Inktail: Preparing for Print

I’m doing something a little dangerous. I’m going to be making mistakes in public. I should probably wait, do all this privately, and then report back when I’m done, but… This is what I’m working on as a writer and an artist this weekend. You’re stuck with it. And, truthfully I’m going to give you more links to the resources I am pulling from than I am of my work itself this week. I’m simply not far enough along in this project to show my work. Although it shouldn’t take me long once I get plugging and playing with Affinity Publisher.

Now that you are wondering if I have entirely lost my mind, here’s a summary: I am preparing a coloring book for print and publication as a printable PDF (not the same formatting on those two!). Because I know folks have asked me about formatting a children’s book for print in the past, I’m going to futz through the process for others to see what I’ve done and possibly learn from my mistakes what not to do. For this, you would need Affinity Publisher. I am also using Affinity Photo. I will probably not be using the vector program, Affinity Design, since I am mostly working from artwork I have drawn, and not vectorized, although of course that would be ideal for graphics… I’m not taking that time. As of writing this blog post, all the Affinity programs are on sale 50% off due to the pandemic, making them an unbeatable $25 each to own (not lease, not subscribe, own). I was happy to pay $50 each, since they freed me from the monthly subscription model of Adobe, but for this price, really, you can’t go wrong. They are powerful tools. Especially for the Indie publisher on a budget. There’s also a free 90 trial if you are hesitating.

I originally bought Publisher for novels. I may never use it for that. I am working with someone on interior formatting and that would be one thing off my plate – I’ll report on it in due time. However, this is, as you’ll see, a very flexible program. Not quite InDesign, but also not quite the steep learning curve of that program.

For a more text-based introduction, there’s a pricey workbook (it’s hardbound, and as much as the software is) or tons of tutorials on their forums and blogs elsewhere. I found this one useful for going over a very simple graphics layout that was similar to what I wanted to do. It also shows you some tricks for setting graphic files onto the pages. This blog has a layout that would be suitable for novels, but it’s older and talks about the beta version – the current version has a lot more features. Examples at the forum level, like this one talking about laying out a children’s book, can be helpful for the little things you might get hung up on, like bleed and printer’s marks. I haven’t yet participated in the forums, but they are searchable and that is being very useful.

Youtube is, of course, where a ton of resources can be found. I find video a little annoying, as it is slower than I can read. On the other hand, I can see what they are doing, and that can sometimes be clearer than a text description of where on the screen a tool is found. And that is important because this is what the initial entry to APublisher looks like!

The first thing I realized what that I needed to know a lot about my project up front. Size of paper, margins, bleed, color profile (although I am going to be setting this up entirely in black and white. More on that in a minute)… I hied myself off to KDP print. Yes, this is the walkthrough for setting it up in Windows, but the nitty gritty remains the same. I opted to keep this book the same size as my last one. I’m not creating a coloring book for adults, although those are all the rage and I do have the illustrations for something like that… this one is primarily intended for ‘kids of all ages’ and bigger is funner. So I’m going with the default letter size pages. The DPI (dots per inch) is important  – everything in this must be at least 300, or the print setup at KDP (used to be Createspace) will choke and spit it back at you. I’m opting for a portrait layout, although I may have landscape pages. You can get away with that in a coloring book! I did change the image placement policy to embedded, even though it will make the file huge. You may wish to leave it linked. Having tinkered with it, I learned that arranging pages horizontally feels more intuitive. Starting on the right is tradtional for Western reading style. The color format needs to be CMYK and if you are doing a color interior, the default for color profile can be left as seen unless your printer indicates otherwise.

I set my margins up custom, using KDP Print’s guidelines. I am not using bleed for the interior of my book, as the coloring pages can have delineated margins and it won’t bother me or the colorists. If I were setting up a full color children’s book I would use bleed.

And this is what it begins to look like! If you see on the left, there are page thumbnails for quick navigation. The top, blank appearing page, is what is called a master page. This is a powerful tool that allows you to set up everything from page numbers to much more. I’m linking a good video to walk you through the possibilities.

One thing I am being careful of with this book, versus the last one I laid out in Word, is that KDP print seems to have done away with the ability to insert blank pages. Last time with my coloring book, I put a coloring page, then on the back side, it was blank. That allowed the use of media that bleeds through the thin paper, like markers. Which brings me back to something I talked about above. I am going to be having these printed with black and white interiors. Not only does that make more sense from a cost standpoint, the paper for color interiors is coated, and very unsuitable for coloring. The white paper choice is thinner than I would like, but by putting either a blank backside, or some text there facing the coloring page, you can allow for bleed through of color. If you are laying out a picture book, you will want the color (well, ok, maybe not, but in most cases, yes!) interior with the slick pages.

Now that this is quite long enough! I will talk next week about preparing art for this. That was my biggest chore, actually. I literally have over a hundred pen and ink pieces, along with a couple dozen digitally inked pieces, and whew! It’s been a job. I won’t be using all of them in this book, so I have had to sort and choose. Not easy. I’ll also do my best to answer any questions, and show how I laid out the book. See you in the comments!


  1. The timing of this is perfect. I have Vellum, but I’m formatting a non-fiction book that quotes a Psalm at the end of each chapter. I should probably say that I’m new to book formatting. For a straight-up fiction book Vellum is fine, but these quotes are giving me a fit. So I was thinking about Indesign. I’m a geographer in my regular life so I’m not too bad with Adobe, most familiar with Illustrator, but since they maintain the same logic across their platforms I’m not worried. How steep would you say the learning curve is for Affinity Publisher? Do you think it can handle the type of text problem I have?

  2. Genius post. Have been meaning to get off Adobe and this is yet another sign that now is the time.

  3. Does Affinity have a product that will yield me the final PDFs I need to submit my books for print on demand? Including making a 240% CMYK cover in PDF that IngramSpark will accept?

    I’m forking out nearly $16 a month for Adobe Acrobat Pro for the final production of my interiors and covers. That’s a one-year commitment, even though I may use it on a print book maybe two or three months out of the year, including tweaks and revisions. My year is up April 6, and if I can buy the use of software that will do the same thing . . .

    1. I have submitted many covers for POD, as I do cover art and design for hire as well as my own. I have never used Acrobat Pro for this. Yes, you can use the Affinity programs, they export in PDF and you can set them to the parameters you need.

Comments are closed.