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Creator Tips and Tricks #2 : Margins and Trims for Comics and Manga

AhkwardKat Community • Nov 16, 2021


What ARE Trims, Margins and Bleeds?

Simply put, the trim is the line where the comic or manga paper will be cut. The Margin is the area inside of the trim line that will remain and the bleed is the area outside of the trim, specifically the area that gets cut off.

Working digitally do we even need to worry about these margins anymore?

It depends on what your final purpose is and if you want to prepare for all possible future possibilities. Whether you are printing or not, you should know these areas and it is in your best interest to use them should you ever decide to print your digital comic or manga. Traditional artists can use these as well! A lot of Blue Line Paper made for comics and manga contain these margins by default, so even if you are a traditional artist, this article is for you! It can make your comic and/or manga work look more professional. Looking professional can help you get more jobs as a comic and manga artist. It can help you look more appealing to editors and publishers as they review your pitches. It’ll help your work look more clean and professional if you enter contests hoping for prize money. Simply put, following these seemingly innocuous lines and use them in the right way can make the difference between an amateur and a professional.

That said, a lot of indie creators choose to not use specific margins. Comic strip and yonkoma artists don’t typically have to worry about these agree. You should never feel obligated to do anything with your work that doesn’t feel right to you. This article is simply advice to help your work look more professional.

Margins, Trims, and Bleeds can be split into how they are used for comics and how they are used for manga. There are different terminology in each, but both follow the same basic idea of where to draw/place important things and where to not do that.

Let's tackle Comics first.


Safe Area (blue):

The Safe area, also known as the live area, are the blue sections in the above two page spread. This area is where all important information and artwork needs to be. Panel borders either need to end at the edge of the live area or extend all the way to the bleed, the red section. It is very important that if you do NOT want full page bleeds, your panel borders should not extend beyond this section.

Additionally, if you plan for full page bleeds, you should keep all important artwork like faces and hands inside the live area to make sure it won’t get accidentally cut off. Another easy place to slip up is speech bubbles, you need to watch them. In comics, you can make a bubble inside or outside the panels. Be sure to watch where the text and edges of the bubble are not near the trim line or outside the live area.

Trim (yellow):

The Trim line is just that, where the comic page should be cropped or trimmed before posting/printing. It is always possible for the one cropping digital pages or cutting paper pages to not perfectly cut on the trim line. Nobody and no machine is perfect. This is why it is important to either stop at the live area or extend all the way to the edge of the bleed so that you don’t get any awkward lines.

Bleeds (red):

Bleeds are great for showing off the full glory of your artwork. On the above sample, that is the red section. Never EVER stop the artwork at the edge of the trim (yellow) and bleed (red) sections. Always go farther beyond that to the outer edge of the bleed. Making sure the artwork doesn’t accidentally have a missing portion because you didn’t take the art out far enough and the cutter didn’t cut right is ALWAYS awkward. See the sample below if you are confused about these lines.

 

Below is a sample from one of my comic pages.

This was made in 2016, about 5 years ago from this current article, and there are changes I would make. So allow me to make an example of myself.

  1. Look at the placement of the foliage, it all extends past the bleeds to make sure that all of the artwork fills the entire page.
  2. If you look at the bottom of the page, the woman’s hand is going to get awkwardly cut off at her knuckles. These sorts of cuts at the joints are usually avoided because it can look “too perfect”and create a sort of tangent that ruins the 3D look of a panel or object within the panel. I would change this to cut off mid-back of her hand or keep her whole hand in the image.
  3. Another thing I might change if I redrew this today is the bird's back. It ends almost exactly at the edge of the trim line. This could potentially cause a tangent if the cutter happens to cut EXACTLY on the edge of the bird’s back, which would look very awkward. So to fix this, I would move him further away from the woman or closer to the woman to prevent that from becoming a problem.
     

But what about Speech bubbles? Are there "rules" with those?

I added some bubbes for example. In a full page, or panels, the edges of the speech bubbles need to stay fully inside the live area or extend all the way to the bleed. (see Left bubbles as an example.) However, if you choose to take the edges of the bubble to the bleed, make sure that your text inside the bubble stays OUT of the trim section. (See top right bubble as an example.) You also cannot put the edge of the speech bubble at the edge or inside the trim line (see bottom right example).

 


You can buy Blue line paper from many locations to be able to use. Be sure which one you want and what type/weight of paper you are getting when you order your paper. I personally enjoyed the smooth bristol paper best, but some people like a little bit of tooth (texture) to their paper. It’s all up to you!

