Children's Book Sizing Q

  • Hey guys! I'm working on illustrating book right now. It's 11 x 8.5, and I'm hand drawing the lines then scanning them in and adding color on Photoshop.
    Most printshops have scanners that are 11 x 17 (the exact side of the spread) at 600dpi. I'm wondering if anybody knows if 600dpi is enough? And if I get my artwork scanned at exact size, I'll have to stretch it slightly in Photoshop to account for bleed.. will that have much of an effect on the quality of the final book print? Currently my Photoshop files are 12 x 18 at 300ppi (an extra half inch on each side to account for bleed).

    Any thoughts would be helpful. Thank you!!

  • @LvLUpKid did you get the print specifications from the printer? Most printers require 300 dpi, 0.125" (1/8 inch) bleed and CMYK color profile, but some printers are different. Ask your client or art director for the print specs, or see if you can contact the printer to request them yourself. If you can't, a file sized 8.75 x 11.25 inches (or 17.5 x 11.25 inches for a spread) at 300 dpi should work for most printers.

    If you're just going to be scanning a pencil or ink drawing and then coloring it digitally, you don't really need to go up to 600 dpi -- that might be overkill. 300 or 400 dpi scan resolution would do it. Save the scan as a JPEG, PNG, or TIFF file (JPEG is a lossy file, so a lossless file like PNG or TIFF is preferred). Make sure your Photoshop file is set up correctly, import your scanned drawing, and you should be good to go.

  • @Melissa-Bailey-0 Wow. Thank you so much for all this information!!
    I do not have specifications from the printer, as we are self-publishing and the author still has yet to seek out her printer... but hopefully those specs work for the printer we go with. That is great news that I do not need to go up to or past 600dpi (those became very expensive).

    Most print shops have scanners that are 11x17. If my spreads are 11.25 x 17.5, but I draw them at 11x17 to account for the scanner size, do you think stretching the image a bit in Photoshop (to account for bleed) will lower the quality too much? Or should I be seeking out larger scanners?

    Also, you wrote 17.5 x 11.25 as the sizing w/ bleed for a spread - does this mean that we have to account extra room for the gutter? My understanding was that in a spread it's only necessary to account for bleed on the left and right sides.

  • @LvLUpKid you're very welcome!

    Let me answer your questions in reverse order:

    • Oops. Yes, you're right. The trim size for spreads is 17.25" (wide) x 11.25" (high). (Width always comes first in printing measurements.) For myself, I do add that extra 0.25" for wiggle room. But that's just me.

    • Stretching your image that little bit in Photoshop will be just fine, even if you scan at 300 dpi. You're working with a pencil sketch, after all, not complex, colorful finished artwork. Sketches are more forgiving. If you scan at higher than 300 dpi, then when you paste the scan into your correctly-sized 300 dpi spread/page in Photoshop, you'll actually have to decrease the size of your scan. Scanning on an 11 x 17 scanner is all you need.

    • Scanning at or creating artwork in 400 dpi, 600 dpi, or higher is usually overkill. Most of us artists like to do it because it does give us more room to work on those details we love. But the final, print-ready files (that will be uploaded to the printer) will be sized 300 dpi. (If it's helpful to know, I rarely work at or scan above 300 dpi. If I'm working traditionally, spread illustrations are usually created slightly smaller than trim size so that they'll fit on my 11 x 17 scanner, and I scan them either at 300 or 400 dpi, saved as TIFF files. In over 50 books, I've never had scanned artwork look blurry as a fault of the scan resolution, even if the size is slightly enlarged. -- If I have to enlarge the scanned artwork by more than 1" on either side, I'll scan at 400 dpi instead of 300.)

    Just a little tip: get the specs as soon as you can in a project. Before starting the project, ideally. Knowing the printing specifications is super helpful for you in order for you to be able to do your job. Of course, we can't tell our clients what to do or force them to choose a printer, but we can explain to them that this information is crucial to help us size the artwork correctly and plan the layout and illustrations (preventing the possibility of having to go back and make corrections, which saves them time and money). If I'm working with a first-time self-publisher (this is often a newbie mistake), I'll come right out and ask them if they've found a printer or know how the book will be printed, even before we sign a contract. If they haven't, I strongly encourage them to make that decision before proceeding with illustrations and explain why. I've never had a client be offended by me doing this (often, they thank me) and the printer decision has always been made before we sign the contract.

    Oh, and another reason why you need to know who is going to print the book: if the client chooses to go the print-on-demand (POD) route, using Amazon's KDP or Ingram Spark to print, that affects the book's layout. POD printers require that the last page of every book they print be kept blank for their use. So if you're planning on a 32-page book, you upload 31 pages of content, page 32 being kept blank for the POD's use. If you upload 32 pages of content, then what they'll do is print extra blank pages in the back so that they can have their last page of content so a 32-page book becomes a 36-page book with 3 blank pages and printing on the bottom of the last page. Nobody wants to see blank pages in a picture book!

    How does that affect you? If you're planning out the layout and pricing for a 32-page book, not knowing that the client plans to print using a POD, you might be illustrating or designing a page that never makes it into the book. Disappointing for you and frustrating for your client because they ended up paying for a page of illustration that they didn't need and couldn't use.

    Alrighty! I've gotten wordy and rambled on and maybe shared WAY more than I needed to! Hope you find it helpful and please reach out if you have any other questions.

  • @Melissa-Bailey-0
    Melissa, I cannot thank you enough for all this information!! I currently do not have any questions because the detail you went into helped me understand every aspect. And I really, really appreciate the extra info. There is so much to learn in this process! I now have the knowledge I need to progress with this project, as well as when I start a new one. Thank you again for your generosity with these tips 🙏🏼

  • @LvLUpKid you're so very welcome! 😊

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