Webcomic Formatting: Can I future-proof my webcomics?

Episode 64 inks featured image

Can I future-proof my webcomics?

If I want to reach the widest possible audience, I can’t let technology or format stand in the way of a new reader.

The past decade of online publishing has shown that…

  • Screen sizes will change (it seems that every larger device is getting smaller and every smaller device is getting larger.)
  • Screen proportions will change and are flexible (there’s a multitude of desktop, tablet, and mobile screens sizes and many operate in both landscape and portrait orientations)
  • Resolutions will increase (I want to support those resolutions yet I don’t want to give away print-resolution files)
  • File formats may change and some may become obsolete (less applicable but still worth noting – I’m thinking of Flash webcomics and also some panel-by-panel presentations now appearing on Instagram)

What I’m doing to address this: I work at a high resolution in a flexible format. I design my comics with rather big lettering to work in three basic shapes – horizontal, squarish, and vertical.

Nowadays, I reformat The Middle Age webcomics in five different sizes in three configurations:

  • Full-resolution stacked format for print
  • High-resolution stacked format (~900-pixels wide) for my Patreon site
  • Standard-resolution stacked format (~600-pixels wide) for this site and for social media (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram).
  • Horizontal format for GoComics – this was the starting place for my design. It’s the exact same shape as a Calvin and Hobbes comic strip.
  • Scrolling vertical format for Webtoons and Tapas

One Comic, Five Different Formats
I recently added the vertical, scrolling format and the response from the mobile-centric Webtoons audience was overwhelmingly positive.

(BTW: This thinking isn’t really new. The format of the classic Peanuts comics was even more rigid in that it was four equal-sized boxes which were sold to newspapers as a ‘Space Saver’ meaning it could be run horizontally, vertically or stacked as a square.)

In the end, if I want to create stories that last, I must create them in a format (or formats) that will last.

In other words, the only acceptable reason for someone not reading my comics is that they just don’t like my comics.

— Steve @theSteveConley

I hope this occasional bit of shop talk will be useful to others working on their own webcomics. If you find it interesting or helpful, let me know!

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  • November 30, 2017 at 12:54 am — Reply

    Very commendable of you to have so many formats to fit the different sites. I have been trying to keep my panels the same size that they, too can be accommodated in different formats without doing too much configuration. I mostly try to design for cell phones and tablets, as I think that is where most people read comics and everything else these days, rather than computer screens.

  • Steve Conley (Author)
    November 30, 2017 at 3:34 am — Reply

    Tom, I think that’s smart! For me, I think following that original Peanuts format of four identical boxes would have been optimal for flexibility but I just found it impossible to work in such a rigid format. I feel the need to vary my panel sizes a bit for jokes, pacing, variety and overall design. I hope I’ve found a good balance. That said, sometimes I break the format altogether, like here and even worse, here.

    BTW, I checked out your site and I look forward to seeing your approach when your strip launches!

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