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I Made A Coloring Book

September 30, 2016

Last month I tasked myself with designing an “adult” coloring book… because… why not? I often find some obscure thing to try out just to see if I can pull it off, because that’s how I amuse (and challenge)  myself, and I’m proud to say… I did pull it off… however, not quite in the way that I’d intended.

My original plan was to use a combination of GIMP freeware and Amazon’s Createspace to complete my book. What I ended up doing was releasing the entire thing tonight as a digital download through my Etsy store because Amazon made it really awkward for me in ways I really don’t want to get into in any detail.

Basically after a month of fighting for every moment that I spent designing, breaking my wrist drawing every bastarding digital line in a really uncomfortable makeshift work space and jumping through every one of their hoops… I reached my threshold for hoop jumping.

I was borderline devastated when I realized that I just could not proceed with my original plan anymore… you know… after I’d done ALL the work…  but after some haggis fritters (I don’t care what anyone says… those things are friggin glorious) and half a bottle of cheap vinegary wine… I’m feeling a lot better about the loss of my project… mostly because the project isn’t actually lost. I still have all of the files, I got a lot of practice using both GIMP and my tablet and if I ddbsmo manage to sell any copies of the digital version I’ll be making a MUCH larger commission on every sale by cutting out the papery middle man. Also, I’m keeping it all in my store, which is already established and has plenty of positive feedback to support me. Lastly, the best part is that my customers are getting immediate gratification. It’s not the same as holding a book in your hand, but there are a long list of pros to printable coloring pages.

So now… if you are at all interested in obtaining 20 brand new designs, featuring some foul mouthed adorable dragons, to print at home, color in and hang up in hilariously conspicuous places, you can find them HERE.

I cannot say enough times that there isn’t a single page in this digital coloring book that is intended for children. So I’m just going to say it once to get it on record….. and there it is. The words COLORING BOOK are no longer synonymous with CHILDHOOD ACTIVITY… and personally, I think that’s pretty fabulous.

If you want to know what goes into making your own digital coloring book, it’s not that difficult superficially…

First I sketch out my rough ideas on paper, then I scan them into GIMP (minimum 300dpi). I work in 3 layers, the scanned layer, a transparency layer on top (think tracing paper) and a white “background” layer on the bottom.

I then position the scanned layer where I want it and proceed to trace the line art onto the transparency ladouchepicklesmyer using an opaque 6pt brush, massively zoomed in to create smooth lines. I have a little Wacom Bamboo tablet which makes this task MUCH easier than it would be if i was using a mouse. It is possible to do this using a mouse…. but I would absolutely not recommend it. When I am finished tracing all of the lines that I want to keep in the picture I delete the scanned layer from the layers dialogue and add in any additional details that I want to draw freehand.

Once I’ve got the picture the way I want it I merge the two layers that are remaining and export the file as either a PDF or a PNG… NEVER a JPG…. when you save as JPG the image gets compressed, so you lose image quality… which means that the nice, crisp black and white image will no longer be crisp, and all sorts of annoying grey pixels will appear all over the place and they will make the printed version of the image look dirty and unprofessional. smtitties

So I did that 20 times to make the 20 images for the coloring book… the next task was to make all of the extra pages like the copyright page, the dedication page, the introduction page and the end page… Once they were all completed I had to somehow turn my 20-something pages of PDF’s into a single file containing multiple PDF pages with blank pages in between every page so that the book would print out with an image on only one side of each page…. This is not as easy as it sounds as the best way to do this is with a paid program such as Adobe Acrobat. There is a way to do it in GIMP with some plugins but I admit, I could not wrap my head around how to get the scripts installed. Eventually it occurred to me that in the very short term I could just do a 7 day free trial of Adobe to get what I wanted done… so that’s what I did…

Lastly I had to design the cover, but since I released it as a digital download the cover no longer matters as much as it once did. If you intend to use createspace you just need to adhere to their sizing formula for the cover and then throw it together much the same as the pages in the book.

The experience overall was a positive one despite my obvious disappointment. The images aren’t 100% as polished as I could have gotten them if I had dedicated time and workspace to support me, but I am happy with them all the same. I’m glad that I did it. I don’t feel like my time was wasted.

Now the project is over and I’m moving on because I’ve got a very long list of other creative endeavors to improve on, try my  hand at and randomly challenge myself with. :)

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