility is key here.

Bitmap only carries black+white pixel information, so your linework and tones will be super crisp and sharp. If your tone-dots are too close together, you should be aware ofmoire effects.

A few different ways to apply screentone digitally (I’m sure there are more)

  • Pattern fill
  • Pattern brush
  • Work in gray tones, use bitmap halftone settings
  • Use scanned tones (already bitmap), copy paste


  • Define a selection
  • edit → define pattern. This turns your selection into a PATTERN. NOTE that theimage I have selected is ALREADY IN PURE B/W NOT GRAYSCALE.
  • Name your pattern

If you have the pattern stamp tool selected, you should be able to see the new pattern there from the drop down menu!

You can also use patterns to “fill” areas, or do fine painted application by using the pattern-stamp tool.

  • Always keep your linework SEPARATE from your tones. So, create a NEW LAYERfor your tones.
  • Select the area I want to fill. I’m going to fill it with the flower pattern I defined previously
  • Edit → fill
  • 08
  • Pick your pattern from the drop down menu

Unless you are using a completely hard-edged pixel brush, or have created a hard edged selection (no feathering/anti-alias), it may be good to have the pattern fill/brush settings on DISSOLVE because it keeps the edges completely B/W.

CAN YOU SEE THE DIFFERENCE? It is subtle, but it is there. It becomes more problematic if you try to fade out the edge of your tone, airbrush-style. If you’re going to do that, copy-paste your tone layer into a new document, then BITMAP just the tone alone (with any mode you find pleasing WITH EXCEPTION OF 50% threshold). Paste the bitmapped-tone back into your original working file.


Instead of going back to the menu over and over again to pattern-fill each section, what you can do is do all the flats in different tones of gray.


When you’re getting ready to create the B/W version for submission, mass select one shade of gray, fill with the pattern of your choice. REPEAT! I mainly use 25%, 50%, 75% increments of gray (and their B/W pattern tone equivalent).
Don’t overtone your pages. I personally love things that are high contrast, but sometimes having a few tones of gray helps your eyes focus, or differentiate between background/foreground. Don’t be afraid to leave lots of white. Don’t fill your page with 50% gray (unless you’re going for some kind of lighting effect), it will flatline your page.

AND– you don’t have to tone at all if you don’t want to. I HATE TONING so I try to keep it to a minimum.





Disclaimer: other people work in different ways. This is just how I go about preparing my files.

Many thanks to figarizzle and saicoink who got me into creating comics for print, and for steering me towards the right path (BITMAPS) for linework prep and digital tones!

Originally posted on tumblr.

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