Prepping for print – Making a comic mockup of your work

In my last article, I discussed whether you should buy business cards to use as handouts at conventions. This week I’ll focus on something I didn’t touch on earlier in this series, and that is getting ready for print with a comic mockup. This will apply to traditional comics as well as webcomics, so hopefully you will get something out of this.

It doesn’t matter if you’re prepping for print for the first time or that you’ve used Adobe Illustrator and InDesign for years, something you absolutely have to do before you send your work off to get printed is to do a physical inspection of your work to make sure it’s ready. I’m talking about creating an actual comic mockup that you can hold in your hand. It can save you a lot of heartache (and money) further down the road.

You can’t do this inspection looking at one page at a time, and you especially can’t do this looking at a computer monitor. You have to construct a comic mockup so you can see how it looks in your hands. There’s a very tactile process by doing this, and you will be surprised at how many things you catch because you’re holding a mockup in your hands that you can flip through page by page.

I’m not talking typos and grammar issues, but that certainly plays into this. You can go cross eyed staring at your page for hours and will always miss something. What I’m talking about is layout and flow from one page to the next as you flip through your comic mockup. If you’re creating a traditional comic, I might even suggest that this mockup is something you do immediately after the rough sketch phase. This way you can fix any layout issues before you get to the final print stage.

What if you have two opposite pages that look great individually, but once you put them side by side they start to clash in a way that screws with your overall composition? What about flipping through the comic mockup to see where your eye always lands from one page to the next. As you read two side by side pages, does the layout want to force your eye to prematurely move to the second page before it’s finished with the first? These are things you have to consider and you will not see this fully until you have a working mockup of the comic that you can flip through.

If you do create a comic mockup after the rough sketch phase, you don’t have to have dialogue finished, but it certainly couldn’t hurt. What you’re looking for is layout and flow issues. For someone who is doing this in their spare time, a mockup can be even more critical because often times working one page at a time can take weeks to finish which means it may be a full year before you’re done. That’s a lot of time to overlook something from the first page to the last page.

Making A Comic Mockup Of Your Work
Creating the mockups for the three volumes of my Frik comic were actually relatively simple as every episode was contained inside a square frame. When I made my mockup I wasn’t looking at the episodes themselves, because having them side by side didn’t matter as they were all individually contained and wouldn’t interfere with each other. What I was looking at was the bonus content placed below each episode.

I had packed concept art, trivia, commentary and other behind-the-scenes stuff on each page, and I had to make sure that the lower layout worked properly. In many cases I noticed that the bonus content that was closest to the fold was too close to each other, so I would revise the pages and push those apart and maybe rearrange where the content was situated. Naturally, I also found a lot of grammar issues I had to correct that escaped while staring at it on the screen.

How I made my mockup was pretty easy, but I admit it was time consuming. I printed each episode front and back on 8.5×11″ printer paper, then laid the pages side by side as they would be in the final book. I then scotch taped two pages at a time front and back to connect them. After that I took a stapler and stapled everything together down the spine and then carefully folded it and voila, an “instant” comic mockup.

The best part about this mockup is that I could write on each page and indicate the changes I needed to make, so the mockup turned into my revision sheet that I referenced as I tweaked the Illustrator files.

Creative Commons License
Prepping for print – Making a comic mockup of your work by Todd Tevlin is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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