Dear Colleen,

I have a question for you about dimensions. I am working on a project that depending on how long it is will either be a comic book or graphic novel (the common size). I am a digital artist so my artwork is not being drawn in the physical world, but created on my computer. My question is what are the dimensions that I should create my work inside of? I’ve researched a lot online trying to find what the “traditional comic book size” is, and I have found very different answers and so it is not clear to me. Of course I need to know this before I render my work and since I am doing a lot of work in Photoshop, I don’t want to have to go back and do it over again because my size is wrong. I also would like to understand the bleed and safe zone, (is there two areas? three areas? what do these all mean?) please know that I have not made a comic/graphic novel before, I have only done other artwork for other media. Could you please assist me, I really need your help! Thank you ahead of time for it.

Kind regards,

Gina Miller

Hi Gina,

One reason why you may be getting so many answers to your question about comic book page size, is simply that comic books (and manga) come in different sizes.

The right size of your original art – whether digital or or by hand – is not as important as the final printed dimensions of the work. Your drawings must be proportional to the printed work.

Pick up a comic book and a ruler. Now, find a page in which all the images of the comic page are contained within panel borders. That is, a page where none of the pictures breaks out off the page, or runs into the margins of the book. You want what we call the live area also known as the image area.

Just to keep the math easy, we’ll say that area measures 6″x9″.

Now, you don’t necessarily want to draw at that size. Art that is drawn larger than print size and then shrunk down looks cleaner and tighter than art that is drawn at print size or smaller. If you are working on computer, you can do anything on the art as long as it is proportional to the final print size.

So, if the final print size of your image area is 6″x9″, and you wanted to draw your comic page 1 1/2 times larger, then the size of your original art would be 9″x13.5″.

If you are doing all of your art – lettering and colors and tones – it is really up to you to draw your book as you choose, as long as you keep standard proportions in mind when you create your art.

The website ComiXpress has a great list of sizes and technical specs for different types of comic art. If, as you say, you are looking at “traditional” comic size, that would be the first page size listed. This website also explains what bleed, live area, and trim mean. Some other publishers may have different specs, especially manga publishers. Since ComiXpress is a POD (Print on Demand, as little as one copy at a time) printer, these tech specs are the sizes which they need to go directly to PRINT. Remember, your comic art does not need to be created at this size. It needs to be finished and PROPORTIONAL to this size.

There are some very good reasons for not going your own way and making huge variations in these standards. If you end up working with other artists, and your specifications vary wildly from industry norms, it can be hard for other creators to work with you. It may take a while for letterers and colorists to get used to your personal specs.

I do almost all of my art by hand, and even after years of being in the business, I make mistakes with sizing. Sometimes I work on projects where the printed size of the book is slightly different than what I am accustomed to. If I make a measuring error, I may draw an entire book at a slightly faulty proportion. I did this on the graphic novel Orbiter. No one noticed but me, but every single one of my splash pages is centered incorrectly because I drew the images slightly wider than the final book proportions.

I had a fit trying to figure out a good working proportion for my new book Gone to Amerikay (which won’t be out until next year.) Because the proportion is, once again different from standard, I found myself having trouble with the trim area and getting accustomed to the design of the wider-than-normal page proportion.

So, don’t feel badly if this is a little confusing! It happens to all of us! Which is why many artists buy pre-printed paper for their work.

BTW, I’ve also seen page layout programs on the web which you can download. I have absolutely no idea if they are any good, but I am providing the links for you.

Here is a set of layouts you can buy that appear to be at the standard comic page proportion.

I hope I’ve answered your questions, Gina! Thanks for writing!