Workshop Mailbag: Home Versus Pro Prints

In our efforts to get more feedback from everyone – we’re clearly not the definitive experts – we’re opening up our mailbag to you.

This will be a weekly feature this summer so if you have questions you want answered head over to the contact form and give us the isssssuuuue. If we don’t cover it on the podcasts, we’ll get to it here.

Each week you’ll get a reader issue covered by one of our Workshop gang – this week it’s Ken Drab from Rick the Stick.

Chris Otto from A Dog’s Life ( asked: Been thinking about making a print or 2 for cons and the store, was wondering y’all’s opinions on home vs. store/online printing.

Ken Drab drinking with Scott Kurtz

Scott Kurtz (top right) does not endorse this photo, goon or website.

Ken says:

Thanks for the question Chris, but I’m going to answer your question with some questions of my own! Mostly, because there are a couple of factors to consider that may help you determine the best answer for you, and because I have the podium here and although you can’t see it I’m wielding the keyboard around like nobody’s business right now!!

What size print do you want to do?
If you’re looking at 8.5”x14” (US legal size) or smaller, then you obviously have multiple options open to you. But if you wanted something bigger, let’s say 11”x17” (tabloid), then you pretty much rule out your home printer (not many people have that size laser printer laying around the house).

What kind of look do you want to your print to have?
If you want a “sketchy” or “artsy” look then you may be able to print it off of your home inkjet printer. If you want a polished look of something really professional, you may want to hit up your local print shop (Kinkos, et al.) and get some laser prints.

Of course we talked about some unique solutions for Dawn on our Webcomic Workshop Podcast #10.

What’s your budget?
Can you afford to front the cost of printing at a print shop? Printing at home has the hidden cost of paper and ink so it’s not entirely free (unless someone else pays for those things). Is printing at a print shop going to be worth the cost? Which leads to…

What are you going to charge?
Obviously you should try to make sure you cover your costs for the prints, but what do you think you’ll charge? Do you think you can get as much for an artsy 8.5”x11” as opposed to a slick 11”x17”? My guess is that it really depends on your style. That being said, if you think you can make $3 on the smaller artsy print and only $2 on the larger slick print, then maybe that’s the direction you head in.

Hopefully other readers can chime in with some great information as usual. Of course, I could answer for you, but that would be based on what’s right for me, not specifically what’s in your best interest. So answer those questions and read the comments below to formulate your own educated decision! Oh and please let us know what you decide to do!

So guys – what do you think? Do you have any thoughts for Chris that I haven’t touched on?

Posted in Featured News, Helpful Hints, Workshop Mailbag.


  1. The timing on this article is impeccable. Yesterday, the Halfpixel gang discussed the psychological conditioning we’ve done to ourselves when we equate size with dollar value.

    At first glance, if you charge a high amount for a large piece it’s acceptable. But charge the same amount for a piece that is 1/4 of that size, and people will shy away from it. It doesn’t matter if you’ve spent 100 hours on the small piece, and 5 minutes on the bigger piece. That mental conditioning has been causing problems for artists for centuries.

    In the end, you should set a fair price point – one that will refill your pockets after fronting the costs of production, AND recoup you for the time and effort invested in the piece. Here’s a possible scenario:

    1) Figure out the cost of labour involved in the original – time, materials, etc. Let’s say you’ve done an 8.5 x 11, full colour with moderate detail. If you sold the original, what would you charge? For this example try $100.

    2) Next, figure out how many you’re going to print. In this case, let’s shoot for 200 copies.

    3) Weigh the costs of paper and printing. If it costs $170 to print 200 8.5 x 11 prints, that’s 85 cents a print (your cost). If you wanted to make $100 off your original work and it cost $170 to print, you need to clear $270 in print sales to recover your cost and hit your goal. That means selling the print for a bare minimum of $1.35

    4) At a low price point, it’s much easier to round up or tack on a few extra bucks to pad your wallet, but not make the purchaser feel like they’re getting fleeced. So up your print price to $2 or $2.50. Just remember the initial factors involved – your time in doing the original + the production costs = your bottom line.

