Welcome to Our Online Printing Blog
Print Comic Books and Graphic Novels

Thanks to online printing and digital self-publishing tools, it is easier than ever to create and produce your own comic book or graphic novel from end-to-end. Self-publishing allows artists, illustrators and writers to take full creative control. When you sell your creation yourself, you keep all your rights. You decide where you sell and how you distribute, you control the printing and you keep the profits.

Webcomics and ebooks have changed the publication landscape, but comic books and graphic novels remain first and foremost a printed medium. DIY comic artists tell their stories without the back-and-forth with a publisher, getting their art directly in the hands of their audience. Independent comics and graphic novels can offer unique and interesting voices. Often they are realized by just one person, working as writer, artist and publisher. Are you interested in this independent community in the comics industry? We have compiled self-publishing printing tips for comics and graphic novels for ambitious artists.

Tips for designing your comic book or graphic novel

Before you even begin writing a story, sketching characters, drawing panels and laying out pages. You will need to do some planning. The design of your work starts here: just like you need a vision for where your story is going. Also you will need to know what you want to achieve with your book.

Determine your goal

  • Be very clear about what the goal of your self-published product is:
  • Do you just want a certain number of physical comic books to sell or give away?
  • Do you want to grow your readership and build interest in your work?
  • Would you like to receive feedback while your work is in progress?
  • Where and how will you find your audience?
  • How will you market and sell your book?

Don’t self-publish until you have answers to these questions.

Choose the right size

The size of your comic book or graphic novel is determined by your approach to page layout as well as economic concerns. Check options with your printer first to get an idea of printing costs. A non-standard size can help your work stand out, yet it may be more costly. Comic book sizes changed over the years, but today common sizes for graphic novels are “5.5 x 8.5” or “8.5 x 11” with no de-facto standard.

It’s important to note here that due to the offset printing production process, it’s ideal to ensure the total pages in your comic book are dividable by 4, ie: 8, 12, 16, 20, 24, 28, 32, and so on.

Choose the right paper

A comic book or graphic novel will usually use different paper for the cover and inside pages. Think about which better brings out your artwork: glossy and shiny paper, or flat and more subtle pages? Ask for paper samples from your printer if you need to compare. Coated stock comes in matte or glossy. Matte is slightly reflective, whereas gloss coated is brighter. Uncoated paper is an economic option most often used for comic books. You can of course combine a shiny cover with uncoated inside pages. Note: if you do test prints on a digital toner printer, they tend to be shiny due to the way the toner is fixated. Offset prints won’t have that effect unless a special coating is applied (learn more about the differences between digital and offset printing).

Paper weight and thickness are also important considerations. You will want your comic book to last at least through multiple reads without being too heavy to handle easily. A graphic novel on the other hand might benefit from heavier paper even for the inside pages to provide more heft. A certain thickness of your pages also prevents darker colors and large printed areas to show on the reverse side of the the page. Standard offset or text stock of 80lb is a good choice for comic books (note: standard copy paper is roughly 55lb-65lb). You can also consider a thick and glossy cover with lighter and uncoated inside pages.

Choosing the right binding

As you’ll know, comic books are traditionally saddle-stitched, whereas graphic novels are perfect bound. Depending on the weight and thickness of your cover and pages, up to 32-40 pages are suited for saddle stitching (meaning large sheets of paper with two pages each on front and back are stapled and folded in half and cut to the finished size). This is also a cost-efficient option that will have the traditional look and feel of a comic book. The more pages you want to staple, the thinner the paper has to be. A perfect bound book is definitely better-suited for graphic novels and long stories. A softcover (think: paperback) will be the cheaper option, though a hardcover is also possible.


Excerpt from LENINGRAD by Alexandra Sternin. Used with permission.

Self-Publishing: Online vs. Print

Both online and print publications come with their own advantages and disadvantages. An online publication, ebook or webcomic is less expensive to produce. A website will allow you to self-publish in installments and get direct feedback. But if you want physical copies for selling at events and bookstores, a print publication is the way to go, although it can be hard to break into the market if no one has heard of you yet.

