I sometimes talk about things that will drive readers away, like last week I mentioned bad layout that makes it hard to follow the story. Previously I’ve mentioned text that is illegible, that your readers can’t read. These are technical, visual things that will drive readers away from your comic, and they have nothing to do with your characters, your story or your ability to draw or write. People will give bad drawings a chance if the characters and story are good, but if they can’t follow the story or read it, you’ll lose them. So what is the problem if you lose your readers before they even get a chance to read your great story or look at your beautiful drawings? Load times. This is 2012 and the internet is pretty fast. You can get faster internet on your phone right now than you could get in your home just a few years ago. So why is there still a problem with load times? The answer is pretty simple, your images are TOO BIG. I don’t care how fast your internet is, images still need to be small and fast. Don’t think this is a problem of three years ago or five years ago, this is a problem of last week, January 2012. I was checking out some webcomics online and I was amazed at the wait times and truthfully, some I skipped because I was waiting too long for it and others I cut my visit short because I couldn’t be bothered waiting for the next comic to load.
There are three simple fixes for comics that are too big. The first is Height and Width. Make sure the H and W are the same as the size that is being displayed. For instance, it’s possible to upload large files that will be displayed small online. The problem is that image is still large despite the viewing size being small. This is a significant issue for Black and White comics, but this is Monstrously Huge issue for Color comic. Bloated files slow down your webcomic!
The second fix is slightly more complex. If you have a Black and White, with Grey tones comic like my comic, The Drive In; first make sure you shrink it to the final display size and Desaturate it. To do this, in Photoshop, go to the IMAGE menu, ADJUSTMENTS / DESATURATE. This removes any traces of color and reduces file size. Sometimes your comic may only have the slightest ting of a grey/blue, visually, hardly noticeable, but this little bit of color is needlessly padding the file size.
The last fix is Save For Web. This is essential for all you comic-book-page-webcomic guys and gals. Save For Web takes your color image and reduces it from millions of colors to something much smaller, if you so choose, as low as 256 colors. But you say, if you do this, you will lose all your hard work. No, you won’t display all of your hard work, but you won’t lose it. You will just save a copy of it at a greatly reduced file size and people will come back to your website again and again to read your comic.
Save For Web is found in the FILE menu, click Save For Web and a new window will pop up similar to this one. There are four parts that really concern you for the most part and of course you can get way more advanced. This is not a tutorial, just an overview of the items you need to be familiar with. 1. – choose a file type. 2 – choose your bit depth (the number of colors being used). 3 – Displays the colors being used. 4 – file size.
Basically start at 1 and continue through 2, 3 and 4. There are two windows that will display your original and the modified version of your image and tell you the file size at the bottom and you can see how much you can shrink your file. Then you will make adjustments and find that bitter sweet spot that you don’t loose too much quality, but you’ve saved a lot of file space.
As an artist, I know exactly how hard it is to sacrifice quality. Don’t kid yourself thinking that your image is so great, people won’t mind waiting. Be honest with yourself, how long do you wait for images that aren’t your own online? Go test your website on other computers, as many as you can find and really be truthful to yourself. Is your webcomic website as fast as snot? If not, you must compress images. Chin up, there’s a bonus to compressed images on your website. Now you can sell full sized-uncompressed images in your book!