Thoughts on Test Scans (With Pictures)–Creating Manga and Comics on Createspace

I can memorize something better if I tell someone about it. I also see it as a sign that I’m meant to teach if I need to share knowledge in order to have it for myself. It’s a strange step up from writing it down, but since I’m also working with others (when they can) on drawn projects, there are a select few that I absolutely need to report my findings to if we are working on a team project. Even if it’s for fun, I still take it seriously; if saying I self-published before landed me the best jobs with Progenitor, then this is a project I can brag about too.

A few people and I are forming into what’s called a Doujinshi Circle and creating “Doujinshi”. It isn’t always porn and it isn’t always romance(if you’ve heard of it and don’t know this already)–it is the Japanese translation for something that is self-published or published through a private company while a manga is different in length, printing size, and is done so through a mainstream company.

As for doing a Japanese styled comic book in America, the word choice of doujinshi over comic book is mostly for the phrase and style. It’s cheaper and easier to do this style and to print at a smaller size. The contents of the pieces will have a lot more of American touches and styles in comedy or horror too. I can’t advertise projects we’ve hardly started, so there’s not much I can say at this time, but I will when more progress is made (a website is also in production, but we need a lot more content to attract viewers and show what we’re about first haha).

To save money, we are using regular printing paper, pilot gelpens and sharpies. It’s easier on us to do the lineart traditionally and then do all the tones and textures in photoshop/manga studio. With that in mind, we need to make sure we know how to be resourceful and functional.

I did the math and measured the dimensions to equal out to 5.2inX8.5in drawing space for the most accurate resize into an 5inX8in print. As you can see from the bottom left corner, 6mm were still cut off. It was measured with anticipation of losing those 6mm on the length and a little more on the width for the sake of clean cropping and the least distorted resize. A good 2 or so millimeters may be lost in the clean-cropping. Even so, this is not a major loss from the piece–knowing how much will be lost will allow me and the fellow artists to know where to put the contents to make sure nothing is accidentally cut out.
I’ve seen a few manga prints with the font falling off the page. I don’t know if it’s intentional or if it’s a printing error, but I personally find it distracting and it comes across as a poor or lazy print job. Knowing what will be trimmed off allows us to better visualize and respect the bleeding, trim and safe zones.

WP 001 BW

The Black and white feature isn’t perfect, but it’s easy to fix. I didn’t clean out the onyx pixels out of the pitch black ones this time (the black is just barely light or blue or purple enough to become an isolated pixel, hence the onyx versus pitch black sarcasm), mostly because this was supposed to be a quick test for the pens and sharipes to see how well they scan, register between the black&white and color scan settings and how their weight changes when printed in actual size. The quality is acceptable and it’s easy enough to clean up without being too time consuming. Doing this test first also demonstrates whether that detailed cleanup will be necessary or not.

HELPFUL TIP: Print something through a regular printer is extremely accurate to the createspace final product. The color is 99% accurate to the gloss feature, the 1% of it is not having the exact level of shine from ink versus a gross coating. Matte finish will make it about 35% lighter than what will come out of a printer, so be sure to darken the colors accordingly.

From what I saw, not only is the non-photo blue accurate to not showing when scanning black and white, but apparently a lot of my colored pencils are non-photo…

WP 001 Color

The test page itself is completely covered in the different colors, yet when I scanned it in the color setting very few showed and they appeared noisy. I was hoping to use these colors for the cover or color pages, but they didn’t show as well as I had hoped.
These are the cheapo hobby lobby brand, which may or may not explain it. I can’t afford Prismacolor and I also tend to have trouble sharpening pencils of any kind as it is, no matter how careful and gentle I am. This is also an older printer/scanner, which may also explain a little bit of it to.
However, my main concern was the pens and sharpies being scanned in the black and white setting. It’s possible that I would just need to use watercolor pencils instead.
I don’t have the money for my own scanner or to go somewhere to pay for use of a scanner, so I’m checking out what I have available around me.
This also tells me what I may or may not be able to do for submitting art to Progenitor, but I may just pay for a better scan job for a literary magazine entry or two or three.

Please let me know if there’s anything else you’d like to see.
I may take all my notes from doing this and format it into a guide from createspace. If I do, I’ll post about it. Let me know what questions you may have regarding this particular subject and it may end up in a printed book.

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Thinking Out Loud: Cover Design

I’m sure I said before that I use two programs to make the covers in–“paintbrush”, a faulty mac version of MS Paint and a faulty copy of Manga Studio Debut 4.

