Determining Your Canvas Size
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Hello! My name is Liz Staley and I’m a long-time user of Clip Studio Paint (I started using the program back when it was known as Manga Studio 4!). I was a beta-tester on the Manga Studio 5 program and for Clip Studio Paint, and I have written three books and several video courses about the program. Many of you probably know my name from those books, in fact!
In this article, I will be covering how to determine the size of canvas you should be creating for your art in Clip Studio Paint. When working with digital files, you need to not only consider the width and height of your file, but also other factors such as resolution, bleed, and what your end goal for the piece will be.
In this article, we will be covering the following topics:
Print VS Web Display
Overview of CSP Canvas Settings
Standard Paper Sizes
Let’s dive right in!
Print VS Web Display
First of all, let’s talk about the differences between creating a piece for print and for display on the web. Print and the internet are two very different things and require different considerations for not only the height and width of the image, but also the size of the file created.
When creating an image for print, you might say that bigger is better. Print requires a file resolution of at LEAST 300 dpi (dots per inch) for the printed image to come out clearly. If you’ve ever taken an image from the internet and tried to print it, but it comes out blurry or pixelated, that’s because it isn’t a high enough resolution. Images for the internet are 72 DPI, which is much lower than what is required for a high-quality print!
So, you’re probably thinking that if you’re going to just create images for the internet or for a web-comic, that you should just save time and create all your files at 72dpi. This would certainly save you computer processing power and disk space, because your files would be relatively small when compared to print-ready files at a higher resolution. However, I’m going to advise you NOT to do this.
Even if your plans for now are to only display your work on the web or as a web-comic, you should create your images with print in mind. Imagine if you start your web-comic and it becomes a hit! Now you have thousands of fans begging for a book they can buy! This is a great thing to have happened, but if you haven’t created your files with printing in mind, you will have to go back and re-draw all those images at 300dpi so you can print them! This is a huge waste of time, so I always recommend just creating your images at 300dpi from the start. You can then export them in 72dpi to upload to the internet, while keeping your high-resolution file for use later. This is also helpful if you’ll need to use portions of the art you’ve created later. (In the example of comics, maybe to create a banner for use at conventions, or for character art for your website) Because the art is already large, you have some flexibility as far as making it larger or smaller for different applications.
In the image below, the file on the left is 600dpi, while the one on the right is 72dpi. The one on the left is slightly blurry and has more “artifacts” from the compression of being saved as a .jpg file. Some of the quality has been lost because of the drop in the resolution.
Create your files with at least 300 resolution. You can go higher than 300 if your computer hardware can handle it. Images that are straight black-and-white with no gray shades (like inked work with flat blacks) look extremely sharp when created at 600 dpi and printed, and because only black and white pixels are used the file size is fairly small when compared to what a grayscale or color image at the same size and dpi would be. So, your minimum resolution should be 300dpi, more if your computer will be okay doing it. Once you’re finished creating your art, you can export a smaller version - both in width and height and also in resolution.
Overview of CSP Canvas Settings
Last time, I wrote a comprehensive (and technical!) overview of each category of the Use Of Work section in the New file creation window, so if you want to know what every option in the New window does, definitely check that out! For this tutorial, I will be covering only the most commonly needed options. But first, let’s discuss the different categories you will see at the top of the New window.
When you open the New file window by either holding down Ctrl+N or going to File - New, you will see a group of five icons at the very top of the options window, next to a heading that says “Use of work”. This set of icons is indicated in the screenshot below.
These icons indicate different groups of page settings that we might need for different applications. From left to right, these icons are Illustration, Comic, Printing of Fanzine, Show all comic settings, and Animation.
The Illustration settings are the most basic of settings and are adequate for producing illustrations where page margins, numbering, and bleed widths aren’t needed. The Illustration creation options include only Width and Height of the canvas, Resolution, Basic Expression Color (controls whether you will be creating a monochrome, grayscale, or color image), and Paper Color - as well as an option to apply a page template. For the digital illustrator who is creating posters or display pieces for a portfolio and won’t be using the comic creation tools, this group of settings gives just enough control over canvas creation without bogging you down with too many options.
The next three icons (Comic, Printing of Fanzine, and Show all comic settings) are similar in their options. These are the settings that a comic creator would use. These settings include all the ones listed above, but also settings for Bleed Width, Finish Size, and Inner Borders.
The Bleed Width is important for anyone wanting to create prints of art that extends off the edges of the printed paper. Full-bleed artwork can look very professional and dramatic, not just on posters or prints but also for comic book pages. Dramatic action can “break out” of the panels and bleed off the edge of the page, giving a larger-than-life look to the scene. To accomplish this bleed in the printing process, the artwork must be created and printed on a larger size than the finished print will be. The edges are then trimmed down to the final size so that the art fully extends beyond the edges of the paper.
For instance, if you wanted to create a full-bleed image that would be on an 8.5 x 11-inch sheet of paper, you would need to create your document with the bleed in mind. If the bleed is half an inch total, we would create the art at 9 x 11.5 inches (adding half an inch to the Width and Height). After the printed prints the image on the larger size of paper, they would then trim a quarter inch off each side to make the dimensions of the paper 8.5 x 11 inches again. This final size after the trimming of the edges is called the Binding (Finish) Size in Clip Studio Paint.