Now, let's talk about Manga!



In Manga, margins, bleeds and trims are more complicated and have far more names. I’ve created a guide for you and we’ll go over each of these step by step to explain them. I’ll be using their Japanese names and explaining their purpose.

Atari:

Atari is the word used when referring to the guidelines and margins in general. Good to know if you are ever looking for more information on them, however based on having to spend time looking these up, it was easier when I specified which part of the Atari/guidelines I was looking for.

Hanmen (in blue) :

This is equal to the live area in western comics. You want to keep all your important information in this area. Character faces, expressions, text, and other critical parts of your artwork.

Nodo (in grey) :

The center column is “Nodo”, jokingly referred to in English as the “No do” area. Unlike western comics that tend to use the whole page, including the center portion for artwork, in manga it is standard to end panels on the border between nodo and hanmen. The reason for this is that the artwork in the Nodo area will become obscured once the book is bound. So in most manga, you’ll notice that manga panels tend to end at the same line in the central spine of the book. There are always exceptions, especially splash pages/full bleed pages or two page spreads. Sometimes panels can extend into the nodo area, but it isn’t a common occurrence unless for the exceptions above.

Ten (light blue):

Going above the hanmen, you have the Ten (“sky” in light blue) of the manga page. This is the area both inside and outside the middle margin. The same is true for the Chi (“ground” in green) at the bottom of the page. Between the Ten and Chi, you have the Hashira (“pillar” in yellow). Please note that these are simply areas of the page and not specific “margins” or borders in terms of where to stop drawing. That comes with our next point.

Tachikiri-Sen (red line going around the page) :

Tachikiri-sen is that thin red line that follows what would be the trim line in western comics. This is the same line that will be used to cut a paper page once printed or crop a digital copy of the same page. It is really important to make sure your manga panels either end at the hanmen or EXTEND BEYOND the Tachikiri-sen into the Chi, Ten, or Koguchi. Sometimes, like with full page spreads or splashes, or very rarely with normal panels, your artwork may extend into the "Nodo" area, however is is not-typical and usually avoided unless no other option is possible. Never end your panels between the hanmen and Tachikiri-sen lines.

Another important note is to not confuse Tachikri with Tachikiri-sen. Tachikiri refers to the actual panels that extend beyond the Hanmen/live area to the edges of the page in the Koguchi, Ten and/or Chi. Those panels themselves are called "Tachikiri" or "To be cut". Tachikiri-sen refers to the specific line that will be used for trimming the manga pages. Be sure to know the difference!

Koguchi (pink):

The Koguchi is the area on the side of the page beyond the Hashira on both the left and right side. Koguchi only refers to the "outside" of the pages opposite of the binding side. This is easy to remember since it is where you "enter" and "leave" a two-page spread.

 

Need an example page? Here is a two-page spread from my own manga series, Ghost Child and the manga margins guide:

 

Now here is the same page without the margins guide and trimmed/cut. I lift the Hanmen line in so that you can see how it sits in reference to the edge of the paper after it is trimmed.


The black area between the pages is the central gutter area. I have simulated a crop with a dark grey using the tachikiri-sen line. Since my left page is a full page spread, it extended beyond the tachikiri-sen on all four sides. For my right page, the bottom three panels all ended their outer borders at the Hanmen. However my top panel is a “tachikiri” panel, meaning the very top of it extends into the Ten/sky beyond the Tachikiri-sen. It was very important I do that. If I had stopped my artwork at the trim line, it might have ended up with a weird white border if I didn’t crop it perfectly.

 


I hope these examples helped you! Below I have added even more resources for you:

Blue Line Pro Website to buy Comic and Manga paper

Silent Manga Audition Margins Tutorial

Margins guide for Clip Studio Users

Ka-Blam Comic Single Page Template (Free Download)

Ka-Blam Comic Two-Page Spread Template (Free Download)

Ka-Blam Manga Template (Free Download)

Ka-Blam Manga Two-Page Spread Template (Free Download)
 

Thank you all very much for reading through this tutorial! This had a LOT of new words, and as always please feel free to drop me a question in the comments, in a tweet or in a private message. I’m happy to help if you drop a comment! Have a great week and I’ll see you in the next one!

 ~ AhkwardKat and the GlobalComix Team

Nimloth

Nimloth moderator supporter 2 weeks ago

Dope! :D