Cranium Comics

Stories that get in your head.

Modern Indie Comic Publishing, Step-By-Step


Step 1: Story and Sketches

Click to enlargePutting together a comic begins with sketching out the sequence of events that will make up the bulk of the book. Before any of the artwork begins however, the story must be written and transferred into a workable script. In the case of Brawn, the writer had submitted the work as a short story for which he and I collaborated in the oft meticulous process of setting up how panels will transition throughout time and space. For our comic, we chose to emphasize certain key conversations spoken by our characters combined with a descriptive narrative format. While the story was being refined and modified, sketches were being developed that would act as a guide for how each page would be laid out.

Step 2: Storyboard and Text bubbles

Click to enlargeOnce the story was nailed down and the sketches were created, the next task was developing a rough storyboard. This involved taking the rough page layouts done with pencil & paper (the sketches) and scanning them in. Normally, I would’ve used Adobe Freehand or Illustrator, but I needed something where I could quickly put something together and share it with the team. Plasq’s Comic Life was perfect for laying out the text bubbles quickly and easily. The Application allowed me to export the entire rough storyboard as a PDF with the text over my rough comps to share with the artist.Comic Life easily facilitated our need to have two simultaneous dialogs going by offering unique formatting options for both text bubble and block text styles. Once the images were imported into the application, it was as simple as dragging and dropping them onto the page and selecting a style. This allowed us to keep the descriptions of the story intact while building the conversations among the characters. In addition, it helped blend the story with the art and form a cohesive whole that carries the reader through the issue.

Step 3: artwork and effects

Click to enlargeAfter the final inked artwork was painstakingly rendered and scanned in, the coloring began. The black and white art was brought into Photoshop and resized to the proportion suitable for the particular comic size (300dpi @ 7” x 10”). Separate layers were created for the line art, the color blocks, and the highlights. The line art layer was set to Multiply with the color layers so that the background would be visible as I was coloring each page. Once the final touches were made to each page, they were then saved out individually as text files to be compiled in Comic Life. I then created a PDF from the pages and prepared them for the printer. The text effects were one of the last things that were added. Most of them were done in Comic Life, but a few, like the one on page 14 in which Brawn slams his fist down on the car, was done in Freehand, then exported to Photoshop.

Step 4: Publish

Click to enlargeThe final step was to find a printer for the work. This was no small task considering many of the options available. I could’ve gone the offset publishing route, but since I didn’t anticipate having the need for thousands of copies up front (the price at which it would have made it affordable per issue), I decided to go with print on demand. Having seen Comixpress last year at the Staple! Convention, I decided they were the best bet. After confirming this by getting a few more estimates, I went ahead and began the ordering process. A tip for folks who have never used them before: make sure you get your order in AT LEAST a month in advance. Although I mention finding a printer as the final step, it is always best to consult with a potential vendor to ensure that the page size and resolution is accurate. Most companies will have this information on their website, which saves time. I placed my order with Comixpress at the end of January and it literally took them the entire month of February. This includes me hounding them on numerous occasions to make sure they were going to fulfill my order on time. I was able to get my first batch from them (100) by my deadline of the last day in February (Staple! takes place march first), but I was sweating bullets that Friday. Luckily, they arrived that evening.The beauty of a lot of the smaller print-on-demand companies is that they allow you to sell your comic on their site, preventing the exorbitant up front cost of having to purchase tons of copies to bring down the price per issue. This is crucial for smaller, independent publishers like Cranium with limited capital. Print-on-demand enables the owner to print the amount he or she wants, not worrying about press set-up fees or storing multiple copies in your garage, storage facility, or warehouse. An added bonus is that they will actually handle shipping from press to customer for you, eliminating the need for you to incur shipping costs.


We’ve learned quite a bit about the process in our first venture to create a comic. With the right software, story, and artists, we were able to come up with something we can all be proud of. We all have other full-time commitments and finding any available time left in the day is always a challenge. Things that make your life easier, Like Comic Life, Poser, Comixpress, and Photoshop made the process of creating comics much easier for lay people at a quality level you can expect from a professional publication.

14 Responses to “Modern Indie Comic Publishing, Step-By-Step”

  1. I enjoyed reading your work! GREAT post! I looked around for this… but I found you! :) Anyway, would you mind if I threw up a backlink from my site at to your site?

  2. Cool. Glad you liked it. Looking forward to Staple! later today. Should be fun, despite me waiting until the last minute to get things together. Make sure you swing by the booth and register to win some free giveaways.

  3. The style of writing is very familiar to me. Have you written guest posts for other bloggers?

  4. No I haven’t. In fact, I’ve been trying to find the time to write more “how-to” type articles that reflect my experience as a small, independent publisher. Let me know where you’ve seen similar posts. I’d love to add to my daily blog reading list. :-)

  5. Hello, I can’t understand how to add your blog in my rss reader

  6. If you’re using FireFox 3+ (recommended), navigate to the main page and look to the right of your address bar. You should see a blue RSS icon with the rollover text that reads “Subscribe to this page…” Once clicked, it will capture all of the articles from the main page into a bookmark. You can do the same in IE or Safari, although I’m not quite sure what the mechanism is in each.

    Alternatively, you could use an HTML scraper to collect the data, however you shouldn’t need to do that.
    Shot me an email if you can’t resolve the issue.

  7. thanks !! very helpful post!

  8. I found your blog on google and read a few of your other posts. I just added you to my Google News Reader. Keep up the good work. Look forward to reading more from you in the future.

  9. Thats Too nice, when it comes in india hope it can make a Rocking place for youngster.. hope that come true.

  10. That would be nice if it made it over to India, although I haven’t been marketing it there directly. I’m also all for the “youngsters” getting to check it out as well, although I’d have to rate it PG since there is some strong language in a few places.

  11. Thanks for the blog read :)

  12. Great Read! I really love this post. :) – I needed some help for school and am doing research on creating comics. Can you recommend some additional sites?

  13. Collin Arbour says:

    A Fantastic blog post, I will save this post in my account. Have a great day.

  14. Excellent read. I use comiclife myself. I found it easier than doing all layer, balloons, dialogue text, etc. I also self published a comic with Ka-Blam.

Leave a Reply