Bleeds can be a little confusing at first, especially if you have no experience in professional printing! Sometimes the best thing to do before embarking on a print project is to locate the printer you’ll be using first, then asking for the specifications they need to create the final print. They can give you the bleed width and the paper sizes that they work with, as well as their preferred resolution and file format. There are tons of printers to choose from for everything from posters to fliers to books, and that’s beyond the scope of this article, so I’ll just state to do your research before-hand if you know that your project is going to be heading to the printer at any time!
Another option that comic creators need to be concerned with is the Default Border (Inner) Size. This is the inner margins of the comic page and is where all important parts of the image - such as text, panel borders that won’t bleed off the page, and important parts of the artwork - should be kept to ensure that it isn’t accidentally cut off when the bleed is trimmed. For much more detail on this, you can see any of the Comic related sections of last week’s article!
For the most control over your comic page size in Clip Studio Paint, I recommend using the “Show All Comic Settings” category because it allows you to switch between a variety of units of measurement (the “comic” and “fanzine” categories only allow millimeters) while also allowing you to customize the inner border size, and, if you are using Clip Studio Paint EX, make mulit-page files, add page numbering, and create cover pages directly in your comic file.
Next up, let’s discuss standard paper sizes!
To read my previous post all about creating new canvases in Clip Studio Paint, check out this link:
Standard Paper Sizes
Clip Studio Paint comes pre-set with many standard paper sizes. For those of us in the United States, however, these presets don’t quite work because our standard sizes are different fromthan the rest of the world!
To make things even more confusing, a standard printer paper size doesn’t always necessarily equal a standard book size if you’re creating comics, graphic novels, or an illustrated book. When I started creating my (now defunct) web-comic in 2010, I set up the pages to be standard American letter size (8x5 x 11 inches), only to discover upon printing my first book that it wasn’t a size used by the printer I had chosen! So I had to shrink my images slightly to make them fit onto the next closest size, an 8 x 10 book, instead.
If your project is a comic strip, you have a little more flexibility with sizes. When printing comic strips to a book, it is possible to put 3-4 strips on a page (depending on the size of the strips and the size of the book). But if creating a graphic novel or a long-form story comic, it’s better to think about the size of the book before even starting on the art.
As stated before, there are many book printers out there who do an excellent job working with artists and comic creators. Some are Print-On-Demand, like CreateSpace, while others are offset printers who require a bulk purchase of books. Print shops in your local area may also have bookbinding capabilities, and some printers even do custom sizes or odd sizes of printing such as square papers!
Your paper size is only really limited by your imagination because you will most likely find a printer that can accommodate just about any dimensions and shape. However, these custom sizes can also be costly to produce. A run of custom-sized books can cost several times more than ones on standard size papers, driving up your initial cost and also the cost that you will have to sell a book in order to make your money back.
Because of this, it is usually advised to stick to standard paper or standard book sizes for ease of printing later. There are standard sizes for “American style” comic books, as well as standard size for manga-style paperbacks. Using guidelines from Ka-Blam, a popular comic and paperback printer used by many independent comic creators, I created a “Standard American Comic” size pre-set for my own Clip Studio Paint. The settings used to create this template are shown in the screenshot below.
Ka-blam also has a template for the smaller manga style books as well. The dimensions for a manga-sized book in Clip Studio Paint could be set according to the following screenshot.
For illustrators, of course you can create your pieces in just about any size from tiny to huge wall-sized posters. If you are intending on stocking lots of prints to sell at conventions, however, you may want to consider printing in standard photo sizes - 2x3 inches to 11 x 14 inches is a common range of sizes. This makes your work easier for customers to frame if they want to. Standard sizing means they can go to any store and buy an appropriate photo frame instead of having to go through the costly process of having a custom mat and/or frame made at a specialty framing store.
Another term used in printing is aspect ratio. What is an aspect ratio? It’s the proportional relationship between the width and height of an image. Aspect ratios are written as a formula of width to height, such as 3:2. Square images have a ratio of 1:1 because both of their sides are the same measurement. Whether a square canvas is 100x100 pixels or 5000x5000 pixels, the ratio is still 1:1.
A portrait-oriented image might have a ratio of 2:3, meaning the height is 1.5 times the width. This means that the image could be 500x750 pixels, 1000x1500 pixels, etc.
I sell digital prints on my Etsy shop and include a variety of Ratios so that the customer can print the image in a range of sizes. This is made possible because the canvas is set for a high-resolution and is set at the correct ratio to allow for a large print or a small print in the same ratio, depending on the needs of the customer.
The image below shows some ratios and their corresponding image sizes. The first three rectangles are common ratios and the sizes they can be printed at. The fourth is a 5x7 file that can be printed in a variety of International paper sizes (A5, A4, etc) as well.
This image can be a handy guide for you when creating illustrations that you will be creating prints of in standard sizes. As you can see, some of these ratios can go quite large, as large as 20x30 inches for a 2for 2:3 ratio, so you’re not really limited with how large or small of an illustration you can print!
The most important thing to remember, really, when deciding what canvas size to create your image at is to create as large as you can with your computer hardware, especially if you are going to be making prints of your work, or will be repurposing parts of your work for other applications such as banner design, character bio portraits, online ads, etc.
The subject of what size to make your canvas depends on so many factors that there’s no “one size fits all” solution to the question. You need to know what you plan to do with the art you are creating, what resolution to create at, and a little bit about paper sizes and aspect ratio as well. Planning ahead can save a lot of grief later on, so remember to always create with as high of a resolution and as large of a file size as your computer hardware can handle because you never know when you might need to make a billboard-sized copy of that character art you did two years ago!