    5) If your print is popular and you’ve done a few more print runs, you can drop the cost of your time as a limited time incentive, since it has already been paid off from the first run. Instead of a $2 print, you can let it go for $1.50 or even $1 and still make some money from the transaction.

    People tend to forget that their time is actually worth something in the equation. Selling your prints to recoup just the printing with a minimal profit will sabotage your future sales of other products. Get into the habit of doing the legwork and finding out the value of your time.

  2. Thanks for taking on my isssssuuuuuue! Wow, that’s a whole lot of info and variables that did not occur to me. My art is pretty sketchy, so I think an inkjet print would work for me, as long as my printer can print well. I have a hard time convincing my wife that I won’t lose money printing them myself. I don’t think I’d ever print something larger than 8.5×11 or 14 either. Was thinking of charging $5 a print, in small runs or even just on demand. I looked into sone online places and the costs seemed a little high. Obviously the more you do yourself, the more money you get to keep.
    As far as size, I think a majority of people buy into the whole “big and slick is better” thing, but I really don’t feel my strip style fits into a large format print, although several strips are 11×14; I could probably shrink them down to something that fits my printer. I hope to save up for something that can scan/print 11×17 someday (scanning those larger strips is a pain!).
    Unfortunately, Drezz, I think more often than not people don’t think too much about how long it takes to create these things, though I do like to think that my time is worth something. Especially on a print; people may think, “well, he just printed it out, how long can that take?” without thinking about the hours hunched over the desk and computer, drawing and coloring. I will certainly think about it when I decide on prices; I think we have a tendency to undervalue our time spent on comics when it comes time to sell. A daily 5.5×14 3 or 4 panel strip may take me 3-4 hours or more, I price the original at $30, mostly because of my small (but growing!) audience. That’s less than 10 bucks an hour! I could make that at the mall, but it would bring a fraction of the joy my comic brings me. It’s hard to combine the business with the artist, who wants to give it away. Great point on the worthiness of time, I will try to remember that!

    Thanks again, hope to see some more opinions and ideas on here! Keep up the great work, Alliance, y’all are a Godsend to this little cartoonist!

    Thanks for the ideas and options, would love to see other’s views on it as well! I think I’ll try home printing for a while and see how it goes.

    • Your welcome Chris. One thing to consider is the other side of table. You mentioned “I think a majority of people buy into the whole “big and slick is better” thing”. People buying your prints may like that as well! If you attend a small con or something – try bringing both and make sure you price accordingly. It would be interesting to see how that turns out.

  3. How many prints are you thinking about making. Unless the answer is one or two, I think you’re almost always better going with a professional printer.

    Most of our home printers aren’t designed, calibrated or cost-effective for at home printing. Home printer ink is super expensive. (By the gallon, 100xs the cost of gasoline.)

    I’ve found local printers that will do 11×17, quality full-color prints for as low as 50cents a pop. 8.5 x 11 should be even cheaper. At the very least, head to your local Staples of Fedex printer and do it there. (Go online and grab a coupon for printing before you go.)

  4. I’d like to offer a print on demand for the strips on the site. For cons, I have a couple of ideas for prints that I’d probably do a 20-30 range for; I’ll have to do some shopping around, the few places I’ve looked into were asking $2-4 per print.. FedEx was one of them. I haven’t tried Staples though.

    • Aside from Staples or Office Depot, as Tyler recommended, try a regular local print shop. Whatever is in your area – someone like Sir Speedy, Minuteman Press, PIP printing, etc. They are usually locally owned and may be cheaper.

      • Gotta agree with Ken here. I had LOTS of luck with a local print shop. Friendly, high quality, and cheap. A LOT better than some of the quotes and service I was getting from the chains and “local specialists” in the area.

        It’s worth dedicating an hour to calling as many local folks as possible. It’s amazing how much a simple phone call can reveal.

  5. Another printing option is Costco or Sams if you have a membership to either. I needed some poster sized prints and got a great deal at my local Sams.

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