Craft: Tommy Florimonte – The Life of A Printer

Hey Silverline Fam! Craft is morphing, growing, evolving if you will. We have gone from Machop to Machoke. Craft will now take the form of a targeted interview with some open ended questions. Ideally with this new format, we should be able to speed up the rate at which we can collect insight from your favorite creators as well as really provide new depth to conversations about creating comics. We want to really be a font of information for creators seeking help or just for people wanting to know how the sausage is made.

This first entry in the format is from premier sausage making Tommy Florimonte. In addition to being a great artist and inker, Tommy also is 1/2 of the leadership at KA-BLAM, a digital printer specializing in comics, manga, and other visial formats. If you want to know how the physical comic gets made. He has the answers. 

Making the Donuts

1. Most people could probably guess that printing is the process of putting a comic book to print, but, in a broad sense, what are the general steps that make up that process for a digital printer?

The way we set it up, there’s really no different than what you’d do for most traditional printers. Most everything is done digitally nowadays. With us and also with them, if you’re going to do it right the first time, you MUST prep your files, which we all call the “Pre-Press” work. Either way of printing, you need to set the files upright. We make it simple. All you have to do is provide all files at a specific size depending on the final size book you want. And we give you a template to go by. We’ve got a tech page going over all the sizes and formats.

2. What does an average day in the office look like for you?

After teleporting in, it’s time to make the donuts. There’s an entire list of things that need doing before the first book gets printed. Most days begin with prepping the presses, filling all the paper trays, straightening up a bit to be ready to run orders, download files and answer all the overnight messages. Then it’s all about prepping files, printing and packing orders all day while stopping to answer more messages, fill the paper trays again (and again), adding toner, staple & glue. We do try to eat and sometimes even get to use the restroom when needed. It’s a long day, but we get to see a lot of really cool comics.

3. How does digital printing differ from previous forms of the printing process?

Other than checking that the files/pages are “Print Ready”, which there are quite a few steps that you go through, in today’s modern printing world, much of the same steps have to be completed. But overly simplified, the “WAY” the jobs are printed differ. With Traditional presses, you have this long-drawn-out beginning process of setting up the pages on these “plates” before the first drop on ink hits any paper. The major expense of printing traditionally is setting up the printers to print. So the more you print after setup, the price doesn’t go up as much.

Now think of the digital presses much more like a HUGE home printer. You select a file and press PRINT. Then a “Print Server” takes control, does all the magic getting the pages in order, and digitally sends that info to the printer… Page by page. Because of this ease of use, the cost to print one page doesn’t go down when you print the next page. The price is all per page. It’s the same process, the same expense per page printed. But it also means you don’t have to print huge print runs. The cost of one book cost the same as 100 times one book. Unlike Tradition printing, you have to print 100s… 1000s of copies to take advantage when you spent all that time, that expense of setting up the press.

4. As a printer, what is your biggest pet peeve with clients/customers?

For me, it’s small things that drive me nuts, but it is also super funny: Page counts. I don’t know why, but sometimes you just can’t get across that a saddle-stitched book, a stapled book, can only come in four-page increments. Sometimes people just don’t understand that folding a sheet of paper in half gives you a four-page pamphlet/book: 4, 8, 12, 16, etc pages… You get it. We get all the time someone asks for a 22 page stapled book. We tell them it’s going to have to be 24 pages so we’ll need two extra pages to fill out the book. “But I only have 22 pages! I want a 22-page book!! Just print that as-is will you!!!” You see where I’m going with this. Oh- And that’s not even getting into explaining the covers don’t count towards interior pages.

5. Has being a printer changed the way you think as a comic creator, or vice-versa?

I LOVE that anybody can make a comic using Ka-Blam. Just knowing that we’re providing a service that allows EVERYBODY, young and old, beginner to a long time Pro, that wants to make a comic can jump in with our system that an easy entry process that’s also cost-effective. We work very hard every day to make our comics look and feel like traditionally printed comics. We mean it when we say we’re a comics printer run by comic creators. We love comics.

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