Sunday, March 6, 2011

How To Make Comics: Industry Standard Comic Book Paper Size!

How to make comics:

Paper Size, and the annoyance of store-bought selections


2016 UPDATE: Not much has changed in the retail market but I have made a set of downloadable, printable, industry standard-sized comic templates for Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator and Clip Studio/Manga Studio. They're sold through PayHip. You can use them digitally for art or lettering or print them out on your boards for easy drawing. You can buy them here!



If you go to the local art supply store, such as Michael's (the only one around me) you can now, for the first time in aspiring-comic-book-creating history, buy pre-lined comic art boards! But, from my extensive research on that topic that spans decades, the choices might not be as professional as presented.

Over on the Image Comics message boards, Erik Larsen has posted this as the standard image size:

Image Comics Paper

From everything I've ever read, this look about right. It's an 11x17 tabloid-sized page with a 10x15 image area and a roughly 8.875x13.5 image area. Seems pretty cut and dry, right? Sure.



IF THIS IS COMIC BOOK INDUSTRY STANDARD PAPER SIZE, which it seems to be, WHY CAN'T THE REST OF THE WORLD GET IT RIGHT??

I spent my whole young life trying to figure out how comics were made. I had no idea how big to make the paper, or how small. It was a huge revelation when I found out they were drawn on bristol board and I could get that at the local art store. BUT, all the paper was 14x17, and pretty darn hard to find. I would always buy it and run to Kinkos and cut it down to 11x17.

Cut to the future, which is the present:  The local Michael's has started selling comic paper, which is pretty cool. Nice pre-lined boards that should (SHOULD) be awesome. It's amazing that they have a couple varieties with competitive prices. The problem is the art size.

All of the paper they sell is 11x17 and they all have a 10x15-ish image area in 'em. This is good. They sell Canson Artist Series, which I'd never heard of, and a new line by Strathmore. Awesome! The Strathmore is way cheaper than the Canson Artist Series. WIN? Nope.

The safe area on the Strathmore is something like 9x16. Huh? Yeah. I measured it in the store.

Strathmore Comics Paper

The Canson Artist Series is the has the 9x13.5 image area. Definite WIN there, it matches up with what Larsen said in his post. Awesome.

The Elusive Canson Artist Series Boards

This is also, like the other Canson paper I'm about to confuse you with, very nice to draw on with any kind of pencil, markers (Which I've been using lately) or brush and ink. Hopefully they're going to be around for a while because I fully endorse them.

Canson Artist Series paper and tools

So that should be it. Done. This is the right one and you can find it in the store. Brush your hands off and call it a day. BUT, the only place in all existence I can find the Canson Artist Series Paper so far is Michael's. I might have seen it at A.C. Moore, but it's been a while since I've been there so I can't remember. This elusive paper can't even be found on the internet. It's almost like Michael's has made some kind of pirate paper and illegally put Canson's name on it. It's really strange. How can a Google search, of all things, not find "Canson Artist Series?" It's not even available on the Michael's website.

And this brings us to another problem: Canson Fanboy Comic Book Art Boards.

Canson Fanboy Art Boards

Keep in mind Larsen's advice and example and you'll find this paper just about everywhere online. And it's good paper, very easy to use and won't give you a hard time about anything.

The image area is 9x13.75. A whole quarter inch bigger. Who made this? Why do the Artist Series and this one have to be different? Here's another problem, the center vertical guides on this paper seem to match the 9x13.5 paper. So, vertically, the center tier is the same size on each, but the top and bottom tiers are at 1/8 taller.

(I confirmed this, by the way. Stupendo-Dog #3 was started on Canson Fanboy Comic Book Art Boards, and finished on Canson Artist Series. Luckily I was the inker and I had my 9x13.5 template in Illustrator, so it didn't slow me down. I just drew the pencils outside the top and bottom guides and pretended it never happened.)

It's possible that this paper is set to more of a Manga size, and I'll accept that, but I really don't understand why they'd have this, and also have the mystery Artist Series paper. My whole life I've wanted comic paper, then I spent a good long time getting the 14x17 Strathmore Bristol and cutting it down, and ruling out my own guides.

Now the market seems to be flooded, but I feel like the problem is worse. Blueline Pro seems to have it down, and from the example that's what Larsen and Image use, but it's more expensive. You don't seem to get the deal you get with the Canson, or even the Strathmore papers. But there's still that professional problem.

The bottom line is this: There seems to be a set standard for comic book pages, but for some reason it is very elusive and hard to find. No one in the real world seems to know what that size is, and no one in the paper-making industry can seem to decide which way the want to go.

Professionally, I would say that if you're going to create a gold ol' standard American comic, the Canson Artist Series is the way to go (If you can find it). Everything seems right, and if you get published you'll be everyone's favorite artist. The Canson Fanboy Comic Book Art boards are the only other logical choice, and they're a little cheaper than the artist series. The only problem is that they're a little off, but the discrepancy is well within the cut area of any book, and unless you're like me and has a little bit of OCD about getting this stuff right, you won't have any problems at all.

The Strathmore paper just boggles my mind. I'm not sure they did any research into it at all. I think they just took the standard knowledge that there's a 10x15 box inside an 11x17 page and worked the image area down from there. They took it from more of a print graphic design perspective, rather than the comic book world reality. Or it's sized to Manga, which it doesn't seem to point out.

So go out and make comics! Just make sure that if you're at the end of a pad of paper, and you still have pages to go, the next pad you pick up is the same. Otherwise, you'll have a nicely illustrated story that is noticeably different.

(Naturally, everything here but the measurements are my own dumb opinion.)


2016 UPDATE (same as the update at the top): Not much has changed in the retail market but I have made a set of downloadable, printable, industry standard-sized comic templates for Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator and Clip Studio/Manga Studio. They're sold through PayHip. You can use them digitally for art or lettering or print them out on your boards for easy drawing. You can buy them here!