Online publication

Pick a website format that is best suited for your work: a blog with a content management system, or individual, static pages? A blog might be easier for you to maintain and for your readers to follow. You can buy a domain name and find a cheap web host, or choose a free platform such as tumblr, Blogger or WordPress.com. In order to build an audience, a regular update schedule is helpful, such as twice or more per week. However, choose something you can stick to. An online publication is more cost-effective and has the potential to reach a global audience without the hassle of international shipping. You can use social media to promote your site and still have the option of directly selling physical books on your website later.

Print publication

Before you go to print, determine your budget and see which printing options are available to you. How many copies can you print, and what is your target price per unit when you sell? Are you looking to break even or make a profit from sales, or do you have another way of financing your project?

Two major options are print on demand or offset printing. Print on demand is suited for very small print runs (sometimes of just one copy), but offset printers will have better printing options and will yield a greater return per book sold. Some printers specialize in comic books or perfect bound books. You should avoid printing at one place and binding at another.

Will you act as your own publishing company? That way you can avoid the sometimes perceived “stigma” of self-publication and look as professional as you want. However, among the things a publisher needs to take care of are obtaining an ISBN for books and a barcode (compliant with scanning systems of shops and stockists). If you choose to go with a publishing service to do these things for you, make sure to read the fine print.


THE FIRST BANANA by Alexandra Sternin. Used with permission.

Crowdfund your self-publishing project

An alternative way to fund your comic book or graphic novel are crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter or Indiegogo. However, don’t underestimate the amount of work involved: it’s a little more complicated than simply asking your fans for money. First, you actually need an audience interested in seeing your comic book or graphic novel in print. To reach your funding goal, you need to provide details about your work, promote your campaign, actively reach out to possible backers and keep in touch with people who have already backed your project. You also need to provide perks for those who pledge a certain amount of money (note: posters of your artwork printed in bulk make for great crowdfunding rewards). With that being said, there are also great resources for artists to reach their crowdfunding goals, such as ComixLaunch and the self-publishing imprint Two-Headed Press.

Sell your comic books or graphic novels at events

Thanks to technology, producing and printing your comic book and graphic novel is fairly easy and straightforward. But promotion and distribution are more difficult, and getting a DIY comic book onto store shelves is even harder to achieve. Unless you can get into independent shops, stores usually have policies and distribution restrictions. But if your audience cannot find your book, they can’t buy it – and you won’t break even or make a profit.

So why not meet comic book fans where they congregate? Comic-Con in San Diego may be the most famous, but comic conventions happen all over the country, all year round. Keep in mind that you might have to pay a fee in order to set up a table. Nonetheless, conventions are strong opportunities for sales, marketing and networking rolled into one, so they can be worth the investment. There are DIY comic artists who make the majority of their sales at comic shop and convention appearances. Bring along posters of your artwork to promote your book or to sell as autographed items to fans.

How to promote your comic book or graphic novel with posters

If you decide to hit the convention circuit, you will need to visually attract convention attendees to your table. Your comic book or graphic novel on display is unlikely to draw crowds by itself, no matter how skillfully you arrange it. You can do live drawing and other gimmicks in order to discern yourself at your convention table, but a great way to grab attention are offset posters printed in bulk which you use as a visual backdrop for your space.

These should promote the item you are looking to sell, but just like with your book, you have all the creative freedom here. Go the extra mile and make your promotional poster into a piece of art of its own. Select your best artwork (and not necessarily just your book cover) – a close-up of your villain, a mysterious and moody scene, or an action shot of your hero. Include promotional details and where and how to get your book. Place your art front and center so your poster becomes an item fans want you to sign so they can take it home.

Get inspired by amazing poster artwork from Comic-Con artists, but go with what serves your comic book or graphic novel best. Also, look around you at conventions and see what your fellow DIY comic artists are doing and what works for them. Seize the opportunity to network and show an interest in the art of others.

Use our self-publishing printing tips to break into the world of DIY comic books and graphic novels and get physical copies of your work into the hands of your fans and friends! Get a quote now for a stapled comic book or a graphic novel perfect bound book.