Digital to analogue: printing your artwork

Came back from an open evening at my old employer and a lot of the illustration students have really embraced online printing as a place to produce high quality analogue copies of their graphic novels.
One student explained that her per-unit cost of producing 20 copies of her 40 page A5 pocket graphic novel was only £2.50 - quality of paper and printing was pretty good too.

Seems that the barriers to production are incredibly low these days which is great. Has anyone else tried online digital printing services to create phonebooks / stories?


I’ve been looking for some printing place to do some flashcards and the like (not the cutting), but here in Japan I can only seem to find either generic business card stuff or large orders only.

The UK seems to have a pretty decent selection of printing presses. During my research I found a few doing custom playing cards, etc. and not requiring absurd order sizes. My mother used to use a local press about two decades ago and that wasn’t too bad for a run of 100 or so of something. It’s probably much better now, especially if you go with a bigger company.

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It’s quite surprising considering Japan is popular for manga market events and a big number of doujinshi circles printings physical goods to sell there. I doubt a new unknown circle could afford a big order and there should be specialized services for them.

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I’ll admit I didn’t look up ‘simple’ book publishing. Nor do I or particularly want to participate in the doujinshi circles.

Perhaps prices are decent, but then again Japanese enthusiasts are not exactly shy about spending large amounts on a hobby.

And manga are printed on very cheap paper.

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Not a phonebook or story, but a while back, the price on Traditional Archery from Six Continents was so high, that it was actually cheaper for me to buy the rights and arrange to have 100 copies printed — I did this at a shop which was recommended to me over in New Jersey — it went fine and the the print quality was quite good, and I eventually managed to sell the extras and more-or-less break even.


Wow. Did you buy the rights wholesale?

Cutting? Do you want them to cut out yourself? Or am I misunderstanding?

Now I’m lost…. what’s a “doujinshi circle?” Or is that something I really don’t want to know?


Couldn’t help myself and I googled it - Doujinshi Circle - Fanlore

It’s basically self-publishing manga/ graphic novel creators in Japan. They mainly print their works to sell in conventions.

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No, I contacted the publisher and for a flat fee (to prove I was serious) and a royalty percentage (which was what they had previously negotiated w/ the authors and folks whose images were used — there was one from Corbis, which if I’d known about it, would have replaced) — then I just had to find someone to do the printing (several thousand dollars for a print run of 100 Smyth-sewn hardcovers w/ dustjackets), then I had to manage to sell them so I’d break even and each year send a check back to the publisher for the number sold until complete.

I also had to buy an ISBN from Bowker which was where I really messed up — should have bought a block of them.


I’ve not printed anything like book. I’ve done a couple of larger pieces that I printed on canvases. The larger one was 17x24 or whatever that standard 24" landscape size is. They turned out pretty well. I didn’t see the larger one in person until I had already done the smaller one. I think the loss in resolution was worse than I would have wanted, and if I do something like that again I’ll probably use some other form to print on like poster paper and get it framed.

Have you ever considered archival papers? Mind you, some images work best from ink-jet while others benefit from laser printers. I tend to find the paper or surface you print onto can have a huge impact on the image

I may have read it wrong, but some of the sites I looked at suggest that doujinshi are mainly derivative and there is a lot of fan-art style mimicry of popular comics produced by the major publishers? I’m not judging, just trying to be clear.

I have not. Usually my pieces that I print are for White Elephant Christmas gifts, which are cost limited for fairness. The larger piece was more specifically a gift though, and I do wish I had done something like that. If I do another large piece like it I’ll probably look into archival paper. Just a quick look online, there’s some surprisingly affordable options out there.

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Doujinshi can be both original and fanworks, but fanworks seem a lot stronger.

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For anyone looking at small-run or batch production of graphic novels - I found this company based in the UK / USA / Canada and Australia

There’s a live update on costs as you vary numbers / sizes and print. There will surely be other competitors but it’s a great starting point for not much cost.

Depending on the part of the country you live in - there may be even better options in a big city as you can go into the print facility and see the papers yourself. Build up a relationship with the staff and they can do small test prints for you.
Before the growth of online publishing - I was able to try out a range of papers for more graphic works - you’d be surprised how awful a graphic art piece can look on standard print paper compared to more unusual card.
I learned quite a lot from the Graphic Design dept where students would really try a lot of different card and paper for the best result.

Makes sense, if you base your work on existing characters and lore, you have less conceptualising to do. Can I ask another question - is there a similar facility to kickstarter in Japan or wherever you are?
The other thing I picked up at the Degree show last week was that all the students who had done multi-copy prints had also funded the costs and built up an audience by using Kickstarter.

How do any new Doujinshi fund their costs?

Eh, I’m not Japanese so I don’t really know, just quite interested in the culture. From my limited knowledge ( from reading a whole manga about it), most doujinka start out paying for printing from their own pocket, in very limited number to be sold in conventions. More popular artists might sell in online stores, but still very limited. It’s not usually something to be published on a large scale considering the gray area of fan work.

I only ever heard of Japanese doing Kickstarter for indie video game, with the promise of English localization. Many successful video games ( mainly Visual Novel) started out as doujin work, but the medium being digital was one of the advantages to cut cost.

Someone living in Japan might know more about crowdfunding platforms there.

Edit: this about to sum it up. Source: ‘Doujin work’ manga.

I live in Houston area currently, so I’m sure there’s a ton of options around. I don’t do a whole lot of art though, and most of it is not for print. The piece I’m currently working on is designed for a hot foil die stamp for instance, so while it’ll be ‘printed’ hopefully, it won’t be on paper with any sort of ink.

It probably would be good to go in and see papers myself for when I do paintings to print though, even if I won’t have time to build relationships there.

I was involved with foil, embossing, & die cutting most of my working life.


My bad crazycat - I’ve never asked before and assumed from the nature of your knowledge of Japanese art and tech that you were.

Man, you could put all the people on this forum together and run a business - including a legal team. Just kidding but I love the wealth of knowledge here.