If you have patience, and the ability to think outside of the bos with faulty software, they can be all you need.

They may not have very special effects, but they have layering options, which is probably the number one reason why they work for me.

I have come to understand how I can use the layering to my advantage. With the layering option in MSD4, I can also change which layer is on top or bottom and where in the stack. A favorite feature is that I can also change the percentage of visibility of each layer. This allows nice transparency effects.

Those transparency effects allow me to work with the CreateSpace templates. I can adjust the transparency to see the trims and bleeds while still being able to adjust the different layers to look nice.

Another nice feature is the ability to lock and change location of the layers in the stack.

I personally use this for the spine. Since I spend half as much time working on the cover as I do writing the piece itself, I need flexibility. Part of it is making sure I don’t need to remake the entire cover just to change one tiny little thing.
Once I know what I want my covers and spine to look like for sure, I create the front cover as one layer, the back as another and the spine located at the very bottom with freedom to change size. since I can relocate the layers, I can move the front and back covers further apart to widen the spine for more pages. This means I can’t design the spine until I’m closer to finishing the piece, roughly around the completion of the first draft, knowing the length might increase upon editing and revising.

The reason why is to make sure the font sizes and any images on the spine aren’t too big or small while it can still look nice for the final product.

A very nice and yet very irritating feature about my MSD4 is that everything is pixelated. There is no way to blue something unless you create layers of pixels in different colors to soften the edges, but even then, it may not be enough. No matter what it’s stretched, scales and rotated into, it gets reformatted into pixels.
This can be a problem, but it varies on how. If you wanted smoother textures, then you’ll have a problem. However, I design the covers to allow this. Plus, saving it as a PDF like CreateSpace requires blurs the image without shrinking it. I get plenty of blurring effect I need from that.

I recently discovered that you can blur images in Microsoft word as well. However, this means (for me at least) that you must create a new document according to a size that is larger than the file itself so it isn’t ruined upon it being shrunk to fit the document.
Even though that’s an option to allow sepia tones as sand textures as well, I personally find the PDF formatting to provide a comfortable amount of softening and blurring.

If needed, I’ll update this post with screencaps of what I mean. Until then, make sure you keep the front, back, and spine all separate layers to allow spine growth and don’t save as one layer until you know for sure it’s perfect. Even then though, save the grouped-into-one-layer final product as a separate file than a collection of layers–you never know…

Thinking Out Loud: Covers

I’m sure I’ll loose respect from some for all I have to say on this topic, but I might gain a little for the honesty.

I used to draw a lot more than I do now. These days, it’s mostly for the sake of character sketches to make sure I can describe them well and include all the details needed to get as accurate of an image to the drawing or sketch as I can. Not many people get to see them anymore. People think I’m weird for drawing the anatomy of a spider demon or chupacabra anyway.

Not only that, but I draw with a regular mechanical pencil. I’ve tried drawing tablets and photoshop and practiced for years, but I can’t do it. Ironically though, I can do well with the Microsoft Paint software, but only if I dedicate the time into every pixel. It’s probably because I’ve played with it for most of my life and it’s the only photo editing tool that I can use on my laptop.

With that in mind, I only have 2 cheap or free options: make my own covers in paint–putting in the time and effort into each pixel for a more abstract design or pay a friend. Chances are, the friends may mess up or not create exactly what I’d have in mind. They would most likely be some sort of graphic design student still in or fresh out of college, but that doesn’t always guarantee skill. According to an old friend of mine, you learn how to draw, not necessarily how to draw well. He may have had skill with charcoal and knew the in’s and out’s of photo editing software and programming, but I wouldn’t have trusted him to edit out red-eye to save my life. As much as I’d rather help promote the work of skillful artists I know, I’d rather not have a 2-D anime cover when I want a contemporary photo for the cover (I like anime. I have nothing against it. I just don’t want that for the cover if I don’t think it’s appropriate to the content or target audience.).

I’m poor and very cheap. I’ll put in whatever effort I need to to save money. It isn’t so much that I would rather not invest in professional help in such a field, but I want to try and do what I can by myself first. I can’t exactly pay myself, so I can’t risk or attempt to scam myself out of money or quality work either. Besides, There are options for pre-made but customizable covers with KDP, Createspace and Lulu (Waiting on a Bail) and it gives me an excuse to be a little more artistic (Vagabond Vampire)…

(P.S. The Vagabond Vampire cover is still a work in progress, but you get the idea…)
Vv cover desu Waiting_on_a_Bail__A_Cover_for_Kindle